The best way to grow as an artist is simply by meeting fellow artists, admirers, critics and people from all walks of life. Much as the artists like to be alone when practising their art, they know that erudite discussion with like-minded people only enriches their art forms. That’s why a Jehangir (art gallery) had a (Cafe) Samovar, which in its hey days was thronged by art lovers and artists alike. The bigwigs attending sessions and screenings at National Centre for Performing Arts bond over Suleiman coffee and theatre practitioners spend many a pleasant hour at Prithvi Theatre’s Prithvi Cafe. The elites from Delhi’s art circle meet up at the India Habitat Centre or at the cafes, pubs and bistros at Hauz Khas Village. Pune has a thriving art scene, no doubt. But the art and artists mingling at cafes and turning them into must-visit places is just about beginning here. We talk to a few artists to learn where they like to hangout and why.
Ankita Singh, a poet, says that there is a growing number of poetry-friendly cafes coming up around the city. Says she, “They have this earthy appeal to them and are designed tastefully. Places like Manmauji Cafe, Kala Kollective, Pagdandi and Table Talk Cafe have a regular schedule for poetry events which brings all the like-minded people together to grow into a strong community. The owners of these places are very warm and welcoming, and make us feel at home. On a personal level too, we artists love to sit and get inspired at these places. We meet new faces with great ideas and thoughts which really benefits budding artists.”
Singh points out that the poetry group that she belongs to, Baithak and Beyond, is looking for places with more casual appeal. “We are more inclined towards producing poetry through gathering and discussions rather than exhibiting our skills on stage,” she adds.
Luv Mahtani, a musician and a theatre artist, prefers visiting homegrown cafes because they have become a great platform for storytelling, working together and even dog meet-ups. Mahtani says, “Artists are always looking for an informal cultural space where they can feel the power of art. Places like Inscape, Zaga and TIFA serve as a great platform for artists to have a more laid-back but enlightening performance experience — something raw and unconventional.”
“When artists hang out together, new conversations begin, a strong community is built slowly and there is an attempt to explore new ideas and concepts, be it in theatre or music,” he adds.
Chandrakant Redican, a poet, who closely works with Pagdandi Cafe to host events, adds, “There was a time when we had to bounce here and there, looking for places where we would be welcomed to perform. When I first approached the owners of Pagdandi, they liked the concept of having artists coming in and holding small performances which attracted a lot of crowd. Seeing the response, the owners invited us again and that’s how it kicked off.”
One of the many reasons that performers like to visit cafes is because they like to catch up with their friends there. “These watering holes become their homeground; it has an accepting atmosphere. This is where different opinions meet and you get to build an audience and come across talents,” he adds.
When Riya Kalwani, a poet, recently moved to the city, she discovered that the city has several places that let like-minded people socialise in a fun, creative and non-judgemental environment. “I have already been to Zaga studio a couple of times now and I truly enjoyed the concept of artists, be it poets, stand-up comedians or even painters and musicians, coming together. There is something for everyone,” she says.
Kalwani believes that such spaces are a great platform for upcoming artists to gather a bit of confidence on how to perform in front of the crowd and actually get hold of an audience for themselves.
“Cafes are pretty cool because there’s absolutely no tension, which makes it a smooth experience for the performer and the audience. Hanging out at such informal and casual settings is indeed a good thing to do because you not only get to meet new people, but also have them look at your art form differently with a newer perspective,” she adds.