If you haven’t already planned a trip to the Kala Ghoda Festival, maybe Nicole Mody, the festival coordinator, will inspire you too. By Gayatri Moodliar
Every year, the Kala Ghoda area in Mumbai becomes even more of a confluence of art, culture, and culinary experiences than it already is. The 2019 edition aims to make that connection even deeper, and from February 2-10, you can expect one of the most stimulating, and biggest, multicultural festivals the country has to offer. We spoke to Nicole Mody, the festival coordinator, to help first-time visitors navigate the street, and to highlight how Kala Ghoda Festival has grown since its inception 20 years ago.
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What are your top picks for this year’s edition?
I think it is the comprehensive experience of being at the event amidst the energy and perusing the artworks, the art, and cultural performance among other activities which truly defines the festival. But, if I had to share the moments to watch out for I would say – a celebration of Shaan’s music and his hit track ‘Tanha Dil’ completing 20 years along with our festival. I will also encourage visitors to check the special documentary screening on Irani Cafes by director Khalid Mohammad, the compelling exhibitions at the Jehangir Art Gallery, as well as the launch of the book ‘People Called Kala Ghoda’ that encapsulates especially curated experiences; as well as the launch of celebrated chef Pooja Dhingra’s new book. The list can go on, and with the festival completing 20 years this year, it is certainly going to be a whole new experience; one like never before.
Could you tell us more about this year’s theme?
The theme this year speaks for itself—20 years. The Kala Ghoda Festival is one of the biggest in the country, and we are going to deliver a festival that will be long remembered. It is a milestone that deserves to be celebrated amongst all art and culture enthusiasts. A lot of people have been involved in making the Kala Ghoda Festival what it is today. It has been a journey that has brought out the best of culture and art, elevating performers and artists to a level one could never have imagined. From a small group, these twenty years have led to there being one big family.
How have you seen the interaction change between the visitors and the artworks?
Over the years, the festival has taken a life of its own and has come to become recognised to such an extent that now we have both national as well as international participants and visitors coming to dabble in the experience. Naturally so, the scale at which the artworks are displayed has grown manifold; furthermore, the artworks have come to become more globally inspired and are more contemporary in nature in keeping with the times, and catering to a vast demographic. Advancements in technology always have had an impact on art, and the artworks year after year reflect the use of the artists’ technical acumen in creating pieces that would otherwise have been unfathomable. Having said that, we have always stood by giving impetus to our unique and invaluable art found across different states in the country; national art is also widely showcased at the festival, reflecting the richness of our country. There is definitely something for everybody at the festival.
What are the culinary stops guests should include on their itinerary?
It’s very difficult to just pick one, two, three, or even five culinary hotspots. We have expanded the food festival from the street of Kala Ghoda to the restaurants all around us who are curating special menus. If I had to choose, I would say Kala Ghoda Cafe, Bombay Vintage, The Nutcracker, and the utterly iconic Ayub’s.
The festival is huge and goes on for quite a while. Any tips for a first-time visitor who runs the risk of getting overwhelmed?
Come February each year, art, culture, theatre, dance, and literature enthusiasts flock to the Kala Ghoda area of Mumbai to revel in what is the Kala Ghoda Festival. It’s a remarkable celebration of the performing arts that sees the entire city in unison adding cheer and colour right from the first day of the festival till the very end. With this year’s festival being the biggest one in a remarkable celebration of it completing 20 years, a first-time visitor can’t ask for more when it comes to what they are going to experience and take away. It may be their first time, but they will be part of a cultural movement and a community whose numbers rise with every passing year. Over the course of 9 days, they will witness a line-up that boasts eminent personalities and performers, and that showcases the power of the human mind and its expression in its grandest.
How has the experience changed over the course of the last 20 years?
With the advent of technology and the inroads made by social media when it comes to giving particular event traction and reach, the Kala Ghoda Festival has now become a name that is synonymous with Mumbai and its heritage. A brand in itself, the festival has grown over the years to become a hub of culture, art and performances that have left an indelible mark on the audience. People from all over the globe can now follow the festival in real time and be part of the festival without being there as well. You have engaging and stimulating conversations online and offline about the festival in the build-up to the nine days, during the festival, and even after it is over. We strive to deliver an experience that leaves a lasting impression in the minds of the audience, and it shall be no different this year.