In the three years since it opened, it is a venue that is slowly becoming the centre of counter-culture in Hyderabad, a city known for being conservative. Lamakaan is located in an old bungalow in Banjara Hills, one of the costliest pieces of real estate in Andhra Pradesh. When Ashhar Farhan’s uncle, who owned the bungalow, expired, he decided that he wanted to convert it into another Brecht Forum, New York’s cultural melting pot named after German writer Bertolt Brecht.
From book launches to sammelans, music performances to theatre, discussions to documentary screenings, in the past year, 240 events have taken place here. Farhan is clear about keeping it non-commercial. “I wanted it to be place that caters to an alternative liberal approach to culture without any corporate or government support,’’ he says. “We do not even sell bottled water.’’ One can sit here for any duration and even use its free wi-fi.
Strains of a sitar waft down from a first floor room and a couple of college kids practice their guitar in the garden below. A stage set amid natural boulders exhibits plays and film shows. A group of music lovers meet every Sunday.
Adithya Mopur, an engineering college dropout-turned-photographer, spends most of his hours working here because of its free wi-fi and canteen. “I get a lot of creative vibes here,’’ says a college student who is later joined by classmates who are practising for a play to perform here.
Haleem Khan, a Kuchipudi dancer, is another regular. “I built my career inside Lamakaan’s walls. But, it’s losing its charm because the new entrants it has embraced are not true to it, like us. There are more students now,’’ he says.
Farhan owned an infotech startup earlier which he has now sold to the state government. His company developed software for calligraphy in Urdu. An engineer, he also dabbled in internet telephony. He once even auditoned for a small role for his friend, film director Nagesh Kukunoor.
Admission for most events in Lamakaan are free, says Farhan. Whatever money is otherwise collected is plied back into running the place. Farhan says there is still a long way to go because people in Hyderabad are averse to anything new. “We survive on the canteen and private anonymous donations,’’ he says.