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The Legend of Taj Mahal

The dancers of the Diablo ballet presented the Legend of the Taj Mahal and Walk Before Talk performances, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2006 15:44 IST
CALIFORNIA DIARY | Shalini Kathuria Narang
CALIFORNIA DIARY | Shalini Kathuria Narang

The attendees of Computers and Structure's annual new year party at the Zellerbach Hall in Berkley on Saturday, January 14th, not only enjoyed a vast spread of gastronomic delights and delicacies but also dual visual treats intermingling an eastern legend with a western workout in the form of ballets titled The Legend of the Taj Mahal by Nikolai Kabaniaev and Walk Before Talk by KT Nelson. The dancers of the Diablo ballet presented the two performances.

Ashraf Habibullah, President and CEO of Computers and Structures, a developer of structural and earthquake engineering software, and the President and co-founder of Diablo Ballet is exemplary of a business leader who is closely aligned to the arts. He considers investment in the arts as a good business move to entertain and enthuse his work force. As a corporate company chief, he is flabbergasted at the involvement of the folks in the ballet company and feels that people truly put in their best and go beyond the call of duty when they are involved in endeavours that they are passionate about.

"I gave the DVD of the movie Taj Mahal to the choreographer and asked them to weave the ballet around the masterpiece" says Ashraf about the inspiration behind the work.

He believes that each person has both a logical and an artistic side and it is very important for the artistic side of people to be supported and nurtured, and like anything else, it must be imbedded when people are young.

"Our intent for creating this work was to present a cross-cultural ballet that would bring diverse communities together to view this work. There is interest by some promoters to take the ballet to Spain, India and Dubai" says Lauren Jonas, the Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet.

The Legend of Taj Mahal, based on the timeless love story of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan had held its World Premiere in November last year. The showcase of the ancient romantic tragedy by an all American ballet company was an attempt to present cross-cultural intermingling of sorts.

Taj Mahal as a mausoleum of marvel, majesty and mystique has held its forte as India's primary and most visited tourist destination and over decades has remained un-usurped in its glory and gratification for the quintessential tourist to India.

In keeping with the pull of the marble marvel, it makes not only good artistic sense but also good business sense by performing arts companies with an eye for presenting a piece of south Asia to weave their performances around the timeless tale of the universal theme of romantic love at its zenith as exemplified by the Taj.

In the last six months, in the Bay Area alone, two mainstream performing arts companies- Theatre Works and Diablo Ballet have incorporated the Taj in their showcases. While the play titled Baby Taj by Theatre Works juxtaposed the contemporary urban themes with historical incidents, the presentation by the Diablo Ballet Company was purely of a romantic historical account.

I wish the Indian bureaucracy to metamorphose their lackadaisical approach in marketing of the Taj could imbibe the marketing savvy with which Taj is patronized and promoted by these western artistic companies.

A few months back, a traveller in our local newspaper had written about the official hurdles in securing tickets and the poor visibility from the viewing platform that have incited the lacklustre response to the moonlight viewing of the romantic monument and according to the figures published by the Archaeological Survey of India, only 3233 visitors have visited the fabled monument at night in the first six months from the time the moonlight viewing had begun. That is a paltry one-quarter of the number permitted.

Though despite the absence of world class facilities or the holistic development of Agra, the attraction of Taj is undisputed as India's primary tourist attraction, yet there is vast potential in umpteenth ways to promote the rich and unparallel wealth of the Taj.

First Published: Jan 20, 2006 15:44 IST