BANGALORE: These are busy days for one of Bangalore’s most fecund and quiet creative spaces, Infinite Souls Farm and Artists Retreat (www.infinitesouls.org) at Vardenahalli, Magadi taluk. Alex Machacek, the famous Austrian jazz fusion guitarist is scheduled to come over for a workshop with city musicians in the near future (the dates are still being finalised).
Documentary filmmaker T Jayashree, known for her film on the transgender community, Many People, Many Desires, is also in residence at the farm.
There is a theatre pedagogy event scheduled for December featuring internationally acclaimed professionals like Sophia Stepf. Kirtana Kumar, the heart of Infinite Souls is also helming a comprehensive theatre lab. She says, “Infinite Souls has existed in my mind forever. Physically, it has been in existence since 2006. We took our time planting trees, building structures and developing it. The idea has always been to live outside the city, grow our food and extend our world and home to artists and offer them good food, time, support."
Sandhya Kumar’s latest film, Memory of a Light, premiered here. A Guitar Clinic featuring Peter Finger, Claus Boesser-Ferrari and Konarak Reddy also took place recently. Smiles Kirtana, “It was quite charming to watch Peter, a very formal German musician, take a class under our large old Banyan tree. Right now the Comprehensive Theatre Lab students are super busy preparing for their year-end performance.These kids have been studying folk idiom and oral history this year and are in the throes of creating a play based on the stories that lie within their own families. Stories of journeys, of travel, of Partition.”
Some of the most enjoyable moments unfold when Kirtana and her guests, famous or otherwise, pick avocados and baskets of arugula, lettuce and baby spinach to make salads and then dress them with the juice of limes ripening on tender branches. Kirtana chimes, “Life here is a constant flux between the sublime and the ridiculous - fantastic music and breathtaking beauty under the stars one night and then the entire plumbing destroyed by tree roots another. One night, we walked into the darkness of one of our cottages only to have the roof rain squirrels down on us. Someone had left a mesh window open. If a day is fairly uneventful, I count it as a good one. Yesterday, I found a snake skin, in its entirety, laid out on my windowsill. Clearly, that snake is snuggled up in its new skin somewhere in our cottage waiting to be an interesting anecdote!”
But she emphasises that having actors, musicians and other hedonists onboard is always rich in anecdotes. She shares, "Kalari artist Anmol Mothi, for instance, is terrified of lightning and will run for cover as soon as he hears thunder. Musician Rudy David’s daughter Anna loves the dogs and sitting with her feet in the pond. Plus, folks enjoy cooking at Infinite Souls, so that’s a bonus for us.”
Playwright, actor and director Salmin Sheriff often whips up a lovely curry. A group of Sri Lankan actors cooked an amazing island feast recently. Ashvin Mathew (last seen in English Vinglish) always rustles up a special barbecue treat.
Kirtana says,”It needs to be emphasised that this is a space for creation and is open to anyone across the world. We see its effect almost immediately. People open up. They stretch, breathe, speak in nicer ways to each other, go for walks, enjoy the trees, pick custard apples. All these seemingly simple acts appear radical in the context of the city today and the overall sense of discombobulation it generates. Especially when, it is de rigueur to be curt, opinionated, defensive and vague.”
One big loss in this happy melee is of U R Ananthamurthy and Kirtana says, “I miss that we won’t be able to run anything by him again...lyrics, ideas for a film, a play, a song. We are working on a project with singer M D Pallavi and had wanted to discuss it with him, knowing he is the ultimate artist. Always open, enquiring of spirit, intellectually curious and with a great big loving heart.”
Kirtana is going on tour with the acclaimed play, Boy with a Suitcase once again. This time to the UK and Scandinavia but when she returns, Infinite Souls will have many more ripe stories, waiting to be picked.
She concludes, “We are funded by what people pay to stay with us or to attend workshops but we also have had people staying with us for free and coming to workshops without paying us.”
For more info, log onto www.infinitesouls.org.