Ram Gopal


Ram Gopal, the Indian dancer, and his troupe performed at London's Aldwych Theatre in 1939. During this visit, he also danced at a charity performance for the Hindustani Social Club.

According to his passport, Ram Gopal was born in Bangalore in 1917, although some claim his date of birth to have been up to five years earlier. La Meri, the American danseuse, visited India in 1937 and, discovering Gopal, invited him to teach her Kathakali and accompany her on a tour of the Far East. He danced in Rangoon, Malaya, Java, the Philippines, China and Japan. He then went to the USA in 1938 and then on to Europe and was feted when he arrived in London. The press praised Gopal's accomplished dancing, comparing him favourably with Uday Shankar. Ram Gopal received rave reviews and was set to stay in Britain for a long run, but with the outbreak of the Second World War had to return to India.

Ram Gopal built a dance school in Bangalore during the war years, and welcomed the London Ballet Company to India. Ram Gopal returned to London in July 1947. He was asked to perform at the reopening of the Indian section of the Victoria and Albert Museum on 17 September 1947. Subsequently he and his company were asked to perform seasons of several weeks at numerous theatres in London, such as The Prince’s Theatre, Adelphi and Cambridge. He founded a school of Indian dance in London in 1962. He spent his last years in England, and died in Surrey in 2003.

Published works: 

(with Serozh Dadachanji) Indian Dancing (London: Phoenix House, 1951)

Rhythms in the Heaven: An Autobiography (London: Secker and Warburg, 1957)


Extract from New Scotland Yard Report No. 156,  13 December 1939, L/PJ/12/630, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Date of birth: 
20 Nov 1917

Surat Alley, Mercedes de Acosta, Kay Ambrose, Yogen Desai, Anton Dolin, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gadsby, M. K. Gandhi, Arnold Heskell, Lord Lloyd, Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vaslav Nijinski Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Anna Pavlova, Michael Rouse (company organiser and manager), Queen Mary of Teck, Felix Topolski.

Precise DOB unknown: 

New Statesman

News Chronicle


A short time ago Ramzan alias Surat Ali was able to secure the services of the well known Indian dancer, Ram Gopal and his company, for a charity performance in order to mitigate the distress caused by the war among Indian seamen and pedlars, and a special matinee was arranged for Friday 1st December 1939, at the Vaudeville Theatre, Strand, W.C., the proceeds of which were to be given to the Hindustani Social Club.

Secondary works: 

Ambrose, Kay, Classical Indian Dances and Costumes of India (London: Adam and Charles Black, London, 1950)

Archive source: 

Programmes, V&A Theatre Collection, Earls Court, London

Ram Gopal Collection, South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive, London

L/PJ/12/630, Indian Office Record, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Bisano Ram Gopal


Hyde Park Crescent
London, W2 2QD
United Kingdom
51° 30' 54.4212" N, 0° 10' 7.9608" W
Pall Mall
London, SW1Y
United Kingdom
51° 30' 23.6592" N, 0° 8' 3.1452" W
Date of death: 
12 Oct 2003
Location of death: 
Croydon, Surrey, England
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Apr 1939
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1939, 1947-2003



Tags for Making Britain: 

Uday Shankar


Uday Shankar was an artist, dancer and choreographer who popularized Indian dance through his effective use of western theatrical techniques in combination with classical Indian dance. Uday Shankar arrived in London in 1920 to study art at Royal College of Art under the tutelage of William Rothenstein. While in London, William Rothenstein sent him to the British Museum to study the reproductions of paintings from the caves of Ajanta and Ellora. The Russian ballerina Ana Pavlova convinced Shankar to turn to dance, winning a fiercly fought battle with Rothenstein over the future artistic direction of Shankar. His performances with Pavlova, partnering her in the ‘Radha Krishna’ ballet and ‘Hindu wedding’ in her programme titled ‘Oriental Impressions’, caused a sensation when first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in September 1923 and they toured extensively through Europe and the US. Uday Shankar returned to London in 1923 and struggled to make a living by trying to find engagements in London cabaret clubs. In 1925 he moved to Paris, where he had more success. In 1926 he was joined by the French dancer Simkie, whom he taught classical Indian dance and who joined him on subsequent tours of Europe.

