Shoppers at a Delhi mall were in for a bit of a surprise recently. Amidst pretzel stands and discount boards, they also spotted people dressed like they were from another century. Sticking out like a sore thumb, these young men and women were wearing saris, draped in styles from the ’90s, temple jewellery, gajras, dhotis and turbans. Soon, they broke into a choreographed dance performance that combined traditional classical forms and B-boying, and was set to South Indian fusion music. For the finale, they came together and posed like a family. No ordinary family, mind you.
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The dancers, who were recreating Raja Ravi Varma’s lesser-known painting, A Portrait of the Family, were part of a flash mob performance that was organised by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (Delhi), to mark the opening of its new exhibition which features Varma’s celebrated works. Talk about taking art out of the museum!
The South Indian music in the flash mob routine was a nod to the artist’s Malayali roots. Varma, who was born in Travancore in 1948. He gained fame for his paintings that depict gods, goddesses and scenes from epics such as the Mahabharat and Ramayana. The women in his artwork were often feminine and fierce. One of the early adopters of Western art techniques, he was severely criticised during his lifetime but is now posthumously regarded as a modern Indian master.