A kushti match between two wrestlers occupies centrestage in the main gallery of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum. Next to the fighting ring, set up to resemble a vitrine, a blackboard announces the evening’s play schedule: “Cycling and texting”, “weight lifting and reciting a poem” and “trampoline jumping and reading a newspaper”, among others. Not mere creators of this spectacle, artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra can be seen bustling around the arena, taking turns at the gym cycle or the trampoline.“Our intention is for people to have fun,” says Thukral, coaxing guests to try their hand at the games and activities, which are a part of their show. “Everything in a museum is static, but we want people to engage with the objects,” he says.
Titled “Games People Play”, the exhibition, on till July 28, sees the Delhi-based duo draw inspiration from the museum’s collection of India’s ancient and traditional games. The strategic and cultural perspectives are explored by placing the city at the centre of several installations. The table for table tennis was designed to replicate the old model of the seven islands of Bombay. “The game was invented by the British as an indoor version of lawn tennis, which became popular in the 18th century,” says Thukral.
Similarly, the artists reconnect people with the city’s history through “verbal kabaddi”. Borrowing from the incessant chanting integral to the sport, the game challenges people to mouth tongue twisters such as “History hosting recent history, Mumbai city is no longer a mystery and don’t be jittery to earn your victory”, printed on panels.
“By placing these old customs in a new format, there is a rediscovery of the many wonders that lie in our old galleries and museums,” says Thukral.