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HTKGAF 2018: Peek behind the scenes of this Mumbai festival

The adrenaline rush, bonding sessions, festive spirit — here’s what keeps volunteers coming back to the Mumbai festival year after year

mumbai Updated: Feb 09, 2018 22:53 IST
Yesha Kotak
Yesha Kotak
Hindustan Times
HTKGAF 2018,Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival,Kala Ghoda
A team of volunteers pose in front of an installation at Kala Ghoda.(Hemanshi Kamani/HT)

Yash Chavan, 20, is known as ‘the Kala Ghoda guy’ at his Pune college because all he talks about is the festival. Long before the nine-day arts extravaganza begins, he makes sure he has leave to head to Mumbai and camp out at Rampart Row. For two years now, he has been helping the chief photographer record street events and installations for use on social media and for the Kala Ghoda Association’s records.

Chavan, a law student, is part of the tiny, determined army of volunteers that makes the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival happen.

“We are like a close-knit family here,” says Aakash More, 24, a law student from Thane.

It’s months of hard work, intense legwork and coordination during the fest, and the whole cycle starts again soon after it’s done, but the adrenaline, volunteers say, can be addictive. Most return.

“If a volunteer can’t make it for the festival a particular year, they call every morning asking for updates,” More adds.

Applications come in daily. “This year, we selected 116 volunteers from 300 applications across the 12 sections,” ” says festival coordinator Nicole Mody. The selection process consisted of an interview where the main aim is to dedication — because everything else can, and will most likely have to be, learnt.

The volunteers, incidentally, range in age from 16 to 58. This year’s seniormost ‘volunteer’ is Brinda Miller, who stepped down after 18 years as festival director, in 2017, but is still part of the Kala Ghoda Association Executive Committee.

“No one paid attention at first when I said I wanted to be a volunteer in the visual arts section,” she says. “But I was serious and here I am. I feel like I am 40 when I am here working with these youngsters. One forgets their age because they bring such energy.”

That energy and bonhomie has even helped college student Mohteshim Qureshi, 19, overcome a broken heart.

“Becoming part of the Kala Ghoda organising team made me focus on my career,” he says. “I want to get into cinematography or photography, and volunteering for the cinema section has helped me meet big names from the industry.”

Not all the volunteers get to enjoy the festivities. Some are happy to stay in the wings, making sure the wheels keep turning. Anush Porwal, 21, writes cheques, co-ordinates with curators and handles petty cash at the Kala Ghoda Association office.

“Though there is no festive spirit around me, I am helping out, with admin work and I’m part of all the social media groups so it’s almost like I’m there. I enjoy it,” Porwal says.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 22:52 IST