There are few things that bring the city together like the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival does. When actors Abhishek Bachchan and Akshara Haasan inaugurated the 16th edition of the festival on Saturday, sharply dressed young SoBo residents and urchins in stained T-shirts whistled with joy together. “This festival is great for the culture of the city,” said Abhishek Bachchan, to which finance consultant Kruti Shah, 29, nodded with a smile. The Nerul resident had left her Goregaon office early to be part of opening day.
“It brings people from all walks of life. Whether you’re wearing stilettos or are barefoot, everyone’s invited and everyone is given the same welcome,” said Shah.
For one of the whistling urchins, 11-year-old Rony, who lives on the streets at Fort, the inauguration was a dream come true. “I don’t believe that I am actually seeing Abhishek Bachchan,” he said.
If KGAF is a coming together of people, it is equally a coming together of the different streams of art and culture that lie largely hidden in the commercial capital through the rest of the year. “We have plays in 18 languages in our theatre section,” said festival chairman Maneck Davar, while lighting the inaugural lamp with Nitin Chaudhry, HT business head (Mumbai). “It is the overwhelming participation of people of Mumbai that makes this festival a success every year.”
The overwhelming participation was visible at every venue of the festival, from Rampart Row, where the 50 art installations have been installed, to Cross Maidan, where the inauguration and dance performances were held, to Horniman Circle, where a Marathi play was staged.
“People seem to be liking this year’s festival theme of Sparsh [Touch],” says festival director Brinda Miller. “I can see them going ‘Ahh...’ when they first learn of the concept.”
“I just moved to Mumbai from Kerala and was told by my teacher that KGAF is a great place to perform. Now I know why,” says dancer Rohini Warrier, 29.