Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts has been one of the longest running cultural festivals at the Esplanade, being the first to one after the centre’s Opening Festival back in 2002. Celebrating its 20th edition this November, it’s time to gather friends and family, and settle in for a wave of Indian performing arts.
This year, look out for a series of newly produced Singapore works, such as Kaanalvariyum Kaarigei Nilaiyum – Madhavi’s story by bharatanatyam dance company Bharathaa Arts, Aikyam – The Onenes concert by fusion band Brahmastra, These Brief Encounters by Indian contemporary dance company Chowk Productions, Raffee 50 – A Musical Jubilee by veteran singer composer Mohd Raffee and his band Vasantham Boys, vedic metal band RUDRA as they showcasing Vedic philosophy through the depiction of a man’s journey from birth to enlightenment, classical music ensemble SIFAS Alumni performs Nimirndha Nannadai – Bharathi’s Poems of Strength, and thematic music showcases by Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir and Temple of Fine Arts.
Even in a pandemic year, international collaborations are made possible through the use of technology. This year, the Esplanade bring together renowned lyricist Javed Akhtar and acclaimed singer Shankar Mahadevan for the first time in a digital commission, with Dil Abhi Bhara Nahi – Legacy of Sahir Ludhianvi, commemorating the birth centenary of Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry through music, in a film screened at the Esplanade Theatre.
For the first time, Kalaa Utsavam will featured a line-up of specially curated films by international and Singapore filmmakers, showcasing the rich diversity of Indian arts, culture and the diaspora’s stories. Featured films include For the Love of a Man, a documentary following the fans of superstar Rajnikanth; Koothu, an examination of the titular art form of performing Indian epics; The Nine Months, showcasing the history, form, style and aesthetics of Assam’s mobile theatre; Out of Thin Air, the story of one of the most surreal and hostile landscapes in the world—Ladakh; and Casting Music, a film on the Savita Samaja, a community of Nadaswaram players, their relation to music and social structures.
On the live theatre front, look out for Marma Medai – Theerppu (The Judgement). Written and directed by Grace Kalaiselvi, the play begins as five people wake up in a strange place with no exit. They do not know one another, and cannot recall anything about themselves. How then will they escape? And as for the kids, get them involved with Mighty Warrior Prince Bheema, which will teach the little ones about Bheema, the strongest of the Pandavas, and how the warrior prince gained the power of 1000 elephants and fought the evil demon Bakasura.
With 20 editions behind it, Kalaa Utsavam is set to both celebrate and push forward the growth and presentation of the diversity of Indian arts in Singapore. Come celebrate with the Esplanade, and be enthralled by the beauty of song, the wonder of legends, and the mastery of performance onstage, with Kalaa Utsavam 2021.
The 2021 Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts runs from 19th to 28th November 2021 at the Esplanade and online. Full programme and tickets available here