Performance Poetry in Kolkata: A Review

As you all remember, on the 23rd of April 2016, Performance Poetry, Kolkata held their first event: Jukebox 2016.

C’est la vie , then busy doing a bunk on the beaches of Puri, had supported  the event with all the love and admiration our little hearts could hold. Crouching beneath the benevolent indulgence of our resident slam-savants Ekalavya Chaudhuri and Janhabi Mukherjee, two of the organizers of the event, here we bring to you the review of what went down at Jukebox 2016.

  • The Poetry Slam

It was awesome.

No, really. Kolkata’s enthusiastic response to the organizers’ call caught all of us unawares, so the room, by all reports, was heated not just with passion but quite a bit of perspiration of the poetry-lovers. The doorway was blocked, and organizers ran helter-skelter to make sure everything went as planned. And it did! Well, sort of. Judging sheets were lost and people may or may not have been cussed at. But the poetry part was a resounding success. Held in three slots throughout the event, three warriors of words emerged as victors: Suryadipta Bhowmik, Dishani Roy and Meghalee Mitra, in that order. The slam virtuoso held sway for so long, in fact, that the planned “Session of the Supernatural” story-telling event had to be put on hold until the next edition of Jukebox.

Meghalee speaks in “Retelling Stories”. Watch her perform here!

  • Open Mic: Stand-Up Comedy

“The experience was nice. Refreshing change from the hookah bar crowd!” said Joy Dutta, the comedian who had Jukebox in thrall.

“Joy Dutta was an absolute treat to watch,” said Reya Ahmed of Saintbrush. “Excellent comic timing and genuinely funny personality.”

It was lovely to have him, and we appreciate the work he put into creating an entirely new set for us,” said Janhabi.

Thanks, Joy, for lending so much joy to the event!

… Okay I’ll leave now.

  • Open Mic: Music

The unanimous response to this seems to be summed up in the one squealed exclamation of joy Reya uttered on my asking her about them: “GREAT.” June Banerjee’s original guitarwork and the seriously impressive live beatboxing by Ananda Roy Chowdhury and friends that followed seemed to have wrung magic into the air at Jukebox.

“It was exhilarating to be honest. The people there were not like the stereotypical crowd. The homely atmosphere sans any kind of microphone added to the acoustic fervour,” said Ananda. “The people were supportive and open to new and unique performances like ours.”

  • One-day Library

In our last post, Ekalavya had explained the procedure of this book-lovers’ treat:

“Participants can bring by their own books and, on a minimal deposit of Rs 10, will receive a coupon. They can then exchange the coupon for a book of their choice amongst the selection available.”

But, as Ekalavya put it, “The one day library’s first outing didn’t go very well.” Kolkatans, it seems, are hesitant to exchange their beloved tomes with the great unknown- which, on one level, I completely understand. “Still, there were bright spots,” says Ekalavya, “like someone picked up a copy of The Mine by an Indian author, Arnab Ray, someone picked up a Wodehouse.”

That last someone would be Sayar Banerjee, who, by all accounts, was very satisfied with his borrowing.

“Those are the silver linings. So hopefully this will catch on with the ensuing editions. I’d like to look on the bright side,” says Ekalavya. And so do we. May the next outing of our bibliophilia see a more engaged outcome!

  • Bonus: FOOD

Ah yes, the one issue of universal interest not even poetry can replace. And this event’s cuisine was especially remarkable- because the organizers baked it all themselves.

That’s right. Ekalavya and Janhabi literally spent an entire day prior to the event steaming, baking and cooking for all expected guests, and still managed to show up at the event on time with everything ready. If that is not the sign of being mature adults (unlike some of us), I don’t know what is.

“We made cakes, brownies, dips, lemonade,”says Janhabi. “I’d say that more than anything else in the event, the food was what really gave us training on how to work under pressure. It’s definitely something we’ll do again!”

Jukebox 2016 proved to be everything it had promised: a day of discovering friends, literature, music and more.

Here’s to many more such events to come over the years.

jukebox


 

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Reya Ahmed to this post, because she proved to be my proxy-in-absentia for covering the event. Without her help, this review could not have been done. I would also like to thank Ekalavya and Janhabi for their patience, and The Anon. Productions for the wonderful video I could include.

 

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