NCPA to celebrate turning 50 with a line-up of legends, plus food, art, comedy

The Add Art festival will feature Zakir Hussain, Rashid Khan, Birju Maharaj, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Mallika Sarabhai, Astad Deboo and Grammy award-winning jazz legend Arturo Sandoval
Updated on Nov 25, 2019 03:36 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Vanessa Viegas, Mumbai

As the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) turns 50, it’s celebrating with a three-day festival featuring food, art installations — and a superlative line-up of performances by some of the greatest legends of our time.

Morn to Dusk, a day of music and dance on December 1, will feature Zakir Hussain, Rashid Khan, Aditi Mangaldas, Malavika Sarukkai, and Pandits Shiv Kumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Birju Maharaj.

In India for the first time, Cuban-American jazz musician and 10-time Grammy award winner Arturo Sandoval will present a diverse show featuring Afro-Cuban jazz, bebop and straight-ahead jazz. The musician, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, will also host a jam session with Taufiq Qureshi on the djembe, Louis Banks on the piano, Dee Wood on bass and Rhys Sebastian on the saxophone.

There’ll be stand-up comedy by Zakir Khan and Amit Tandon, and an opening performance by the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) featuring regional choirs from across the country and dancers from Kazakhstan’s academic opera and ballet theatre.

“It was very important to us that people coming to this opening night not only get choral music, but a bit of dance, and classical music at its liveliest best, something they will go away humming,” says Zane Dalal, associate music director of the SOI. 

There will also be performances by Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam exponent Mallika Sarabhai and Kathak virtuoso Astad Deboo. “It’s a rare thing to see these stalwarts perform on the same stage, but they’re doing it for the NCPA,” says Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, head of dance programming. “Both Sarabhai and her mother Mrunalini were an integral part of the conceptualisation of the NCPA, with Jamshed Bhabha. The curation was done keeping in mind people who’ve had a very long association with the centre.”

The festival will conclude with theatre director Roysten Abel’s The Manganiyar Seduction, an audio-visual performance featuring 40 Manganiyar musicians.

As this eight-acre citadel of the performing arts buzzes with music and culture, it’s strange to think that NCPA opened, in December 1969, in a small space in a building called Akash Ganga on Bhulabhai Desai Road. It moved to the 100-seat Little Theatre in 1975, after the state allotted NCPA founder and philanthropist Jamshed Bhabha the generous parcel of land where it now stands. It expanded over time, in size and significance, now hosting more than 700 events a year. 

Its golden jubilee celebration, the three-day Add Art Festival, is a retrospective on that legacy. “A tribute to where we’ve come from and where we’re headed,” as chairman Khushroo Suntook puts it.

Harking back to one of her first performances, at the NCPA’s Little Theatre in the mid-1970s, Sarukkai says, “It was special because it was the most coveted stage to perform at in south Bombay.”

“This is a historical moment in the life of Mumbai,” says Dalal. “It’s not a snapshot in time, it’s a hallmark of what we leave behind as a society.”

(For tickets, and the full schedule of the Add Art Festival [November 28 to December 1], go to

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021