Indian Express covers AntiMatter!
24 Jun'14 | Anti Matter
During his growing-up years in Lucknow, ad filmmaker Pushpendra Mishra was influenced by different forms of culture — thumri concerts, classical devotional music, Kathak recitals, shayari, Urdu poetry and others. When he arrived in Mumbai nearly 12 years ago, he was excited to be privy to a new culture and influences. Soon, he realised that despite its diversity, there was something missing in the island city. “I found that Mumbai doesn’t have much in terms of a counter culture,” says the 40-year-old. According to him, only loud, pop culture’s seem to have survived here.
Now, Mishra has taken an initiative to change this aspect of city life and started AntiMatter, “an interactive platform to bring together creative minds/artists to inspire and promote good ideas”. Held once every two months at Bonobo, Bandra, the event is designed as a forum for conversations with professionals from different creative fields. Nageen Tanvir, the daughter of theatre icon Habib Tanvir, and slain theatre activist Safdar Hashmi’s wife Moloyshree Hashmi spoke about theatre in the first session. In its second edition, Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain introduced and performed a piece of Dastangoi, the dying art of storytelling popular in the Mughal era. “With AntiMatter, I get to meet great artists. However, I’m not being selfish because I’m opening it up to a larger audience,” says Mishra.
Several forums are cropping up across Mumbai, thanks to the initiatives taken by individuals and groups to experience and share different aspects of culture — from theatre and art to literature and language. Adding credibility to these events are professionals from different fields who are keen on talking about their craft in these interactive sessions. Pormecoffee — an initiative by Fatema Pittalwala, owner of a political consultancy, and marketing professional Mehek Chadha — entails monthly sessions on various topics such as art and social entrepreneurship, film and media. Barcamp Mumbai — modelled around the international event by the same name — is a day-long conference held every six months. Here, self-proclaimed experts can volunteer to talk about anything they want — from how to deal with sexual abuse to the most proficient ways of using a Twitter handle. While most of these events deal with various subjects, Mehfil@Prithvi focusses strictly on Urdu literature. With a mixed audience of young and old people, this forum initiated by Arwa Mamaji and Priya Nijhara of The Urduwallahs meets one Tuesday every month to discuss Urdu language, literature and writers. Theatre director Salim Arif and screenwriter Javed Siddiqi moderate the sessions
“When we started the Mehfil, we had no idea who would be interested,” says Mamaji, a filmmaker by profession. “Over the last eight months, the response has been phenomenal. We, as amateurs, get to learn more about Urdu — something we’re passionate about — while the intellectuals get to share their knowledge,” she adds. Despite its success and the demands it makes, Mamaji doesn’t want to quit her job. “I love my job a lot,” she says.
So, what’s the factor that makes these amateurs come up with such ventures? For Chadha, Pourmecoffee is about meeting new people while it’s the exchange of ideas and discussions that excites her partner Fatema. “We’re so attuned to our jobs that a lot of what we do comes out like clockwork,” she says, adding, “It’s very important, sociologically, to know what’s going on in other spheres and keep learning new things.”