An ‘adda’ for ample activities

Popular cultural centre Lamakaan is set for a digital overhaul, complete with podcasts and interviews with artistes

By Author  |  Published: 11th Mar 2018  12:25 amUpdated: 10th Mar 2018  4:14 pm
An ever-ready amphitheatre at Lamakaan, Photos: Hrudayanand

Some eight years ago, before venues to host cultural events came up in different parts of the city, the idea of a space for people to just sit and talk was not something fathomable. However, that changed when in 2010, a new space called Lamakaan was opened in a quiet lane of the Banjara Hills. It was a name that came up casually in conversations among students and groups of people eager to explore a place which tagged itself as a ‘propagator of liberal politics and progressive art’. What started out as an experiment with one play a week became the ‘adda’ for people who often make their way here after college or work. Today, the cultural venue is a veritable melting pot of every kind of event possible- from theatre plays, debates, discussions on social issues, workshops in various fields, musical performances, film screenings to even comedy acts.

A lounge where people converse over a plate of samosa. Photos: Hrudayanand

No matter what day or time it is, the place always buzzes with people having animated conversations over countless glasses of nimbu paani and a plate of steaming hot samosas churned out by the small café here, at throwaway prices. For founder Asshar Farhan, Lamakaan has a deep personal connection, as it belonged to his uncle, M Hassan who built the house over a period of ten years. Following the demise of his uncle, Farhan took over the place in 2005 but it was another five years later and after resigning his software industry job, that the idea of Lamakaan really took root. “The key driver of a place like this is the ‘plug and play’ part, it is wired in such a way that you can hang a light anywhere you want and set up a dramatic play in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. Instead of repeat theatre plays, weekends are now meant for new plays in order to encourage new talent,” says Farhan. In keeping with the plan to go digital last year, Lamakaan will also have a revamped website set to launch next week marking the anniversary. It will not only list upcoming events but also let visitors browse through past events. “We are also planning podcasts, interviews with visiting artistes and articles about the events. The same rule will apply to the content on the website, it shouldn’t be divisive and religious in nature. It is also open to those who want to generate content for the site,” adds Farhan. Two-week-long celebrations are planned in lieu of the anniversary, beginning with readings of poems by the progressive Hyderabadi poet Makhdoom, discussion on importance of digital media, musical performances and theatre plays by veterans like Ratna Pathak Shah.

“We wanted to reintroduce the audience to Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s revolutionary ideals and thoughts. Few are familiar with his significant contribution Urdu literature. The Ismat Chugtai play being enacted by Ratna Pathak is meant to start a conversation on the importance and need for intimate theatre spaces which are slowly disappearing.  Small spaces like ours play a big role in promoting meaningful theatre by making it accessible to everyone,” says Farhan. From a worrisome closure notice by GHMC owing to complaints by neighbours over noise and parking issues and staging controversial plays, Lamakaan has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2009.

Freelance photographer Siddanti Bodhu, who is a frequent visitor to the place, says “When I went there initially as a student, I saw that it was place where people from all walks of life and age groups came together. There was an opportunity to learn anything about any field.  An open mind and willingness to put away preconceived notion were all you needed.  It offered the promise of a mutual connection with like-minded individuals.”