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This November, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay returns with the 17th edition of the annual Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts.

From 16th to 25th November this year, watch as the region’s top Indian artists gather to present revolutionary modern versions of traditional art forms, with artists such as sitar maverick Niladri Kumar, alternative rock band Avial, dancer/choreographer Leela Samson and chitravina artist Vishaal Sapuram arriving at the Esplanade to perform. Audiences can also look forward to five productions, including three brand new new Singapore works co-produced or produced by Esplanade, that tell the courageous stories of mythical heroes and superwomen revered in modern-day Indian culture.

Vishaal Sapuram

Says producer Rajeswari Ramachandran: “Through our programmes at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts this year, we focus on how traditional art forms and stories can be made contemporary and relevant to our times. Groundbreaking artists like Niladri Kumar, Avial and Leela Samson have gone against the grain and made an impact in their respective fields. The Indian arts and culture has many inspiring stories of mythical heroes and heroines that are still relatable to us. We invite everyone to come and savour the rich Indian heritage and be inspired by the works of these artists and stories.”

Niladri Kumar

At the Esplanade Concert Hall, prepare for two showstopping concerts – from sitar icon Niladri Kumar comes a wild mix of the orthodox and progressive and his very own electric sitar, while Kerala-based band Avial will also take to the stage with their genre-bending, moody Malayalam rock. To end off the selection of quintessential musical offerings, the Esplanade Recital Studio will play host to 28-year-old Texas-born music prodigy Vishaal Sapuram, an expert at the 20 or 21 stringed chitravina.

NADI – The River

On the dance side, acclaimed choreographer Leela Samson & Spanda Dance Company will be returning for the second time to showcase their reinterpretation of traditional bharatanatyam dance, this time around presenting NADI – The River, a work that explores love and longing, the physical changes and the deep philosophy that the river inspired through the centuries-old voices of India’s poets.


Five productions will also tell the stories of heroes and heroines throughout Indian mythology, opening with Avant Theatre’s Parasu – The Story of an Ultimate Warrior, telling the trials and tribulations of the valiant warrior sage of the same name. An Esplanade co-production, this marks a rare original work of Singapore Tamil theatre in recent years. India’s Adishakti Theatre will then present Bali, telling the crucial events leading up to the death of the monkey king Bali, who commanded the army of monkeys that helped Rama win his war against the demon king Ravana in the Ramayana.

Sharul Channa

After a successful Kalaa Utsavam debut in 2017 with Sharul Weds Sharul, fast rising Indian comedian Sharul Channa is back with Disco Sheela and other Indian Superwomen, a one woman ‘comedic monologue’ produced by the Esplanade and directed by Kumar, which looks at four different kinds of women in the Indian community and their struggles, celebrating how every woman is a superwoman.

India’s Dramanon will present Akshayambara, examining concepts of gender by reversing a male-dominated theatre practice like yakshagana, taking on experimental, modern theatrical tools and dance drama to ask questions on female representation and male ownership, throwing performance and gender into flux when a man plays a woman and when a woman plays a man.

Finally, the Esplanade will also have a special new show for children: in Ganga – The Heavenly Princess, watch as the mischievous Ganga learns to use her power to save the Earth, bringing back the rain and restoring greenery.

Throughout Kalaa Utsavam, the Esplanade will also be organising plenty of workshops and free programmes visitors can partake in to learn more about the diversity of Indian arts and culture, while fans of Vasantham drama and local movies can also catch Vasantham Live: Nenjukulle which features local Tamil songs performed by Singapore artists such as Rishi Kumaar, Suthasini, Vishnu Balaji, Satthia.

This November, come discover the vivacity of life that flows through Indian mythology and culture through the Esplanade’s Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of the Arts, and be dazzled by performances of the highest quality from the region’s very best artists.

Photos courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Kalaa Utsavam 2018 takes place from 16th – 25th November 2018 at the Esplanade. For the full list of programmes and tickets, visit the Esplanade website here

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