Festival circuit ennui: Same people, say same things at similar events

Festival circuit ennui: Same people, say same things at similar events

For representational purpose only

For representational purpose only

By Amit Khanna,

In India you have hundreds of film, literature, music, dance, sports, fashion, investment, technology, science and other festivals in every part of the country. This should be a happy indicator of our rich cultural heritage and our predisposition to the arts. However, most such events are forced gatherings of similar sets of people.

The genesis of these festivals is steeped in history. In post-Independence India, it was essential that a wounded but free nation established its cultural diversity, tradition and its new-found confidence through creative expression. So, Nehru rightly set up bodies like the Sangeet Natak, Lalit Kala and Sahitya Akademis. An International Film Festival, Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan, National Book Fair, etc., were also set up. What should have been the take-off points of various arts, soon lapsed into a well-oiled machine of state patronage. Various awards instituted within the first few years became politicised.

When royal patronage of arts disappeared after the abolition of princely states, music, dance, fine art and literature almost disappeared from public spaces. So it was imperative that the government kick-started their revival. It was good when this was done in the 1950s. However, wherever politics and bureaucracy creep in, a new pecking order based not so much on real talent but political and other (social, economic, regional) considerations come into play.

So, by the end of the 1950s, there emerged a new cultural aristocracy. A group of aficionados, some genuine, some pretentious, who over time would be identified by their omnipresence on various committees and the invitation lists at concerts, festivals and other such events. This newly-minted social class did have some real scholars who did inspiring work in furthering the arts, but largely these were self-styled critics, failed artistes and social climbers.

As a new festival circuit developed initially in New Delhi and then elsewhere, it was a boon for performing artists, filmmakers, painters and authors who got a chance to reach out to a larger audience through these platforms. One has to realise that in the 1950s the only source of income for artistes was All India Radio and a few private mehfils. A chosen few like Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Indrani Rehman got a chance to perform abroad. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations, an organisation under the Ministry of External Affairs, did send some artistes and films overseas, but again the selection was at the whim of some sarkari patron.

The International Film Festival of India did not acquire a proper structure till the 1970s. If you were lucky, your film, based on some foreign critic’s recommendation, was chosen for screening at a foreign film festival like Cannes, Berlin or Venice. There were auditoriums where one could watch art cinema. Film societies, with help from embassies, managed to get some films for private screenings for members in major metros.

Plays were restricted to some cities like Mumbai, Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Delhi. Literature Festivals were things of a distant future. Book launches were confined to a few established authors like Amrita Preetam, Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan and a few important journalists. Most artistic/cultural activity was limited to a few events where individuals were the catalyst for an art form’s growth.

There were some honourable initiatives like the Swami Haridas Music Festival in Jalandhar or the Dover Lane Music Conference in Calcutta. The Shriram Family (DCM) of Delhi held the annual Shankar Shaad Mushaira in the capital, which was the subcontinent’s most prestigous annual gathering of Urdu poets. They also organised the annual Shankarlal Music Festival and the Bharatiya Kala Kendra Ramleela and concerts.

In the South, the Thyagraja Festival and the Madras Academy concerts are largely privately funded. Soon the Sangeet Sammelan of AIR and three Akademis started holding events in major cities, which were eagerly awaited. The government also started promoting Indian festivals abroad.

In other spheres, drama was largely semi-professional except for regional theatre like in Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and Punjabi. The first Triennale (Art Exhibition) was held in in 1971, but top artistes had gained popularity among Indian cognoscenti.

It was only in the 1970s that corporates entered the arts circuit and industry groups like the Tatas, Birlas, JK, Jains (of The Times of India) and multi-nationals like ITC became sponsors of cultural events. By then a familiar coterie of cultural interventionists could be seen on the scene. They were organising, judging, participating or just attending event after event. I was for a while a part of this jamboree. Soon from this emerged a new Brahmanical order of culturatti generally dominated by what are now known as left-liberals.

Economic liberalisation and satellite TV changed the paradigm. Today there the hundreds of festivals across disciplines. Private groups professionally organise most of these. There are expensive delegate fees for such events. So you have at least a dozen film festivals (MAMI in Mumbai, Kolkata Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival in Thiruvananthapuram and IFFI in Goa are major ones) from Guwahati to Dharamshala, Lucknow to Bengaluru.

There are a dozen litfests, led by the Jaipur Literary Festival, and events in Mumbai, Delhi and other state capitals. Several music and dance festivals, and theatre festivals like the one organised by the National School of Drama in Delhi, and those organised by the Mahindra Group, Aditya Birla Group, IPTA, Prithvi, Nandikar and others. And hundreds of smaller events.

Museums and art galleries all over hold regular exhibitions and seminars. All sponsored and many of them money-making. There are professional event mangers, PR companies and tie-ups with broadcasters. Besides, every media group, TV channel and several chambers of commerce and industry hold hundreds of events, award shows and conclaves. We are spoilt for choice.

