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Screen + Sound + Stage
February 18, 2015

Kala Ghoda Festival: Performer’s Diary

Text by Nittal Chandarana

The agony and ecstasy of performing at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015

I reached Horniman Circle Garden on the balmy afternoon of February 9. The play was scheduled to begin in the evening when it would hopefully get cooler. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival insists on taking place mid-February, just when Mumbai is getting rid of its feeble excuse for a winter.

They had begun setting up for the play I was to perform in. Our pretty little makeshift stage was ready, floor and hanging mikes set and as we proceeded to heave an all-cast sigh of relief, we realised there was a slight problem. Our play had a fair amount of aerial absolutely integral to the plot but no place to rig the cloth up! (In case you’re wondering, a friendly tree offered us its branch for use. Not the safest option but then there was no option.) It was an altogether hilarious show what with the wind playing havoc with the acoustics and the USP of our play limited to one little number on the tree. Personal problem: my parandhi was tied 5 minutes after the show was supposed to begin. Since I was also flying the tracks for the show, this might have delayed the opening act a little, but then it may have given the audience an opportunity to explore the secrets of the garden. The magic of Kala Ghoda was a tad dampened.

This year, in fact, the HT KGAF seems to have lost some of its magic. I loved the Rampart Row stage with those beautifully informal performances which was cruelly discontinued since the past year or two. Replacing it has been the crowd that marks its appearance solely for the purpose of filling in DSLR memory, or the shoppers. It’s sad to see the performance arenas only half-full. There are hordes of beautiful performances taking place at Cross Maidan; I’d managed to catch a stellar piece by the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company in the past editions, Max Müeller Gallery opens its doors to theatre performances, David Sassoon Library re-emerges for cerebral sessions and yet, there’s a disconnect. The crowd comes to watch and carry home a souvenir. Besides the workshops, there’s no place where everyone is involved. The invisible barrier between the performers and spectators still exists. Maybe it will change in the years to come. However, the sheer amount of planning and technicalities that go behind it are astounding. So many groups turn up to participate in the festival. And yet, so many more desire to perform there one day. It’s a mark of prestige.

All said, it’s always a joy to attend the festival. They do bring some fantastic performers from around the world: it gives a platform for theatre, music, art, dance and stand-up comedy to thrive in an environment that would rather gear up for one potboiler after another in an overly-priced multiplex. Sometimes, it’s not about appreciation. It’s about the exposure you get to a world vastly different from yours and that’s enough, isn’t it?

Throwback to the art and installations at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015.

To know where to hobnob once at Kala Ghoda, click here.

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