Wednesday 20 January 1999
Kala Ghoda art festival (Mumbai, India)will unfold variety
The Times of India News Service
MUMBAI: From exhibitions of cartoons by Jewish emigre Rudy von Leyden to
lithographs of Old Bombay by Portuguese artist Jose M. Gonsalves; from concerts by
contemporary musicians such as the Gundecha brothers to conversations with artists such as
Mehlli Gobai, Atul Dodiya and Sudhir Patwardhan; from pavement art shows and indoor film
screenings on Indian art and culture to heritage and nature trails--the forthcoming Kala
Ghoda art festival will offer all these and more.
The festival, which will run from February 1 to 14, will host nearly 50 cultural events
which will take place simultaneously at the important institutions and galleries in the
Kala Ghoda area. The events, which will be free of cost, have been organised by the Kala
The association includes representatives of the important cultural institutions in the
area and several heritage enthusiasts, including Rahul Mehrotra of the Urban Development
Research Institute who has devised an upgradation plan for the precinct, and Radhika
Sabavala of Marg magazine.
The idea of the festival, as association members Jamsheed Kanga and S. Sabavala pointed
out at a press conference on Monday, is to focus public attention on a precinct that
boasts a marvellous ensemble of cultural institutions and architectural attractions and to
eventually turn it into a sparkling art district which will be the pride of not only the
city, but of the country.
One of the 14 heritage sub-precincts in the Fort area, Kala Ghoda was declared a special
conservation zone in April 1995 when the city's heritage regulations were formally
enforced. The half-moon shaped precinct curves from Mumbai University past the Regal
Cinema roundabout to Lion Gate and Rampart Row, and is intersected by the very
architectural M.G. Road. It continues to be known by its old name, derived from a bronze
equestrian statue of King Edward VII--a colonial sculpture that now stands in the Byculla
``We thought that a cultural festival would be a good way to start the process of
rejuvenation in Kala Ghoda. It would synergise the local institutions and get the people
to relate to the precinct in a very special and personal way,'' explained Rahul Mehrotra.
``There is about 110,000 sq ft of exhibition space (including 380 running feet of outdoor
gallery space) in Kala Ghoda. We felt that with a little effort and imagination, this
space could be used to host an interactive festival, which would eventually come to be
identified as an annual national, even international event.''
Most of the major local institutions--the Bombay Natural History Society, the Prince of
Wales Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Institute of Science, David Sassoon
Library, Elphinstone College, Bombay University, the Artists' Centre, Max Mueller Bhavan
and K.R. Cama Institute--are involved in the festival.
For example, the BNHS will conduct the nature trail in the area, while the NGMA will host
art films and lectures. The MMB is hosting the Rudy von Leyden show, the POW museum the
Aga Khan Award for Architecture show, the Artists' Centre that of old lithos by Jose
Gonsalves and the David Sassoon Library the photo-exhibition of Bombay Clocks by Chiradeep
Chaudhuri. Local galleries, such as the Jehangir and Chemould, will also have special
The association has also planned some physical and design interventions to improve the
look of the area, added Mr Mehrotra. ``We hope to convince the BMC to remove the sheds
along the Lion Gate end of Rampart Row to pedestrianise Rampart Row and M.G. Road (from
the NGMA to the old Watson's Hotel) during the festival evenings and weekends (and perhaps
on weekends throughout the year) to allow for open-air cultural activities and to instal
suitable street furniture and signage.''
copyright 1999 sudhir patwardhan