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THANESAR, A historical town in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district, is just over 160 km from Delhi. On a good day, it is a little over three hours on NH-44. On Saturday, the ambience, performance and the performers at the air-conditioned Multi Arts Cultural Centre in the town were, however, as far away from the many auditoriums in the Capital as is possible.
It was rooted to the soil, or so said the organisers of the Ministry of Culture’s Rs 490-crore ‘Cultural Mapping Project’ —the third leg that was held in Thanesar block in Kurukshetra on Saturday. So on the stage were a 12-year-old boy singing paeans to the cow, surviving as it does today, on waste and plastic; another young boy chanting Vedic mantras; a group of young scholars from a neighbouring gurukul, demonstrating their fluency in Sanskrit; followed by a malkhamb act by young children, jangam songs sung in praise of Lord Shiva, and various other dance performances.
These were part of the 2,000 local artistes “registered with us till about 4 pm”, Ramendra Singh, member, National Committee on Cultural Mapping, and in-charge of the Thanesar event, said. Emphasising that they were expecting more walk-in artistes to enrol by the end of the day, Singh, also director of RSS-affiliated Vidya Bharti Sanskriti Shiksha Sansthan, said, “We are targeting artistes whose genres are not very well known. They never get a stage to showcase their work — it is above caste and religion.”
While the hall as such was sparsely populated, the event attracted several VIPs in the first half of the day. Among them were Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, dhrupad maestro Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar, Kathak dancers Nalini and Kamalini, and folk singer Sardool Sikandar. The experts were not part of the jury today. Kamalini Asthana, of the Nalini-Kamalini duo, said, “We are here to watch. Our role begins when names of selected artists from the block and district levels are sent to us.”
The jury comprised local dance and music teachers, and members of cultural organisations, not one of whom was seen taking notes to judge the performers, some of whom had come walking from their villages near and far away, decked in heavy costumes and jewellery.
Renu Devi, a folk singer who had come from her village nearly 5 km away with two companions, said, “Our village pradhan asked us to take part in it,” she said. But having spent Rs 200, and, more importantly, expecting instant fame, the three felt let down. Worse, their performance went largely unnoticed. Underneath a casual expression, many others shared the feeling.
Inaugurating the first talent hunt event on June 17 in Mathura, the birthplace of RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhayay, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream is to see every artiste in the country get recognition, and that the government should provide them a platform to present their talent.