Thursday, February 4, 2016

Light And Sound At Rajwada!

Dusk is falling rapidly around Rajwada, the stately palace built by the Holkars in the 18th century in Indore. The structure stands tall in the old part of the city, dominating its skyline. Once the seat of power in this region, today it is surrounded by shops and houses separated by narrow lanes.

I am here to see and listen to the light and sound show put together by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism very recently. Eager to enjoy this new initiative in the city in which I grew up, I make way for the ticket window. It is in a makeshift booth just outside one of the side gates. There is hardly anybody there. I buy my ticket (Rs.100) and am told that the show will start at 18:45, instead of 18:30 to allow people to come and settle down. The event has just been introduced in the city's social calendar and not too many people are aware of it yet.

I enter through the side gate, and after a little walk; find myself in the courtyard just behind the main gate. The imposing facade looks impressive even from inside. Some 50 plastic chairs have been arranged in the open space, but we are only about 15 people. As we sit facing the backside of the main gate, an army of mosquitoes descends upon us. They attack from all sides, making me wish I had carried a tube of repellent with me. My dupatta comes to the rescue, and I wrap it around my head, shoulders and arms tightly.

Photos by Lata
The show starts at 18:45. The commentary in Amitabh Bachchan's rich baritone is informative and engaging. The story of Malhar Rao Holkar-- the first prince from the Holkar family which ruled the state of Indore--comes alive with the help of lights, sounds and drawings projected on a huge wall in the courtyard. We are still in the first few minutes of the narration, and suddenly there are loud fireworks just outside the main gate, their lights and sound dominating those of the show. I wonder if they are part of the show, but they do not seem appropriate at this point in the story. It is not yet time for Malhar Rao's coronation or wedding in the script. The illuminations and bursts continue for a long time, marring the lights and sounds of the show all along. There are single blasts, multiple blasts in a long series and other different crackling sounds all accompanied by a shower of colourful sparks in the evening sky. Maybe it's a wedding procession, I tell myself. Being a hub of activity in the old city, this area is likely to have wedding processions, political rallies and demonstrations frequently.

The show goes on. I lose quite a bit of it to the noise from the crackers, but manage to get the gist anyway. Malhar Rao and his worthy successor Ahilyabai (his daughter-in-law) form the main fabric of the story. It touches upon the lives of all the other nobles who ruled the princely state of Indore until it merged with the newly independent Indian states in 1948. The story is rather well told, opening a small window to the history of the royalty for residents of Indore as well as visitors. 

How to make the experience more enjoyable for the viewers and listeners? Spray some powerful insecticide in the courtyard every evening before the show begins. And ban firecrackers in the Rajwada area for the entire duration (45 minutes) of the show.  The buzzing of mosquitoes and the incessant bursts of crackers take away the sheen of the production in spite of all its richness.

When I come out, I ask a policeman what the hullabaloo was all about. He tells me that they were celebrating because Indore is going to be a Smart City. Become smart, stay smart Indore!