It was only day one, but the party was already in full swing. All along Rampart Row on Saturday, folk artistes were performing traditional art forms; at the museum gardens, puppeteers were staging their short skits; and youngsters were playing music and performing street plays at Cross Maidan.
“I’ve been attending the Kala Ghoda festival every year since it began,” says Jyothi S, 43, a homemaker from Colaba. “Every year, it’s become bigger and more colourful. And every year I’ve wondered how they pull it all off.”
The street festival was, once again, a huge draw because there is no need to reserve a seat hours in advance. It allows India’s ancient performing arts to engage with people directly and intimately.
“We have acoustic artists like the Bahurupiyas [performers who take on different characters] who will walk through the crowds along with you,” says street events curator Varsha Karale. “There are continuous moving performances from 4pm to 10pm every day along Rampart Row.”
Fedora Fernandes, a 22-year-old baker from Marine Lines, says, “The Bahurupiyas were talking to us directly. After the initial little hesitation about chatting with demon-costumed men on the road, everyone followed them around.”
Street performances will be held at Rampart Row, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum gardens (where puppeteers will entertain kids) and Cross Maidan (which is hosting regular shorter-duration music events and street plays).
Over the next eight days, the street will also become the venue for Rajasthani folk dancers and socially relevant five-minute street plays by college students. Volunteers in white T-shirts bearing city-related questions will attempt to engage passers-by in conversations. And young folk singers from Jaisalmer’s Mirasi community will bring their traditional devotional tunes to the city.
“We began by approaching a few artists; now it’s so popular they beg us to let them be part of the event,” Karale says.