Lamakaan: A Cultural Haven For Hyderabad's Artistic Community

Lamakaan: A Cultural Haven For Hyderabad's Artistic Community
Image Courtesy: Lamakaan

Hyderabad is a truly cosmopolitan city. It’s a perfect blend of traditional ethos and the modern lifestyle. The architecture alone ranges from charming palaces and monuments in the old city to the most lavish houses with contemporary, sleek designs. Even the population is a mixture of people of northern and southern descent speaking Urdu, Telegu, Hindi, and English. Due to the influences from different people and eras, Hyderabad has developed a unique culture that attracts poets and artists to its soulful and electric atmosphere.

A popular spot that gathers people with artistic and philosophical inclinations is Lamakaan. It’s an inclusive cultural space that promotes arts, literature, theatre, debate and dialogue. Hidden between the bungalows of Banjara Hills, this open cultural centre is home to plays, poetry sessions, stand-up comedy, film screenings, exhibitions, interactive sessions, and workshops. It’s a charming and eccentric hub that’s loved by both Hyderabadis and outsiders.

Lamakaan is a gift to the city by the courtesy of the Late M. Hassan, a local art enthusiast and a good friend of the late artist M. F. Hussain, who began the construction of Lamakaan as a residential building in 1972. After Mr. Hassan’s death in 2010, his nephew Ashhar Farhan and his wife Humera, with friends — film producer and actor Elahe Hiptoola and activist Biju Mathew turned it into the iconic cultural space we know it as today.

The architectural structure of Lamakaan is a little hard to define. It has the essence of a home that feels like it was built for entertaining guests. As you enter, all you see are super comfy spots indoors and outdoors where you can sample their signature ‘samosas’ and ‘nimbu paani’ and just chill. For a proper lunch, you can head to the kitchen and choose from their inexpensive but delicious options like ‘Khatti Dal’, veg/chicken curry with roti or rice, the Hyderabadi special ‘Tahiri’ or Mutton Keema Pulao. Outside there are layers of different seating options under the tree and restaurant-style tables on the balcony. You also take the stairs and go to the breezy terrace to catch a view of Banjara Hills. The uneven, multi-dimensional landscape of Lamakaan, where trees and giant rocks are left untouched in the construction makes you feel like your gentle creative spirit has found a safe space.

I was introduced to Lamakaan through my friends one sunny day when we played hooky from college. I was surprised to learn that it’s a public space as it’s relatively quiet and blends well into the housing colony it’s located in. Since day one it made a lasting impression on me and I became a regular finding myself spending hours under the tree. As an outsider, I was fascinated with the events that Lamkaan hosted and the kind of people it gathered.

It was always some producer creating basslines on his laptop, a poet scribbling something in her notepad, a dance or theatre group rehearsing for their performance later on its stage or even quiet readers lost in their books taken from the mini library. I would also get my weekend-events notifications from their notice board with pamphlets and flyers posted by different artists. At Lamakaan, I got my signed copy of Gujarat Files from Rana Ayyub after an enlightening political discussion, had a heart-to-heart with members of the transgender community for the first time in the Hyderabad chapter of Human Library, cried at the plays and learnt about painters from 1800, fell in love and even first came out to myself.

Lamakaan still remains an important and endearing chapter in my life and I credit all those days and evenings I spent there to the creative direction my career has taken. I’m sure it has ignited a spark in the minds of hundreds of students, artists and creators in the city as well. This liberal space has been a nucleus of Hyderabad’s creative universe for the last 12 years. So make sure to soak in its magic if you happen to be in the city.

Some of the upcoming events at Lamakaan include ‘A tribute to Jean-Luc Godard’ (screenings of Godard’s films) from October 18 to November 17 and ‘Healing Hues’ (An interactive art therapy session with paints and clay) on October 22.

You can find more information on their website.

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