art world

In photos: Madhya Pradesh’s beauty through Ramleela performers and Allauddin Khan’s old home

‘Disappearing Dialogues’ aims to reacquaint Indians with indigenous traditions either lost or dying.

A section of the gallery space at Bikaner House in New Delhi is covered with images of characters from a village production of Ramleela, a dramatic enactment of the life of the Hindu god Ram. The photographs by Mumbai-based photographer Sandeep Dhopate showcase the colourful, kitschy costumes sported by residents of the Maihar town of Madhya Pradesh during the show. Dhopate, who was visiting Maihar in 2016 during the days of Navratra festival to research for another project, said he just chanced upon the performance and decided to photograph it.

The photographs are a part of Disappearing Dialogues, a multimedia art exhibition, featuring paintings, videos, book art and photography, created by 14 artists from India and abroad in collaboration with the people of Maihar and its surrounding areas. Curated by Nobina Gupta, the exhibition has been put together in collaboration with Art Ichol, a Maihar-based art residency.

A character from Ramleela named Jatayu. Image credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
A character from Ramleela named Jatayu. Image credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

“I was standing in a corner watching the Ramleela performance and thinking about the inherent lack of grace in the show – the ill-fitting outfits coupled with tacky accessories, the medley of contrasting colours and haphazard styling,” said Dhopate. “It was far from the notion of a god, but the visuals were still striking to me and I decided to just document that without thinking how I would use it later in my project.”

Dhopate set up a little studio of sorts near the stage and spent the next six nights shooting the performers in costume.

Hanuman. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Hanuman. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

Maihar is most famous as the place of residence of Baba Allauddin Khan, the Hindustani classical maestro who founded the Maihar Gharana. It was Khan and his musical legacy that brought Dhopate to Maihar in the first place. A part of his exhibition is dedicated to Khan’s home, Medina Bhavan. “I did extensive reading on the philosophy behind Hindustani classical music and tried to understand its nuances,” said Dhopate.

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

“The walls of Medina Bhavan have heard music literally being played 18 hours a day every single day for several decades,” added Dhopate. “In my view, the walls of this place still have his energy. I have attempted to convey that feeling by splashing the walls of Medina Bhavan with colours that celebrate life. What appears to the naked eye might be a silent dead space, but what one can hear is anything but silence. Walking through the abandoned walls of Medina Bhavan, it’s hard to miss being part of the taleem (teachings) that the torchbearers of Hindustani classical music went through.”

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

The focus of Disappearing Dialogues, according to Gupta, is on reacquainting Indians with indigenous traditions either lost or dying. “Madhya Pradesh is a place of rich histories and cultural and musical legacies and traditions that are hidden deep in the area,” said Gupta. “This heritage should be valued and preserved before it disappears. For this project, the artists have used their creativity and research abilities to study disappearing practices and develop thought-provoking artwork and material in response to their findings.”

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

Along with the photographs, there are 3D models on display of small residential mud buildings created by Australian architect Clare Elizabeth Kennedy in the tradition of building techniques from Madhya Pradesh, along with textile artist Nidhi Khurana’s vibrant cloth creations demonstrating the techniques of natural dyeing, like bandhani and shibori.

Gupta’s own project, titled Dharohar, involved interacting with children studying in the schools in Maihar and encouraging them to use art to explore and express what they wish to achieve in life.

Art work by children in Maihar on paper kandas. Image courtesy: Nobina Gupta.
Art work by children in Maihar on paper kandas. Image courtesy: Nobina Gupta.

“It was interesting how their choices depended so much on the kind of experiences they had seen their parents have,” said Gupta. “Most girls wanted to be doctors because they noticed how far their parents had to travel for basic medical care. Some children wanted to be police officers and one even had aspirations to become a designer.”

The children doodled illustrations on paper plates or on handmade local khaprel tiles.

Art work by children in Maihar on khaprel tiles (image courtesy: Nobina Gupta).
Art work by children in Maihar on khaprel tiles (image courtesy: Nobina Gupta).

Many artists have also engaged with Bagheli language spoken in the Baghelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Classical Odissi dancer Shashwati Garai worked with local folk singer Shashi Kumar Pandey to fuse Bagheli music with contemporary idioms and has created an interactive performance installation at the show venue that will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Bagheli.

Disappearing Dialogues is on display at Bikaner House, New Delhi, till November 29.

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Why should inclusion matter to companies?

It's not just about goodwill - inclusivity is a good business decision.

To reach a 50-50 workplace scenario, policies on diversity need to be paired with a culture of inclusiveness. While diversity brings equal representation in meetings, board rooms, promotions and recruitment, inclusivity helps give voice to the people who might otherwise be marginalized or excluded. Inclusion at workplace can be seen in an environment that values diverse opinions, encourages collaboration and invites people to share their ideas and perspectives. As Verna Myers, a renowned diversity advocate, puts it “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Creating a sense of belonging for everyone is essential for a company’s success. Let’s look at some of the real benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

Better decision making

A whitepaper by Cloverpop, a decision making tool, established a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. The research discovered that teams that followed an inclusive decision-making process made decisions 2X faster with half the meetings and delivered 60% better results. As per Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, this report highlights how diversity and inclusion are practical tools to improve decision making in companies. According to her, changing the composition of decision making teams to include different perspectives can help individuals overcome biases that affect their decisions.

Higher job satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is connected to a workplace environment that values individual ideas and creates a sense of belonging for everyone. A research by Accenture identified 40 factors that influence advancement in the workplace. An empowering work environment where employees have the freedom to be creative, innovative and themselves at work, was identified as a key driver in improving employee advancement to senior levels.


A research by stated the in India, 62% of innovation is driven by employee perceptions of inclusion. The study included responses from 1,500 employees from Australia, China, Germany, India, Mexico and the United States and showed that employees who feel included are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, suggest new and innovative ways of getting work done.

Competitive Advantage

Shirley Engelmeier, author of ‘Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage’, in her interview with Forbes, talks about the new global business normal. She points out that the rapidly changing customer base with different tastes and preferences need to feel represented by brands. An inclusive environment will future-proof the organisation to cater to the new global consumer language and give it a competitive edge.

An inclusive workplace ensures that no individual is disregarded because of their gender, race, disability, age or other social and cultural factors. Accenture has been a leading voice in advocating equal workplace. Having won several accolades including a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate equality index, Accenture has demonstrated inclusive and diverse practices not only within its organisation but also in business relationships through their Supplier Inclusion and Diversity program.

In a video titled ‘She rises’, Accenture captures the importance of implementing diverse policies and creating an inclusive workplace culture.


To know more about inclusion and diversity, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Accenture and not by the Scroll editorial team.