Kalagora is a hymn to cities, to their richness, their colour, their noise, sprawl and energy, and to the process of cultural merging, mixing and melting that categorises the urban experience.
Poet Siddhartha Bose has lived in three of the biggest, most distinctive cities in the world. Born in Mumbai, he spent several years in New York before moving to London. His show is a jazz-inflected poetic monologue exploring this journey, his words fused with music and images. In the city of that size you can lose yourself, find yourself, be someone else if you so wish. Bose’s show captures that heady urban experience, the taxi drivers and the rough sleepers, the shifting skies and the glitter of glass.
Kalagora is a Hindi word meaning black man/white man and Bose (or, at least, his onstage persona) explores how his urban existence has shaped him, how his identity is defined as much by the places in which he’s lived as by his race or religion. His story takes in charged encounters with airport officials, a boisterous millennium eve party in Manhattan, and what it means to be an illegal immigrant, paperless and under suspicion.
The audio-visual elements of the production enrich what could otherwise be a static experience. Pankaj Awasthi’s music is paired with filmed images of all three metropolises, a striking string of faces and places, the cinema of the city life, the traffic, the neon, the hum. Nor is Bose a stiff, still performer, a reciter, instead he makes the words come alive. His voice is resonant and versatile, switching between accents with ease; he’s also an engaging performer, confident and capable of conveying subtle shifts in emotion.
He has also published a book of poems on the same theme under the same title but this is not a straight-forward reading of those lines. Thought has been given to bringing out the theatrical aspect of the material, to make it work in a performance context: as Bose describes the chaos and clamour of Bombay, he draws a circle in vermilion sand on the floor; later, having landed in Manhattan, he inks a similar circle around his eye. Striking as the language often is there is a sense that still more could be done with this material, to lift and link these words, to sync the visual with the verbal, to condense the modern megapolis into a black box.