Shankar returned to India in 1927 and toured all major cultural centres in India to fire his imagination. At that time he also met Rabindranath Tagore. In 1930 he formed a new troupe of dancers and with a new programme returned to Paris in 1931 and subsequently toured with the programme to London and other major European cities. These performances in the early 1930s had a huge impact on art lovers in particular and led to a rediscovery of the cultural heritage of India. Shankar returned to India in 1935 and then toured Europe from 1936-8 with a new troupe, which included the dancers Shanti Bardhan, Simkie, Zohra Sehgal, and Uzra, once again taking all the big European cities by storm. During this time the troupe perfomed a charity performance at the Hindustani Social Club in London. In 1939 Shankar established the ‘Uday Shankar India Culture Centre’ at Almora, India, which continued until 1943 – it  had to be closed down because of the impact of the Second World War and financial difficulties. From 1943-7 Shankar worked on the dance film ‘Kalpana’, which was widely acclaimed and which he personally presented in Europe, the USSR and the USA in 1948. He went on a two-year tour of Europe and the US in 1949/1950 to raise funds for a new dance school in Calcutta. He died in Calcutta in 1977.

Published works: 

S. Hurok presents Uday Shan-Kar and His Hindu Ballet (New York City: Nicolas Pub. Co., 1938)


Review in The Truth (14 July 1937)

Date of birth: 
08 Dec 1900

Daily Herald (8 March 1937)

Daily Herald (10 March 1937)

The Daily Telegraph (10 March 1937)

Evening Standard (10 March 1937)

The Times (10 March 1937)

Evening News (10 March 1937)

Morning Post (10 March 1937)

Daily Mirror (12 March 1937)

The Observer (14 March 1937)

Sunday Times (14 March 1937)

Sketch  (30 June 1937) 

World Film News (July 1937)

The Times (28 Jun 1937)

Evening Standard (2 July 1937)

The Daily Telegraph (6 July 1937) 

Evening News (6 July 1937)

The Star (6 July 1937)

The Times (6 July 1937)

The Stage (8 July 1937) 

New Statesman and Nation (10 July 1937) 

The Observer (11 July 1937)

The Times (13 July 1937)


Tradition and Nationalism:

Their art, therefore though it is founded upon the traditional themes, is much more than merely a revival of traditions. It is a development of them as well, and herein lies their importance not so much for us in West as for Indians. These dancers and musicians may be regarded as one of the manifestations of that rising spirit of Indian nationalism which the British Government has lately recognised in the Government of India Act. It is pleasant, therefore, to see that so very Western an institution as Dartington Hall is supporting them in their ambition to found a Dance and Music Centre at Benares the function of which will be to acquaint the people of India with an inheritance they have so nearly lost and to foster development in these arts.

Secondary works: 

Banerji, Projesh, Dance of India (Allahabad : Kitabistan, 1942)

Banerji, Projesh, Uday Shankar and his Art (Delhi: B. R. Publications, 1982)

Ghosh, Dibyendu (ed.), The great Shankars: Uday, Ravi (Calcutta : Agee Prakashani, 1983)

Khokar, Mohan, His Dance, his life: a Portrait of Uday Shankar (New Delhi: Himalayan Books, 1983)


The extract offers an interesting observation on Shankar's art and places it firmly into a context of Indian nationalism, which adds a different dimension to  the nature of his performances. These comments are unusual as they establish a political context for Shankar's performances, rather than discussing the exoticism of his ballet which other reviewers tend to overemphasize.

Archive source: 

Uday Shankar Performance Scrapbooks, Nehru Memorial Library and Museum, New Delhi

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
26 Sep 1977
Location of death: 
Calcutta, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
23 Aug 1920
Dates of time spent in Britain: 




Union of the East and West


The Union of the East and West began life as The Indian Art and Dramatic Society in 1912. The society put on Indian plays for the British public. In January 1914, the Indian Art and Dramatic Society decided to broaden its aims and founded the Union of the East and West. The Union of the East and West was organized by the Bengali, Kedar Nath Das Gupta, to promote understanding between India and Britain. To achieve these aims, the society organized meetings, dramatic recitals and readings, musical evenings, lectures and debates.

Their first Conversazione was held at the Grafton Galleries on 9 June 1914. Das Gupta was a friend of Rabindranath Tagore and many of their recitals and performances were drawn from Tagore's works. The society put on performances of 'Caliph for a Day' for wounded Indian soldiers at Barton-on-Sea. Other performances included 'The Maharani of Arakan' at the Coliseum in June 1916, 'The Ordeal' at The Prince of Wales Theatre, 16 October 1919 and 'Sakuntala' at the Winter Garden Theatre, 14 and 21 November 1919.

Kedar Nath Das Gupta took the society to the USA in the 1920s and organized an 'International Conference of Faiths' in Chicago in 1933, having created the 'Threefold Movement' of the Union of the East and West, League of Neighbours and Fellowship of Faiths.

