Standing at the magnificent entrance of the restored Royal Opera House in Mumbai felt a little like entering The Globe in London a few weeks earlier, only that the energy at the former was far more palpable for who the select gathering was eagerly awaiting—The Dark Lord that would kick off this year’s Serendipity Arts Festival. Inside, the little café was abuzz and the conversations I’d end up having with the stellar lineup of curators this year would leave me inspired with an insight into what the evening would later unfold.
The graceful Leela Samson, former director of Kalakshetra and recipient of the most revered awards in Indian dance, sat across me radiant in pink silk, and beside her, Ranjana Dave, whose work in dance spans performance, writing, archiving, curation and pedagogy. They took me behind their curatorial process of the dance programme this year that engages almost all forms of traditional Indian dance. The projects are interdisciplinary in nature, and venture into alternate spaces, where the emphasis is more on the body in relation to space and technology, I was informed.
The other curators at the table were Odette Mascarenhas and Rahul Akerkarand for the culinary arts, Sneha Khanwalkar for music and Annapurna Garimella for craft. Despite the merry chatter filled the air too loud to talk to each in detail, I sneaked out my favourite Ranjit Hoskote out for a detailed conversation about poetry and curating visual arts, which will follow soon as another piece so as to not hijack this one!
Inside the opera, the balconies wore a warm glow as I and a few other senior journalists that Serendipity so graciously invited, spoke with the man himself—Sunil Munjal. ‘We are scaling up the festival such that it travels across the world soon, and remains a free festival—the only kind of its nature. We wish for Serendipity to grow as big as the Ediburgh Arts Festival,’ he said as I summoned up pictures of EAF from my visit earlier this year, and smiled at the thought of an India-produced spectacle rubbing, if not rising above, shoulders with the gigantic multi-venue event that turns the Scottish capital into the most celebratory and enriching experience once every year. We hope Serendipity gets there soon, and with its long-term goal to instigate positive change across the arts in India and addressal of pressing social issues such as arts education and pedagogy, cultural patronage, interdisciplinary discourse, and accessibility to the arts, that does doesn’t seem far.
The Dark Lord appeared soon after on stage. A sublime musical by Rukmini Vijayakumar and The Raadha Kalpa Dance Company, it is a contemporary adaptation of the Krishna-Meera myth and flowed out effusively, in resplendent oranges and poetic performances by the dancers. Following the life and voice of Meera, ‘the poetess of love’, the story parallels the struggles, madness, lament and ultimately, the surrender of these devotees. This was the grand opening act staged to a packed house of Mumbai’s culturati, followed by a day-long symposium on contemporary art in India Common Ground: Location and Memory in Arts Practices at the Goethe Institut, Mumbai, which Platform was privy to. The symposium featured speakers and panel participants who engaged with different facets of art making, management and display including artists, curators, academics and historians from across all the creative disciplines, promising so much more at the festival that takes place in Goa from 15-22 December.
With almost ninety projects, exhibitions, performances and workshops that we’ll keep letting you in on, winter awaits Goa’s soul summer!
Text Soumya Mukerji