Santhe for quirky and eclectic Bengalureans

My fondest childhood memories of a ‘santhe’ have comprised my annual visits to the Dasara exhibition in Mysore during the festival season. Over time, the duration for which the entire fete lasted continued to increase, as did the kind of displays, shops and rides that turned it into a curious blend of a shopping festival with theme park style rides and lots of food.

Cut to the present when, as a resident of Bangalore, I was excited about the prospect of visiting the recently held Sunday Soul Santhe at the Palace Grounds on Sunday, September 11th. It seemed like an ideal way to spend a Sunday evening in a controlled market place of sorts with snacks, a few interesting stalls and with live music by promising and prominent Bangalore-based bands.

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect when I visited the fete, but knowing that it was sponsored by Kingfisher meant that I’d have a chance to drink some beer and watch some live music. The former didn’t happen, because as I found out, retailing alcohol on the palace grounds premises has been banned by law. The latter did happen for a brief while before rain played spoilsport and caused mayhem towards the end of the evening.

File Pic of Soul Sante. Pic Courtesy: Sunday Soul Sante

Bangalore’s hipster crowd and many of the who’s who of the Bangalore art scene made a beeline for the santhe. Bangalore’s young and upwardly mobile want to rid themselves of clichés and stereotypes and the various paraphernalia on display and sale at the santhe were characteristic of this particular ethos. Gone are the days when utilitarian, mass produced goods were enough to make the cut, as one sees more and more people gravitating towards unique experiences and distinctive, strong thoughts and opinions to reinforce their strongly individual bent of mind. I’ve realised that I strongly conform to this ideal myself.

Anyone with more than trace elements of hipsterishness (sic) would have had a gala time at the soul santhe. There were a wide variety of stalls present in the huge, sprawling area and the atmosphere was carnival like. There was a tattoo parlour, there were innumerable stalls that had on display those eclectic, boutique-style clothes that one finds in the small, tree-lined roads of Indiranagar and Koramangala and there was even a tarot card reader present at the santhe!

In addition, one had a chance to look at creatively designed wind chimes, paper made out of pure elephant dung, handicraft items, jewelry and various other objects that would add immense character to one’s drawing room or one’s closet, as the case may be.

A food court section near the performance stage took care of the tired, hungry masses that wanted to recharge before unleashing another round of the santhe.

In the midst of all this, I found two stalls particularly interesting. One of those was a stall that was selling caricatures of famous pop-culture icons and music personalities. ‘Graphicurry’, a design firm run by Prasad Bhat had one of the most attractive displays at the santhe. With richly drawn caricatures of The Beatles, Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison among others, Prasad’s artwork stood out. So much so, that I picked up a Johnny Cash caricature for myself, which I plan to frame and preserve.

‘Counter Culture and Friends’ was the other stall that piqued my interest substantially. Colourfully lit, wonderfully designed and laid out with attractive dim lighting, they were responsible for the musical acts that evening. Turned out, theirs was more of a workshop rather than a display cum sale stall.

Artists who couldn’t afford to rent out space at the santhe were given space here and were provided with material to work on their creations. Representatives from Arthouse (who showed how you could make musical instruments out of junk), Pencil Jam (a drawing academy that teaches the finer nuances of drawing) and the Kabir Project (an initiative to spread and share Kabir’s poetry and ideas) made up for the ‘Friends’ part at the stall.

I showed up in time to catch ‘Live Banned’, who, with their entertaining mash-ups of various popular songs blended seamlessly with a rock / metal groove had the crowd enthralled. With weird and funny attire, their renditions of ‘Emotional Atyachar’, ‘DK Bose’, ‘Pettai Rap’ and even the Zandu balm jingle juxtaposed over popular rock songs were refreshingly different. The fact they didn’t take themselves seriously while on stage and were having fun made watching them worthwhile, and how!

The evening was winding down with the fashion show having just begun when it began raining heavily. The fact that there was a Kannada film awards ceremony and a meditation camp flanking the santhe area on either side didn’t help since people were stuck for a long time in the massive traffic that was exiting the palace grounds.

This is the third edition of the soul santhe, with two others having taken place in September 2010 and March 2011 respectively. Another event similar to the santhe will be held at the Counter Culture premises in Whitefield in collaboration with ‘Kitsch Mandi’ in the last week of September.

Bangalore as we know it is beginning to recognise and appreciate the quirky, the eclectic, the eccentric and off-beat nature of what its residents have to offer. The increasing appreciation for such art and the corresponding platforms for showcasing it can only bear good tidings for all those that conform to being non-conformists.

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