It is a quest to reproduce lost villages in the interiors of Gangtok. Leading to the Tibet Road, its existence has been long forgotten, but now an attempt has been made to transport it to the Lalit Kala Akademi. The near invisible neighbourhood around a certain Hotel Lhakpa is recreated in the Kaustubh Hall, where snow-capped mountains dress the walls, Tibetan costumes are suspended on hooks and a polite restaurateur is offering traditional Tibetan food. “I stayed at this hotel on Tibet Road off and on for two years,” states filmmaker Arghya Basu, who is presenting the project with wife Rajula Shah and Kalimpong Lhamo Association (KLA) that presents Tibetan opera in the West Bengal hill station.
“We want to perform across the world,” notes 67-year-old opera master Paljore Tshewang, member of KLA, who is visiting Delhi with four other artistes from the group. Their numbers are not sufficient for a performance but the troupe is busy interacting with those interested. He is keen to educate about the traditional opera practices and the tales that are usually presented — from ancient Tibetan to episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Their last act in March in Sikkim revolved around Surpanakha, Ravana’s sister whose nose was chopped off by Lakshman. One of the performances has been recorded by Basu and plays in the loop at the set created in the Akademi. “It has been archived in a way,” notes Tshewang, adding that the age of members of his group range from 10 to 85. “There are more than 10 groups pursuing Tibetan opera in India. We have annual festivals, and the next is in Dharamshala in 2015,” he adds.
The blaring Tibetan music playing in the backdrop at the set might be overwhelming, but the attention to detail impresses — right from the doorway, where a noticeboard seems to be taken off from Delhi’s Tibetan hub Majnu-ka-tilla, with posters of upcoming Tibetan films and vacancies in stores in the area. The entrant makes a choice between the two crossroads — one leading into the hotel and the other to an enclosure occupied by opera artistes. There is a sense of completeness with colourful thangkas, prayer wheels, brass idols of Buddha and the fragrance of Tibetan incense enveloping the room. Basu leaves one with another video playing the road to Tibet covered with snow.