Sunday, February 25, 2007
the 'kala ghoda' arts and culture festival
every year this south mumbai arts and cultural festival takes place in february at kala ghoda,rampart row.this year it took place between feb3 and feb11.i have seen some earlier ones.over the years its popularity and stature have been continuously going up.many foreign participants took part in this year's festival.and there were lots of international visitors too.as expected,even when i visited the fair last sunday which was the last day,i found lots of people enthusiastically visiting various stalls and soaking in the art and culture which was being displayed.
the organisers had drawn up a master plan for physically upgrading the kala ghoda precinct and make it the art district of mumbai about ten years ago.the first festival was held on feb1 1999.there has been substantial progress in the restoration of the heritage buildings since then. i.e. elphinstone college,david sassoon library,the university buildings,prince of wales museum and the recent extension of the premchand roychund galleries.there are new stores which have come up in these heritage buildings and many swanky restaurants are attracting patrons on the rampart row.there is an open-air amphitheatre and street furniture designs along the pavements have also been completed.it has been a great achievement.in less than ten years the whole kala ghoda area has been virtually transformed into a bustling art and culture centre.the city seems to have got its art beat back!
there was a writing workshop,a heritage walk,poetry reading,various films based on william shakespeare's plays were shown,a 41 member naval band including 42 string instruments like violins,and sitars created a fusion of indian and western music.folk dances,odissi,lierature readings,theatre,environmental documentaries,et al.from feb 3 to feb 11 the elphinstone college seminar room,the regal circle parking lot,the david sassoon library gardens,the k cama hall,the max mueller auditorium,the amphitheatre,rampart row,horniman circle garden,the national gallery of modern art,the bombay natural society hall,were the venues. all within 10 to 15 minutes walking distance from kala ghoda.
a major attraction was the 'aamchi hali cop took',a helicopter made out of a autorickshaw shell.'comet media' displayed its unique educational toys,'maya bazaar' had on display baubles that socialites wear to look bohemian,the ngo for rights of farmers had a stall,and 'raw works' which had created bric-a-brac with bollywood stars(i had half a mind to pick up an amitabh bacchan stool;the idea of siting on him or standing on him though didn't appeal to me).there was even a limbu mirch installation for warding off wars and terrorism.'fragile tree'to respect nature and 'in dog we trust'to empathise with the problem of stray dogs.candles were also lit for bystanders to pass it on to promote global peace.the 'mouth and foot painting' artists whose artistes draw with the brush in their mouth or between toes attracted large crowds.it was fascinating to see a very talented artist draw the figure of 'srinathji'.there was arun dabholkar's water-colour painting on canvas particularly some beautiful portraits of shirdi sai baba.'sacred art' from pondicherry presented lost wax bronzes,gold-leaf thanjavur paintings and some stunning stone sculptures.
there was even a parantha festival.strawberry paranthas,gajar ka halwa paranthas and masala chicken paranthas were in great demand.this year a new item was introduced.one could write a poem on the parantha one is eating,find something interesting in the parantha or create an art work from the parantha.chetana and a host of other restaurants including tibetan momos provided the much needed refreshments in the form of snacks and drinks.
the times of india sponsored festival concluded with a bang on sunday 11th feb with abhijeet and jassi singing before a huge crowd in front of the asiatic library.brinda miller,the motive force behind the exhibition,said that the festival was a huge success.there were more than 70 stalls lining up rampart row and a host of artistes performed various dances and plays. the highlights were the fiction writing workshop,a heritage walk,sonal mansingh's performance and poetry reading by the husband wife duo of javed akhtar and shabana azmi.
it was really the week of the dark horse.and the exhibition of mumbai's spirit.it demonstrated what the power of the citizen can do in improving a city.