Courtesans were the muses for poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and creative thought at large. Over time, they were stigmatized and discriminated against by society, leaving their history out of the archives.
To restore their due reverence and rightful status, Sufi Kathak Centre, Royal Opera House, Mumbai, Avid Learning and Kathak Dancer and Founder of the Sufi Kathak Foundation Manjari Chaturvedi, under her banner The Courtesan Project presents Uff Malka Jaan & The Velvet Courtesans. It chronicles the historically remarkable role of the ‘tawaif’ in aesthetic life. The spectacle recreates the bygone era through Manjari’s dance of the royal performers, and theatrical story-telling by Actor Neesha Singh and Dastango Nusrat Ansari. This enigmatic evening of Darbari Kathak through its exquisite emotions, gestures, expressions, and costumes will redefine the meaning of ‘courtesan’ for you.
Join us for the well-researched cultural production dedicated to the grandeur, grace, and struggle of the courtesans brought alive by the splendour of stories, music, and dance in the perfect setting, ethereal, yet real.
Manjari Chaturvedi is the leading exponent of classical dance in India. An unusual dancer, she has blazed her own path, that no one traversed earlier, in the field of performing arts. She has taken the traditional form of Kathak to a different level altogether and has created her own style, her own brand of dance. Her productions as a dancer are projects that are meticulously researched, and documented, as she first studies the original traditions and then finds her own artistic expression of the subject and that expression is always unique, as never seen before, as she pours her heart and soul into the dance. Manjari has extensively worked on gender-sensitive subjects through her medium of dance, exploring the many traditions woven into poetry, music, and dance. With the establishment of the Sufi Kathak Foundation, she has taken a leap further to support marginal artists and provide research opportunities to scholars and students under the banner of the Foundation.Read more
Neesha Singh is an actress, who started her career as a successful model. She did a few acclaimed Hindi films, notably M.S Sathyu's 'Kahan Kahan Se Guzar Gaye", Sagar Sarhadi's "Bazaar" & N. Chandra's "Ankush", before making a decision to move to television, where she had a long, successful acting career. On television, she has worked with well-known names like Shyam Benegal among others. She has had starring roles in popular television serials like "Bharat Ek Khoj", "Choli Daman", "Upanyaas", "Kathasagar", "Kashmakash" & in the 1st Indian made English television serial, "A Mouthful of Sky". She has also hosted long-running, successful shows like "Mansi" & Rangoli. Neesha Singh had the leading role of Rani Jindan Kaur, widow of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in Gursharan Das's play “Larins Sahib”. Directed by Rahul D'cunha, it was the 1st Indian play in English that was invited to be showcased at the Edinburgh Fringe festival.Read more
Nusrat Ansari comes from Lucknow and moved to Delhi to complete her graduation in History from Lady Shri Ram College. She then went on to pursue her Masters in Development Policy from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Currently, she is working in the social sector with the Education Initiatives. Her profound interest in heritage and culture and her curiosity to explore the Urdu language brought her to Dastangoi. It was during her graduation that for the first time ever, she witnessed a Dastangoi performance and was completely mesmerized by it, she decided to pursue this art and has since been associated with it. For her, dastangoi is not just a performing art but a way of life. She feels that it is a lifelong journey of learning and a path to explore the unexplored.Read more