An Insider’s Guide To The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018


kala ghoda arts festival



February is almost upon us, and South Mumbai is gearing up for the most-awaited annual arts and culture event – the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. What started as a festival restricted to one street has today, 19 years later, expanded to include 20 venues across Fort that play host to programs under 14 categories including dance, music, theatre, cinema, food and more. What has remained unchanged all through these years is the simple notion behind Kala Ghoda: of promoting the arts and culture and giving back to the city.

The festival is centred on a theme each year, and this year’s theme is Hara Ghoda: to promote a sustainable future for our planet.

I’ve worked for the second consecutive year on organising the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, and this is my insider’s guide to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018.

Editor’s Note: The festival runs from February 3 to 11, 2018. Kindly check the festival website to confirm event times, which are subject to change.


kala ghoda arts festival

We are handing our children a planet that has been abused beyond its capacity. And who better to save it from the clutches of decay than them

Agastya Foundation’s Faces of Gaia aims to help children build a relatable bond with the planet and to instil a consciousness that might just save the world. In this workshop, kids get to create a face for ‘Gaia’ or Mother Earth using her own elements like soil, pebbles, paints made with flowers, and more!

  • When: Sunday, 4th February, 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Museum Gardens

Bittu Sahgal (founding editor of Sanctuary Asia) and his team take children on an exciting journey through wild India through stories, nature games, animal sounds, and more with In Nature’s Wonderland.

  • When: Sunday, 11th February, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • Where: Museum Gardens

Children’s Literature

kala ghoda arts festival

Isn’t it refreshing to know that a love for real books, the touch and feel kind, still exists and that too amongst the little ones? The Children’s Literature workshops are precisely what we need to feed the love of these little bookworms.

Amrita Sher-Gil is regarded as one of the most notable, avant-garde women artists of the 20th century, and yet not too many adults, let alone kids, know about her. With Amrita Sher-Gil, Beyond the Canvas, Anita Vaccharajani aims to instil a love for the artist in the hearts of future art-lovers and patrons.

  • When: Friday, 9th February, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Kitab Khana

The Best Baker in the World might not sound like an adaptation of The Godfather, but that’s exactly what it is. Author Raja Sen and illustrator Vishal Bharadwaj weave this popular novel into a kid-friendly one, making this a definite must-do!

  • When: Saturday, 10th February, 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Where: Kitab Khana


kala ghoda arts festival

With the price of going to the movies reaching near-criminal rates, free movie screenings sound like a gift from the heavens. At the Cinema section, you can not only catch both popular and elusive titles but also listen to the greats discuss cinema in India and all its nuances. This definitely wins over “Netflix and chill”.

It was only a matter of time before someone made a film on India’s favourite sexpert Dr. Mahinder Watsa who has been diligently replying to India’s (confounding) sex queries for many years now. Catch Ask the Sexpert and listen to the legend himself in conversation with Mayank Shekhar as he brings his acerbic wit and humour front and centre to field some more questions on sex and other topics.

  • When: Saturday, 3rd February, 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS

Set aside a full day for these cult films if you’re a true lover of the movies. There’s Angamaly Diaries, the brilliant Malayalam black comedy that has 86 debutant actors directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery; Thithi, a Kannada film with a cast of non-professional actors that has gained international acclaim at Locarno and made itself felt on the radars of Francis Ford Coppola and Wes Anderson; In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, the 1989 film that sees Arundhati Roy as lead actress (and screenplay writer) and Shahrukh Khan in a bit role as a college senior, that went on to win two National Awards; and finally Local Kung Fu, India’s first Kung Fu film, all the way from Assam that has captured the imagination of film buffs.

  • When: Thursday, 8th February
  • Where: Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS, 2 p.m. onwards



The stage at Cross Maidan becomes the sacred ground for a celebration of dance over six days with both Indian and international acts holding court under the open skies.

If there is one performance that you watch make it that of MJ5 as they enthral you with 16 variations of the famous Moonwalk!

  • When: Tuesday, 6th February, 5:20 p.m. to 5:25 p.m.
  • Where: Cross Maidan


kala ghoda arts festival

If you’re tired of scrolling through Instagram feeds full of food pictures, head to the Food section at the festival and get in on the action as chefs step out of the confines of their restaurants and teach you to whip it up in style.

In Exploring Hidden India, Chef Thomas Zacharias of the beloved The Bombay Canteen, takes you on a journey to explore the lesser-known Indian vegetables and how to cook them.

  • When: Saturday, 3rd February, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Cross Maidan

And once you’ve learned how to cook like a Masterchef, you can click photos like one too with Food Photography 101 with Vinayak Grover. Time to seek revenge on all those who tortured you with their Insta feeds!