Published works: 

Binyon, Laurence and Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, Sakuntala (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920)

Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, Consolations from the East to the West: Ancient Indian Stories (London: The Union of the East and West, 1916)

Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, Caliph for a Day: An Amusing Comedy (London: Indian Art and Dramatic Society, 1917)

Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, and Mitchell, Margaret G., Bharata (London: The Union of the East and West, 1918)

Other names: 

The Indian Art and Dramatic Society

Secondary works: 

See Britain and India journal

See pictures and comments in Daily Graphic

See comments in Asiatic Quarterly Review

See reviews of various performances in British Press including The Times, The Era, The Stage

Chambers, Colin, A History of Black and Asian Theatre in Britain (London: Routledge, forthcoming)

Date began: 
01 Jan 1912
Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Kedar Nath Das Gupta (organizer), Clarissa Miles (secretary), Margaret Mitchell.


Thomas. W. Arnold, Abbas Ali Baig, Bhupendranath Basu, Laurence Binyon, Charlotte Despard, E. B. Havell, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, Sir William Lever, Sir George Reid, Earl of Sandwich, Rabindranath Tagore, Sybil Thorndike.

Archive source: 

Programmes and fliers for performances, V & A Theatre Museum, Earls Court.


14 St Mark's Crescent
London, NW1 7TS
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Sakuntala Performance, November 1919

Reception in honour of Rabindranath Tagore, Caxton Hall, 1920

Sakuntala Performance, November 1919

14 Nov 1919
End date: 
21 Nov 1919
Event location: 

Winter Garden Theatre, London


Kalidasa's Sakuntala was performed at two matinees at the Winter Garden Theatre in London in November 1919. The performance was organized by Kedar Nath Das Gupta and the Union of the East and West - a Society designed to put on Indian performances in London and promote Anglo-Indian understanding. Das Gupta approached Laurence Binyon to rework his rough translation of the play and the play was produced by Lewis Casson, who put his wife, Sybil Thorndike in the leading role (the cast was British). Binyon requested the help of William Rothenstein to design the curtains for the set, suggesting inspiration from Rajput paintings, but Rothenstein was unable to do so as he was away on Official War Artist duty in Belgium.

The Aga Khan and Maharaja of Baroda were among the attendees in a mixed audience of British and Indian well-wishers. The play was reviewed in a number of periodicals.

People involved: 

Laurence Binyon (adapted for stage), Lewis Casson (producer), Kedar Nath Das Gupta (organizer), William Rothenstein (initially requested to design scenery), Sybil Thorndike (actress), Bruce Winston (scenery designer)

Committee for Production: Dr T. W. Arnold, Bhupendra Nath Basu, Mrs G. F. Boyd, H. Dennis Bradley, Lord Carmichael, Jamnadas Dwarkadas, Alfred Ezra, Muriel Viscountess Helmsley, M. H. Ispahani, Mrs Geoffrey Lubbock, Mrs MacLellan, W. T. MacLellan, Mrs Woodhull Martin, Miss Clarissa Miles, Miss Margaret Mitchell, Sir S. D. Pattani, Charles Roberts, Mr & Mrs N. C. Sen, W. A. de Silva, Lord Sinha

Published works: 

Binyon, Laurence and Das Gupta, Kedar Nath, Sakuntala (London: Macmillan & Co., 1920)


The Times, 15 Nov 1919

The Era, 19 Nov 1919

The Stage, 20 Nov 1919


Archive source: 

Programme and fliers for the performance: '14 Nov 1919, Sakuntala', V&A Theatre Museum, Earls Court.

Letters from Laurence Binyon to William Rothenstein, Mss Eur B213, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras.


Aubrey Menen


Aubrey Menen was a writer, essayist, broadcaster, journalist, drama critic and activist. His work explored the question of nationalism and the cultural contrast between his own Irish-Indian ancestry and his traditional British upbringing. He was born to an Irish mother and an Indian father in 1912 and was brought up in Islington, later moving to Forest Hill, south London. He studied philosophy at University College London (UCL), where he formed his own drama group, and befriended the artist Duncan Grant who introduced him to many members of the Bloomsbury Group, including John Maynard Keynes and Virginia Woolf. He persuaded H. G. Wells to allow him to adapt The Shape of Things to Come, even though Wells had already sold the rights to Alexander Korda. Korda agreed to three closed performances, which caused a sensation. At UCL he was rejected for the Rosa Morrison Bursary by the then Jewish Master of the college on the grounds that he was not of 'pure' English descent.