What has not changed in 70 years is the list of 500-odd people who are the usual speakers, participants, critics and guests at these events. I am tired of hearing the same people turning up at such events with the regularity of homing pigeons. This tired lot says the same things, loaded with their ideology and opinions (often redundant) month after month, year after year. The same panelists (including me), the same chief guests and often the same applause-junky, name-dropping professional quote hangers. The show goes on.

(Amit Khanna is a writer, filmmaker and media guru. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at amitfilm@gmail.com)


India not a fashion, but a textile country: Designer Pratima Pandey

India not a fashion, but a textile country: Designer Pratima Pandey

Designer Pratima Pandey

Designer Pratima Pandey

By Nivedita,

New Delhi : Designer Pratima Pandey, who has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian government to support weavers of the country, feels that India has a lot of options in textiles and crafts, and wants people to understand that “we are not a fashion country, but a textile one”.

Pratima of the brand Pramaa works with some of the weavers in and around India. She says that as a responsible designer, she understands why it is important to promote weavers and textile, and give them the right platform.

“We are not a fashion country, we are textile country… a country which celebrates whatever we do so, let that happen. Fancy is great, but this (weaving) is also an art,” the designer told IANS on the sidelines of the ongoing Amazon India Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2018 where she showcased her collection titled ‘Leela’.

“There are things that we have to know that we have it. It’s just that now we need to go out and tell the world that we already have it so please don’t hamper it,” she added.

Her brand specialises in fusion garb with Indian sensibilities, and the emphasis of the label is on the natural fabric and natural dying techniques along with designing for a cause by encouraging craftsmanship and sustainability.

Talking about her journey in the industry, she said: “When you are a graduate (of NIIFT) then obviously you are looking for something to work on, and I just knew that I have to work with Indian textiles.”

“I started with bhagalpuri silk then went on to chikankari and then regular silk. One season, I had no money so one of my friends came as a blessing in disguise. He said ‘Listen, I just shut down my place and I have lot of chanderis with me. I think you will do justice’. I remember him showing to me lots of chanderis that were kept in his car.”

“It was like I had no money to buy textile, but the textile came to me. I think sometimes the fabric finds you. If you pick up something then master it. I think you can become master of something only if you try to reinvent it everytime,” she added.

The designer also feels that Indian people “very strangely” understand the taste of chanderis and other weaves, but they don’t know how to find it.

“And this is when we come in very handy. As a textile, chanderi wasn’t very popular when I started off.”

“I just signed an MoU with the government to uplift Indian textiles. I said ‘I am an expert in chanderi’. They asked me to go beyond that so, I started using maheshwari,” she said.

(Nivedita can be contacted at nivedita.s@ians.in)


Top brands take part on first B2B event in Muslim lifestyle sector

Top brands take part on first B2B event in Muslim lifestyle sector

fashionLondon (IINA) – Taking place next week, The Muslim Lifestyle Expo (MLE) Connect brings together famous brands, businesses, sector experts, entrepreneurs and industry specialists to discuss how to tap into one of the fastest growing sectors in the world today, Netimperative digital marketing news reported.

The event is the first event of its kind ever held in the UK and will feature seminars from industry experts, workshops, panel discussions and networking sessions across a number of sectors such as fashion, food and drink, travel and finance.

MLE Connect 2016 will take place at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on 7 April 2016 with Human Appeal as the headline partner.

Last year, the team behind MLE Connect, organized the Muslim Lifestyle Expo 2015 that took place at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. It brought together 7,000 visitors from across the UK and 85 exhibitors from countries including Malaysia, Norway, Turkey, USA and South Africa. Earlier this year, the Expo won the Services in Creativity and Technology category at The British Muslim Awards 2016.

Confirmed names set to attend include supermarket giants Tesco and Asda alongside investors, SMEs across a variety of sectors, social enterprises and entrepreneurs from across the country.

The Muslim consumer lifestyle market is today one of the fastest growing sectors globally with a recent report estimating the global expenditure on food and lifestyle sectors at £1.36 trillion. The UK is seen as key market with brands and businesses keen to connect with consumers.

Tahir Mirza, founder and director of MLE Connect, said: “We are delighted to welcome some of the biggest brands, investors and SMEs which is shaping up to be a key ground-breaking event.

“The UK is a very important market which brands are keen to tap into and this is a great forum for networking, gaining expertise and sharing business knowledge.

“This conference is open to anybody regardless of faith and will be a great way to network and develop new partnerships. We expect a number of companies to generate business from this event.”

The event will attract entrepreneurs and businesses from across the UK keen to understand the Muslim lifestyle market. It will feature a series of seminars and panel discussions on a range of topics including how to reach the Muslim consumer, business start-ups, crowdfunding, modest fashion, halal food, halal travel Industry and Islamic finance.

Guest speakers at the event include Sultan Choudhry, CEO of Al Rayan Bank, Altaf Alim, Commercial Director of modest fashion brand Aab, Shelina Jan Mohammed, Vice President of marketing agency Ogilvy Noor, award winning TV producer Navid Akhtar and Moe Nawaz, Mentor and Strategic Advisor to FTSE 100 Leaders.