AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL 2017
WORDS BY BHAVIKA THAKKAR
During its early years, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival was a novelty for me. An open air festival on a street in the heart of Mumbai’s business district with free access to programming ranging from classical music to contemporary dance, avant-garde theatre to ground-breaking literature was unheard of. My mother and I would spend hours browsing through the wares on display, gorging on hot jalebis from Chetana – which provided the perfect antidote to the cold February evenings – and trying to make sense of the installations that peppered the length of the street. A lot has changed since those days – the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival now spans multiple venues, and those evenings with my mother are a distant memory. But what remains unchanged is that the festival still holds its own in the clutter of festivals that are now the norm in Mumbai. I worked behind the scenes at this edition, and this is my insider’s guide to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017.
Many people that come to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival come to satiate a primal need, and the food section’s got you covered for nine whole nights.
East Indian Cozinha sells bottled masalas that bring to life East Indian flavours, a closely guarded secret handed down from generation to generation. You may not be able to get them to part with their secrets, but you can get your hands on Vindaloo Masala, Wedding Pickle, Roast rub and more. Yum!
There is also homemade Kashmiri food, Persian culinary delights, authentic Koli food, baos, momos and more. If none of this catches your fancy, you can head to the candy-floss man and delight in the goodness of his spun magic as a throwback to your carefree childhood days.
For retail therapy, head to Rampart Row where you’ll find stalls you’ll want to spend your hard earned money at.
Indian Colours brings contemporary Indian art out of galleries and onto everyday items like tote handbags, mugs, cushion covers and more. Look out for Shruti Nelson’s gossamer paintings on ceramic plates, and Waswo x Waswo & R Vijay’s exquisite miniatures on cottony soft stoles.
If you’re looking for a conversation starter for your next party or just something pretty for your centre table, check out Driftwood India: Suresh Pant scouts for uprooted trees in the forests of Nainital and logs of wood floating on rivers and, using nothing but sand paper, carves them into one-of-a-kind sculptures that have an earthy appeal.
At Glasshopper – full marks for the name – you’ll find pretty stained-glass birds and butterflies that you can hang at your window to catch the morning light. And Flying Fish are not just phenomenon in Murakami novels; you can find handcrafted silver jewellery at the eponymous stall in the shape of flying fish, contorting elephants and everything in between.
Let not your children sit engrossed with iPads; bring them to yoga classes, magic sessions, story-telling afternoons and a whole lot more to keep idle hands and idle minds occupied and entertained.
If I were a kid, I’d want my parents to take me for Yip aur Yanka, Holland ke do bachche. Jip and Jenke are two of the most beloved characters in Dutch children’s literature, and Loveleen Misra retells their stories in Hindi. But this not a mere translation; it’s almost like a duet performance with one paragraph read out in Dutch followed by its Hindi translation.
Guessing Games is another interesting session where storyteller Ankit Chadha weaves in the riddles of the great poet Amir Khusrau. This could be a great way to open up the world of Indian poets and world languages to your child!
These sessions will happen on February 10 at BNHS between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively.
If you want something more physically active for your kid, there’s the Water Water! Story heritage walk at noon on February 11 starting from the Horniman Circle Garden gate. Children can explore the newly restored Pyaus (water fountains) and other heritage structures around Horniman Circle gardens.
DANCE & MUSIC
These are the heart and soul of the festival. Seven hundred dancers will come together over six days in a celebration of dance in all its forms.
Buddhism resonates with the message of peace and love we could all do with in today’s chaotic times. If you’re not one to be patient enough to meditate, Indigo Saga’s Buddhism and the Unfading at Cross Maidan on February 7 at 6:15 p.m. presents a thematic contemporary that could serve as a good introduction. The performance promises a thrilling tale full of secrets and broken family ties with a chilling, thought provoking end. If you choose only one out of the many dance programs, let this be it.
Children can delight in the Enchanted Garden & Colours by Rhythmus Happy Feet on February 11 at 5:15 p.m. This is a fantastical children’s tale performed by students of the academy about a little girl who gets lost in the forest and is unable to find her way back home.
For music, I have two words for you – Baba. Sehgal. Don’t sit there and scoff! Anyone who grew up in the ’90s knows Baba Sehgal. The world’s first Hindi rapper will be belting out hits such as Manjula, Aaja meri gaadi mein baithja and Thanda thanda pani on February 11 at 6:00 p.m. at the Asiatic Library steps. I’ll be standing in the front row!
If, unlike me, you have better taste in music there is Rahul Sharma with his mystical brand of fusion music, and Hindustani classical singer Parveen Sultana whose rendition is bound to give you goose bumps. Both are performing at Cross Maidan – Sharma on February 5 at 7:20 p.m. and Sultana on February 10 at 7:45 p.m. Sukhwinder Singh will close the music programming on February 12 at 8:30 p.m. at the Asiatic Library steps.
WORKSHOPS & WALKS
Free workshops and walks. (I had you at free, didn’t I?) This is your chance to pick up a skill, listen to experts and discover something new about your city – all of this without spending a penny! Here are some workshops I have my eye on:
The Art and Science of eating right by Rujuta Diwekar on February 5 at 4:30 p.m. at David Sassoon Library – because she’s an ace nutritionist, and we should all be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies in this age of genetically modified food.
Cheese Appreciation Workshop by Dr. Aditya Raghavan on February 10 at 11:30 a.m. at Artists’ Centre – because, you know, cheese!
Solar Lamp Making with the IIT Mumbai faculty on February 11 at 2:00 p.m. at Horniman Circle Gardens – because sustainable energy and eco-friendly should not just be terms to be bandied about but something we should all be conscious of.
Art of Recycling with Gauri Ketkar on February 11 at 2:30 p.m. at Artists’ Centre – because here’s a woman with cerebral palsy who recycles everything in her house, and we can all pick up a lesson or two from her.
Become a Travel Writer – 7 steps by Niloufer Venkatraman on February 12 at Artisans’ Centre at noon – because everyone loves to travel, and putting it into words will someday make for a lovely travelogue, even if you’re the only one who will read it.
As far as walks go these two are on the top of my list:
Discovering food with the Tiny Taster on February 4 at 11:00 a.m. starting from Westside, Kala Ghoda – because you can discover the heritage precinct of Kala Ghoda through its many culinary gems.
Fox Life presents Dramatic Cinematic Operatic on February 10 at 5:00 p.m. starting from Alfred Talkies – because this walk takes you on a journey of theatre and drama in 19th Century Bombay, the evolution of cinema and the changing styles of architecture ending with a visit to the newly restored and stunning Royal Bombay Opera House.
The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017 takes place from February 4 to 12 at Kala Ghoda and neighbouring locations. For a full list of programming, you can visit the festival website.