Urmila Devi, daughter of the founder of the International Music and Arts Society, Rani Vijaya Devi, lives up to her legacy of promoting art. (Photo: Nagesh Polali)
Her apartment is filled with regal mementos from the past — a baby grand piano lined with silver framed pictures of Mysore royalty, specially customised Benares shawls, art by M F Husain and Jamini Roy. Welcome to the house of Urmila Devi Kotada-Sangani, who works intensely on the upcoming schedule of the International Music and Arts Society (IMAS).
Founded by her mother, the late Rani Vijaya Devi, IMAS, now in their 37th year, will soon bring a contemporary dance theatre by Brigham Young University from Utah and a collaborative event — the Lanerolle brothers of Sri Lanka in a voice concert with ICCR in
Over the years they have brought in artistes from all over India and abroad that includes Dr Balamuralikrishna, Mstislav Rostropo, Zakir Hussain, Pandit Jasraj, Sonal Mansingh and Mallika Sarabhai to name a few.
Their Silver jubilee was marked by a gala fashion event showcasing the work of designers with a special royal connect, like Raghavendra Rathore, Srikantadatta Wadiyar, Brigitte Singh and Muzzafar Ali. It also included recitals by Ustad Vilayat Khan and L Subramaniam. Urmila Devi and her band of dedicated volunteers are ably carrying forward her mothers legacy.
Urmila and her three sisters grew up in global capitals and summer palaces since her father was on diplomatic postings for a while and developed a taste for the arts from early childhood. “My dad took us on extensive explorations of museums in Italy. We attended concerts that varied from Dave Brubeck's iconic jazz performances in Hong Kong to Uday Shankar's pioneering dance recitals in New York City. Back home, no celebration at the Mysore palace was complete without a cultural performance,” she recalls. Urmila adds, “My mother was an accomplished musician. She studied the Veena and Carnatic music. Then she learnt the piano with the nuns of the Good Shepherd Convent in Mysore who used to come over to the palace to school the princesses in English studies, embroidery and music. She continued studying it even after her marriage, finishing at the Julliard School of Music, New York under Professor Edward Steuermann.” Urmila recounts that her uncle the late Maharaja of Mysore Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was extremely passionate about Western classical music and suggested that her mother create IMAS, a non-profit society to promote art and culture in Bangalore. IMAS was inaugurated by danseuse Vijayanthimala Bali and soon after they held an exhibition of M F Husain’s work.
Even without receiving any official grants and depending on corporate sponsorship and largess from its members, IMAS has added considerably to the cultural landscape of the city. Their two upcoming programmes are a vibrant mix of dance and music and promise to be a real treat for Bangalores culture buffs.