The Director’s Cut

Shobha Deepak Singh of Delhi’s Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra launches her first coffee-table book.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: March 22, 2013 3:33:40 am

Shobha Deepak Singh of Delhi’s Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra launches her first coffee-table book.

Delhi’s Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) has had only one official photographer since the ’70s. During the many performances that take place in the venue,one can see her slight frame hobnobbing with visitors,her Nikon F5 flung over the shoulders. Shobha Deepak Singh,apart from being the director of one of the oldest cultural centres,is also one of the most prolific photographers. With about 45 years of experience,the 70-year-old has over 40,000 negatives that document dance,theatre and music. “It all started in 1970 when a professional photographer couldn’t capture the moment of Ram breaking the bow in one of our productions,” she says.

On March 25 at the India Habitat Centre,Singh will reveal her first photography book Dancescapes,which documents performing artistes over the last five decades. With over 250 photographs,Dancescapes also has notes from personalities such as Aman Nath of Neemrana Foundation,Bharatanatyam dancer Justin McCarthy (who also teaches at SBKK),photojournalist Dilip Mehta (Deepa Mehta’s brother),and Kapila Vatsyayan,scholar on classical dance and Indian art,among others. The launch will be followed by an exhibition curated by Alka Pande,by the same name,with 70 photographs on display.

The artist had to literally sift through a 1,00,000 photographs in five days. She has not titled the photographs because each photo “should speak for itself”. Among the riveting photographs,one can see several figures in motion such as Akram Khan,Raja Radha Reddy,Pt Birju Maharaj,Sonal Mansingh,Uma Sharma,Leela Samson and Hema Malini.

Singh’s first exhibition was in 1996 at Shridharani Art gallery,organised by theatre person,Ebrahim Alkazi,on “Women in Performing Arts”. Her penchant for taking pictures took flight after this show and she has shown at Art Heritage,Delhi,and London’s Nehru Centre since.

“We’ve got ears,but we don’t hear. We have eyes,but we don’t see. I document all that I can,” she says. Hence,when not with her camera,Singh is also known to record music performances,with or without consent. “I was truly badnaam for recording music surreptitiously. During late Pt Ravi Shankar’s silver jubilee concert,recordings were not allowed. But I fixed recorders in three places. He was livid initially but later asked me for those recordings,” she says. Similarly,Singh secretly video recorded one of Pt Birju Maharaj’s performances. “Two days later,he praised that recording. This is gratifying,because we’re not going to use them commercially,” she says.

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