After graduating in 1932, Menen became the drama critic for The Bookman from 1933 to 1934. He also became involved with Krishna Menon's India League and toured the regions as a speaker. So that he would not be confused with Menon, a friend of his father's, he anglicized his name to Menen. In 1934, Menen, together with the actor Andre van Gysegham, founded the Experimental Theatre, which sought to create a politically engaging theatre in alternative performance spaces. His radical plays regularly ran into difficulties with the Lord Chamberlain and he was sued for blasphemy and obscenity for his 1934 play Genesis II. From 1937 to 1939 he worked as director of the Personalities Press Service. In April 1939 he moved to Bombay, finding work at All-India Radio. During the Second World War, he worked as a script writer and editor for propaganda broadcasts for the Government of India. He also broadcast regularly on the radio and became a leading radio personality in India. He subsequently worked for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson's film department. In the late 1940s, after the war, he became a full-time writer. He briefly returned to Britain in the autumn 1947 to oversee the publication of The Prevalence of Witches. In 1948 he moved to Italy, to live in what he described as a space midway between India and England. He lived there until 1980. He spent his final years living in Kerala, where he died in 1989.

Menen's output was prolific and covered a variety of genres. Starting his career as a dramatist and critic, he moved to radio journalism. He authored nine novels, several travel books, autobiographical works, essays and reviews. He also published a version of The RamayanaRama Retold, which was banned in India but, despite its radical implications, performed in London amidst some controversy. His fiction is driven by a caustic satire and his essays reveal a passionate desire to break down the falsity of racial myths of 'Aryan' superiority, whether in India amongst Nairs or in Nazi Germany; a similar perspective is evident in relation to the hypocrisy of racial stereotyping in Britain. Menen expresses in his non-fiction the advantage of dual vision: born to Indian and Irish parents, brought up as a brown Englishman in Britain, and in India always a foreigner. This liminality takes on sexual dimensions throughout his autobiographical essays which reflect, despite his conversion to Catholicism, a radical homosexuality.

Published works: 

The Prevalence of Witches (London: Chatto & Windus, 1947)

The Stumbling-Stone, etc. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949)

The Backward Bride (London: Chatto & Windus, 1950)

The Duke of Gallodora (London: Chatto & Windus, 1952)

Dead Man in the Silver Market: An Autobiographical Essay on National Pride (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954)

Rama Retold (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954)

The Abode of Love: The Conception, Financing and Daily Routine of an English Harem in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century Described in the Form of a Novel (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957) 

The Fig Tree (London: Chatto & Windus, 1959)

Rome Revealed (London: Thames & Hudson, 1960)

SheLa: A Satire (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1963)

Speaking the Language Like a Native: Aubrey Menen on Italy (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1963)

A Conspiracy of Women (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1966)

The Space Within the Heart (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1970)

Cities in the Sand (London: Thames & Hudson, 1972)

Upon this Rock (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972)

The New Mystics and the True Indian Tradition (London: Thames & Hudson, 1974)

Fonthill: A Comedy (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1975)

(with photographs by Brian Seed) London (Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1976)

(with the editors of Time-Life Books and photographs by Brian Seed) Venice (Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1976)

Art and Money: An Irreverent History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980)

Date of birth: 
22 Apr 1912

Mulk Raj Anand, Z. A. Bokhari, Bertold Brecht, Marc Chagall, Kamala Das (poet and relative), Roger Fry, William Golding, Duncan Grant, Andre van Gyseghem, John Maynard Keynes, Alexander Korda, S. M. Marath, Krishna Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, Santha Rama Rau, George Bernhard Shaw, Ernst Toller, Gore Vidal, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf.

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Bookman


Vanity Fair

Secondary works: 

Elias, Mohammed, Aubrey Menen, vol. 7 (Madras: Macmillan, 1985) 

Innes, C. L.,  A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Nasta, Susheila, Home Truths: Fictions of the South Asian Diaspora in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002)

Ranasinha, Ruvani, South Asian Writers in Twentieth-Century Britain: Culture in Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)

Vijayan, K. B., Asvastharaya Pratibhasalikal (Kottayam: Current Books, 1995)

Archive source: 

Private papers and mss, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, University of Boston


Involved in events: 

Campaigned for the India League as a speaker in the regions

Propaganda broadcasting during the Second World War on All-India Radio

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Aubrey Menon


Charlotte Street Bloomsbury
London, W1T 4LU
United Kingdom
51° 31' 7.3416" N, 0° 8' 6.0612" W
Date of death: 
13 Feb 1989
Location of death: 
Trivandrum, India
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1912-39, 1947-8


Islington, London; Forest Hill, London.

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