  • When: Sunday, 4th February, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Where: Artisans’


kala ghoda arts festival

Books > People. If you agree, the Literature section at the festival is where all your literary dreams come true. Here you’re not only exposed to the power of the word – both written and spoken – but you also have the opportunity to engage with your favourite authors – both Indian and international.

If you’re someone who has written their great novel but are struggling to get it published like all us lesser mortals, the session on What Publishers Want is just for you. Listen as representatives of Yoda Press, Oxford University Press, and Siyahi Literary Consultancy talk about what they look for in a manuscript as well as about the journey of the written word from manuscript to published novel.

  • When: Monday, 5th February, 7:40 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.
  • Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens

Granthali publishes original Marathi books and translations with an aim to promoting a love for books and reading. Founded in 1974, Granthali has been at the forefront of Marathi literature. At the festival, the founders and mainstay, including Dinkar Gangal, discuss their experiment of a new model in publishing and distribution.

  • When: Tuesday, 6th February, 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens

With a beautiful name like Hope Street Poets, this event promises a wonderful day full of poetry readings by the likes of Sahitya Akademi award winner Adil Jussawalla, Priya Sarukkai-Chhabria, Mustansir Dalvi, and more under the canopies in the gardens.

  • When: Wednesday, 7th February, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Where: David Sassoon Library Gardens


kala ghoda arts festival

The music stage at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival brings together people who share the common language of music. As in previous years, this is unsurprisingly the most highly anticipated section. There are acts both big and small that’ll have you tapping your feet, swaying your body and humming away over five days.

ONEmpire is indubitably Mumbai’s favourite band with a fan following that cuts across age that has as much to do with Zarir Warden’s charm as with their music. Witness the band as they play old favourites as well as some original tracks in their renewed avatar.

  • When: Sunday, 4th February, 8:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
  • Where: Cross Maidan

If you’re a lover of Bollywood classics, make sure to attend Beyond Imagination’s Tribute to Pyarelal. Beyond Imagination will throwback to the days of orchestra and live studio recordings as they belt out popular numbers composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

  • When: Monday, 5th February, 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Cross Maidan

An open-air venue + free entry + Ustad Zakir Hussain on his tablas. Need I say more?

  •    When: Thursday, 8th February, 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  •    Where: Cross Maidan


kala ghoda arts festival

If, like me, you enjoy the shopping opportunities that the festival has to offer, here’s an insider’s tip: come on a weekday before lunch, because that’s when you can browse and shop in peace without large crowds ruining the experience for you.

  • Greensole is a unique initiative that up-cycles old shoe soles into new shoes and donates them to kids in villages who have to walk miles to get to school. Luckily for us, you can get your hands on these pieces too. They will also have a donation bin where you can junk those old running shoes without feeling a pinch of guilt.
  • Bhomra Design Co. has dresses in pop colours that’ll make you feel like you’re the embodiment of spring. What’s more special is all the dresses at the store have been fashioned out of traditional Bengali weaves. J’adore! or better yet, Bhalo!
  • Last Forest works with indigenous farmers and employs fair trade practices to create the most divine honey, jams, herbs, spices, soaps, and more.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts are an often overlooked yet critical part of the festival. Besides bringing aesthetic value to the venues and providing the general look and feel, the installations present ideas of a few that can be interpreted by many in as many different ways. These installations are thought-provoking, engaging and reflective.

KGAF 2020 is an exhibit organised by a coalition of artists, architects, performers and filmmakers who will present site-specific architecture housing installations, performance art, sound art, sculptures, interactive utopias and dystopias, etc. to provide the audience with an idea of what the future might hold in store.

  • When: 3rd to 11th February
  • Where: Horniman Circle Gardens


kala ghoda arts festival

Few things can parallel the joy of learning something new, and when that learning comes without a fee, why would anyone choose otherwise? The Workshops section at the festival is where you can pick up a new skill, engage in new ideas and, at the very least, kill a few hours productively.

Coffee addicts unite! Mithilesh Vazalwar, a former junior roaster at Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters, who turned his love for coffee into a career, will teach you how to Be Your Own Barista so you can actually enjoy good coffee in your home and save your salary that you’ve been thus far wasting on badly-made coffee.

  • When: Tuesday, 6th February, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Where: Artists’ Centre

If you’re looking for some inspiration in life in general, come listen to Find Your Own Everest, a talk by Kuntal Joisher on how he built a healthy body and mind to become the first vegan to summit Mt. Everest from the South side.

  • When: Friday, 9th February, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Where: Artists’ Centre

Nutrition in today’s day and age has become one of the most complicated areas in a person’s life. What’s needed is a simplification and a back to the roots philosophy. Rekha Diwekar’s Chemistry in the Kitchen aims to do just that with a talk on eating using the latest in nutritional science combined with traditional wisdom.

  • When: Sunday, 11th February, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Artists’ Centre

For more information on festival programs and venues, log on to the festival website.