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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 Ghoda Association.
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 zoo gardens.
``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 shows.
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