“We've been asked to look smart, so I will be showing up in a sherwani and a kantha shawl. I have also had my hair trimmed and coiffured,” chuckles Astad Deboo over the phone. He has just been invited to the Buckingham Palace for the inauguration of the UK-India Year of Culture, which will kick off a year of festivities on Monday.
An Indian Contemporary dance icon, Deboo is among a handful of other prominent Indians who have been asked to grace this event. He shares, “There are a lot of rumours floating around about who's going to be there. I even heard that Priyanka Chopra has been invited, but I can't say for sure. What I do know is that Anoushka Shankar and Aditi Mangaldas are on the list. I also know that Jai Ho is going to be played at the Changing of the Guard. So, who knows, AR Rahman might also be there.”
When asked if he will be performing at the event, Deboo replies in the negative. “Not on Monday, but I'll likely be performing as part of the same event later in the year.”
With a packed schedule ahead of him, will he find time to explore London? Expressing disappointment, he says, “Sadly not, as I have to be back in India for a show. I do enjoy London, and have been visiting since 1969. I've seen it grow and change, and I have friends there, with whom I enjoy visiting museums and the theatre.”
Deboo informs us that this is not his first brush with royalty. “I was at the inauguration of Sydney's Opera House, back in 1973. I was obviously much younger then, and was performing at the event with a bunch of other dancers. Queen Elizabeth II had been there, too, although we didn't get the opportunity to interact with her. Nevertheless, it was a great moment,” he says. He adds that he doesn't know if he will have a chance to speak with the Queen this time either; but, he's excited about the prospect.