Saturday, October 3, 2009

Starting today, the capital will showcase slices of global culture for two weeks

It will be an array of events, ranging from film shows to musical and dance performances The countdown begins now.

Exactly a year ahead of the Commonwealth Games, a cultural festival raises the first banner of celebration. For almost two weeks starting Saturday, the capital will hold the third Delhi International Arts Festival (Diaf), presented by The Times Of India, where a staggering array of cultural activities are scheduled, from concerts by popular artists such as Sonu Nigam, Talat Aziz and Hariharan to international dances by troupes from Sri Lanka, musicians from Malta and Paraguay. Across the capital’s venues, India Habitat Centre to Red Fort, DLF Promenade to Siri Fort, October 3 to 14 will see Delhi richly engaged in theatre, films, dance, music, even puppetry. All at no cost to the audience.

Delhi’s monuments will come to life with mega shows of top artistes as part of the Heritage Festival. Red Fort will resound to the explosive talent of Sonu Nigam, while ghazal maestro Talat Aziz will perform at the Town Hall along with the Wadali Brothers. Indipop group Colonial Cousins’ Hariharan will croon at Purana Quila, a mix of his wide range of music bound to keep Delhi rocking and humming.

India’s rich diversity and global cultures will be brought under a single umbrella in this event, says festival director Pratibha Prahlad. The ethos of the Games pervades the festival too, that of brotherhood. India is not only a country of diversity but also of harmony. The peaceful co-existence of different cultures is also what the Games celebrates, she says, seeing in the multi-faceted festival a clarion call announcing the countdown to the Games. Whatever the occasion, in any event it’s the cultural memories that linger longer than any other, she says.

The inauguration on October 3 will be flagged off by a fusion dance of the many forms of Indian classical dances. Vande Mataram, created by Prahlad, a Bhartanatyam exponent herself, will bring together the best dancers in each form. In what is possibly a one-of-its-kind composition, dancers of Odissi, Kathakali, Chhau, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Manipuri forms will perform together in a single presentation. A special treat will be the inclusion within this collective creation of the barelyknown Sattriya dance form, usually performed by a group of monks or sattras.

In a first, the carnival hosts a three-day Jammu & Kashmir festival from October 7 to 9 that will showcase rare gems from the state’s rich and varied folk heritage, including singers from Kargil. For many it will be a unique first experience of the delightful sounds of Kashmiri chakri, folk music used for story-telling. Chakri is played on instruments such as the little-known instruments of rabab, nout, sarangi and the harmonium. It should be interesting watching Ladakhs chabskyan dancers, as they match step balancing goblets of wine on their heads.

A range of voices comes together to form the international flavours at the fest. It’s the sound of Maltese bagpipes, the iz-Zaqq that will be played by band Nafra that will add a dash of spicy sounds to Paraguay guitarist Bertha Rojass’ classical numbers. For the classically inclined, popular duo, Australia’s young Grigoryan brothers, will also be performing. Gospel music and Sufi music are also part of the fest.

Sri Lanka’s premier dance troupe, Chitrasena Dance Company, brings with it nostalgia of its founder’s days in Tagore’s Shantiniketan. The Colombo-based troupe was founded by Uday Shankar’s contemporary, Chitrasena, in 1943. Chitrasena went on to study at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan and danced the lead role as Ananda in the dance-drama ‘Chandalika’ opposite Nandita Kriplani, Tagore’s granddaughter. He was credited with infusing new life into Sri Lanka’s traditional dances, giving it a modern touch.

The fringe festival is a Diaf special that brings into the fold of mainstream arts and culture puppetry, miming and story-telling. While the film festivals that will screen Bimal Roy hits such as Bandini and Akira Kurusawa’s biggies such as Rashomon aren’t to be missed, of special essence this year is the Sports Film Fest that will show film themed on sports. A kid’s film festival brings to town old favourites of the trilogy of Pirates in the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. All free.

The National Archives throws its doors open for a special show. The order by which Mangal Pandey was sent to the gallows and urn carrying Shaheed Sukhdev’s ashes should make intriguing exhibits. Also on display will be Rani Lakshmi Bai’s family tree. A multimedia presentation visualizing Gaia will be on show by Candaian dancer Anne-Marie Gaston. In a nutshell, Gaia is a philosophy that envisions the earth as an organism.