Making the right moves

- August 2, 2023

Shobha Deepak Singh has helped take Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra to glory through religious, mythological and folklore performances, especially Ramlila

BEGINNINGS: Shobha, who has been associated with Ramlila for 49 years, started off as a costume designer

As head of the seven decade-old Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK), one of Delhi’s iconic cultural institutions, Shobha Deepak Singh’s zeal for enriching the performing arts segment in India is well acknowledged.

The Kendra, its dance drama productions and its committed director are names that are recognisable to all lovers of arts and theatre who live in Delhi.

The Kendra has been in existence since 1952 and its cultural extravaganza, Ramlila, was first staged in 1957.

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Barring the Covid-forced hiatus, Ramlila has been staged every year during Dusshera. As for Shobha Deepak Singh, cultural impresario and director of institution and the person at the helm of dance drama productions, her commitment to the cause is legendary.

In a sense, her own growth and immersion in the cultural and classical ethos is mirrored in the Kendra’s strong presence on the Capital’s cultural and social calendar.

A scion of one of Delhi’s oldest and most respected families, the Charat Rams, whose commitment to preserving tradition, heritage and arts is a responsibility they take seriously, Shobha says, “From my childhood, I have noted that the most important thing that India can give to the rest of the world is its Indianness. As a result of this belief, I have always been interested in the dance forms of India and in contributing to their growth so I had no issues or challenges in setting up my institution of dance and music. Year after year, it has been an enthralling journey for me to be able to process an epic like Ramayana and present it in a format relevant to contemporary times”

The Ramlila is the Kendra’s best-known production.

“I have been associated with the Ramlila for wonderful 49 years. I started off as a costume designer, I went on to design ornaments, then I served as a photographer, and now I am the director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra for the past 30 years. The Kendra’s first Ramlila was spearheaded by my mother, Sumitra Charat Ram and her very first production dates back to 1957. It is due to her commitment and passionate support to encouraging young talent, while at the same time felicitating the old guard that the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra continues to stage magnificent productions from our religious, mythological and folklore archives.” says Shobha.

In the heart of Delhi

Today the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in the heart of New Delhi is one of the best-known centres of dance, music, and performing arts in the country.

As a premier institution for promoting and nurturing India’s enriched cultural heritage, the Kendra commands respect among the country’s concerned nurturers and propagators of the cultural archives.

EDUCATION: Shobha studied at Modern School, Barakhamba before attending college at Miranda House

Recently, the Kendra hosted a dance festival which introduced the characters Meera, Karna and Shree Durga in an endearing dance ballet bringing them alive for today’s generation.

The shows played to a full house, because these characters are familiar even today and by subtly contemporising them through choreography, music, special effects, the younger generation is able to relate to these mythological archives.

Says Shobha, “The idea is to convey the relevance of the sentiments of yesteryears to the existing generation in the most subtle and easy way. Staging these productions each year has helped nurture tradition while retaining the interest of the modern mindset.”

Shobha Deepak Singh points out that performing arts is an integral part of Indian culture and fabric.

These arts are vast and diversified and reach out as a collective to its connoisseurs across the globe. As a whole, Indian theatre, music and folk have an ancient history and even in modern times penetrate into lives of Indian people very seamlessly because they are derived out of religious faith, customs and traditions and hence remain very pertinent.

A doyen of the city, Shobha was born in 1943 in Delhi into the Charat Ram family of the erstwhile DCM Shriram Group, one of the leading industrial houses of that time.

Enlightened background

Her mother Sumitra came from an enlightened family of land owners and administrators of West UP and had studied under some of the greatest names of Indian literature and arts.

Shobha draws on her memories to recall that her mother imparted to her children a sense of tradition and a deep appreciation of the culture and arts.

She remembers, “I started learning kathak at the age of seven from Shambhu Maharaj and later on from Birju Maharaj and then went on to learn Sarod under Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and subsequently under Pandit Biswajeet Roy Choudhury.”

Shobha’s cultural education and her passionate patronage to the Indian classical arts was initiated very early in her life and it is because of this induction that she continues to be deeply devoted to these art forms. As early as 1952, Sumitra Charat Ram had founded a cultural organisation called Bharatiya Kala Kendra.

Shobha, as a young girl, used to accompany her mother to the Kendra to watch classes being held by the stalwarts of Indian classical dance and music.

She also used to watch the preparatory work for various dance dramas including Ramlila. After her schooling in Modern School, Delhi, and graduation from Miranda House of Delhi University, she joined her father’s company DCM as a management trainee where she was involved in various marketing and advertising activities.


In 1967, she married Deepak Singh and joined Bhartiya Kala Kendra in 1968 and became the first manager of the city’s well known Kamani Auditorium. Shobha went on to specialise in designing of costumes and ornaments — a field in which she became a trailblazer.

Later on, she took over the task of script-writing and directing of the Kendra’s ballets.

INDIAN TOUCH: Shobha Deepak Singh says that she wants to give Indianness to the world and dance forms are best suited for the cause

During the past four decades, she has formed over thirty ballets/dance dramas of the Kendra.

During this period, in 1977, she also completed her degree in “Bachelor of Performing Arts” and received her diploma in theatre direction.

The year 1992 was a watershed year in Shobha’s professional life since it was in this year that she joined the Living Theatre Academy of Ebrahim Alkazi, the maestro of modern Indian theatre.

Under his tutelage, she studied theatre direction and stagecraft and went on to become Alkazi’s assistant for four of his subsequent productions.

Her stint with Alkazi played a big role in honing her capabilities as a producer and director of theatrical performances. The result was a string of successful dance dramas that the Kendra has regularly produced since the mid-nineties. Shobha is also a serious photographer, covering many of the functions of SBKK personally. She has exposed a record 400,000 films, covering dance, theatre and music.

Looking back with satisfaction at her work Shobha says, “My interest and passion for traditional dance forms has only grown bigger with the passing of years. I believe that it is strongly related to the large number of students that we have. The interest among the young is definitely growing as it helps them remain fit and be strong both mentally and physically. My favourite dance forms are Kathak and Chhau. My love for dance has significantly contributed to my personal growth and I firmly believe that everyone who is joining the Kendra also shares a similar interest.”

She concludes with words that should be an encouragement for everyone, especially the new generation.

“Anyone can learn to dance. One must have a very strong desire and passion with which one can continue learning for years to come. And the Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra is always there to help you learn the steps!”