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The Maharaja Press Preview

November 17th, 2010

Look, it’s a scrum, and it’s not even Parliament Hill! At the AGO’s press preview on Tuesday morning, the guest of honour His Highness Yuvraj Saheb Mandhatasinhji of Rajkot did get surrounded in front of his Star of India Rolls Royce, on loan for the Maharaja exhibition (something the Victoria & Albert Museum didn’t even have).

Of course, this is not how the Press Preview began. We began with a showcase of the Indian classical dance form Bharat Natyam, which will be performed throughout the run of the exhibition in the gallery space along with other kinds of South Asian performances (including virtuoso sitar player Anwar Khurshid).

Of course, no gathering that involved coffee, tea, and mango-pineapple skewers could take place without the obligatory speeches. AGO CEO Matthew Teitelbaum pointed out that he could see this exhibition as the kind that would encourage the younger generation to bring the elders and ask the question, ‘What does this mean to you?’

Also there were the Honourable Minister Michael Chan for Tourism and Culture, as well as other sponsors including Prem Watsa (Fairfax Financial), Philip Crawley (Globe and Mail), Phil Lind (Rogers Communications) and Sabi Marwah (Scotiabank Inc.). Anna Jackson had (in my opinion) the best title of all the attendees: Deputy Keeper of the Victorian and Albert Museum’s Asia Department. She spent two years working on the original Maharaja exhibition that ran at the V&A from October 2009 until January 2010.

The real fun began when we were officially given the go-ahead to disperse and finally see the exhibition on the second floor. Sure, I’m the blogger-in-residence and may have bias from just listening in on all the hard work done by the AGO team to re-create and re-imagine the original V&A exhibition, but I found the show to be a wonderfully immersive experience with a soundscape that changed from room to room, black and white video footage of actual maharaja processions projected onto walls and, of course, the objects themselves.

I could go on, but isn’t is always better to leave readers wanting more?

Piali Roy is a Toronto writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

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