On 16th May, 2018, India’s foremost cultural platform, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) inaugurated the memorial exhibition titled, ‘Dr. Jamshed Bhabha Remembered’, as a tribute to the life and times of its founder, Dr. Jamshed Bhabha, at Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at the NCPA located at Nariman Point in South Mumbai. The exhibition was marked as a gesture of gratitude in honour of the man, whose undying love for art and culture combined with his passion and grit, gave India her only performing arts platform. Displayed in the lobby of the Jamshed Bhabha auditorium, the exhibition encompasses the life and times of India’s real cultural ambassador who dedicated his life to establishing and promoting a solid platform for the arts to be enjoyed and cherished by all.
Commencing at 5:00pm, the dynamic NCPA Chairman, Khushroo Suntook delivered a warm and strong welcome address, sharing how it had taken over fifty years to promote NCPA’s five glorious theatres – The TATA Theatre, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, Godrej Dance Theatre, The Little Theatre and Experimental Theatre.
The permanent exhibition celebrates Bhabha’s life, relationships, family and events through photographs, portraits and artefacts in meticulous detail, as laid out in three sections: the First Section highlights Dr. Bhabha’s background, upbringing, and his deep family bonds; the relationships he shared with his family and friends. The Second Section is a dedicated timeline re-counting profound occasions in his life and his unyielding contributions to the arts. The Third Section boasts of Dr. Bhabha’s creation – NCPA; the founding and establishment, the support he garnered from various institutions and renowned personalities, the advancement of gifted artists through the institute and the current venerated stand that the NCPA today holds in the world of performing arts. The memorial is located in the right wing of the main entrance to the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre. In order to keep it current and interesting, constant AV footage will run to ensure that fresh information is disseminated to the public regularly.
Speaking to Parsi Times, designer and architect of the entire exhibition, Asavari Honavar of Studio Ananya said, “The core of the exhibit is the multi-faceted personality that Dr. Jamshed Bhabha was, and the main design challenge was how best to nuance his character for all kinds of audiences who would come to see the exhibit. Our aim was to not only tell a story but to bring out what made the man be what he was, and highlight his association with both, the Tata and the Petit families.” The curation of the items displayed was a huge challenge that Asavari tackled through careful research and a stringent eye for detail before producing it in front of the NCPA Board members who would eventually decide on its inclusion in the exhibit.
Mr. Suntook unveiled the plaque at the entrance of the exhibition and declared it open, before proceeding for the inauguration program held inside the Bhabha auditorium at 6:00 pm. Hosted by well-known stand-up comedian, Rajit Kapur, the function commenced with an Indian Classical Music performance by Vishal Mhatre on the Tabla and Rudrashis Gosh on the Sarod, followed by a Western Music recital performed by the students of NCPA’s ‘Special Music Training Programme’. The highlight of the function was the panel discussion titled, ‘Legacy and the Value of Patronage to the Arts’ that strived to shower light onto the wide scope that art and culture holds, as also onto the man who worked ceaselessly to bring these art forms to the common man. The event witnessed numerous members from the Zoroastrian community and concluded with a vote of thanks delivered by Rajit, followed by refreshments.
The Panel Discussion
The Panel Discussion With ‘Legacy and the Value of Patronage to the Arts’ as the theme, the panel discussion lasted for over 40 minutes with panellists NCPA Chairman – Khushroo Suntook; renowned film maker – Shyam Benegal; theatre director and actor – Vijaya Mehta; poet, artist and journalist – Arundhati Subramaniam; and Director General of CSMVS Museum – Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who collectively shared their experiences and encounters with Jamshed Bhabha. Moderated exceptionally by Anil Dharker, Vijaya recalled the day she was first introduced to Bhabha when he decided to give his first press conference, noting that his voice always echoed with passion. While Sabyasachi termed Bhabha a visionary, Shyam Benegal seconded that, emphasising that the Bhabha brothers (Homi and Jamshed Bhabha) were truly the mediators of culture in Mumbai. Although Bhabha was inclined towards Western Music, Arundhati asserted that Bhabha was very curious about Indian music and always promoted it. Khushroo Suntook reminisced the time when he put forth the idea of having a Symphony Orchestra of India to Bhabha who initially negated it due to shortage of funds. However, soon the idea won him over and he agreed, stating, ‘When the cause is good, the means will follow’