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Preview: Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2022 by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Indian culture spans myriad art forms and genres, and once again, the Esplanade is back to celebrate that with the annual Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts. Taking place from 18th to 27th November 2022, the festival builds on the relationships developed over the years with artists and arts groups, while also introducing new and exciting artists and art forms that audiences can look forward to.

In line with the unique position of being the first Indian arts festival with a multi-genre focus in Southeast Asia, Kalaa Utsavam has sought to be a catalyst for excellence by developing and supporting the creations of both international and Singapore artists through debut performances by up and coming artists and premieres of new work, all telling their unique stories. Keeping in line with that vision, this year’s edition will also feature the return of international artists such as sitarist Anoushka Shankar, and newly co-produced works by Apsaras Arts, Bhaskar’s Arts Academy and playwright A Yagnya.

Through ARISI : Rice, Apsaras Arts explores the importance of rice from a Southeast Asian perspective, in a cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary performance inspired by the grains of life that link humanity across Asia. It is inspired by multiple rich facets of social, cultural and aesthetic practices borne by cultivation and consumption of rice in the region. From birth celebrations to funeral rites, rice holds important physical as well as symbolic significance in many Asian cultural and aesthetic practices.

Bhaskar’s Arts Academy collaborates with playwright Alfian Sa’at for Marabu – Footprints of an Artist which pays tribute to the late doyenne Mrs Santha Bhaskar. As a tribute to the late pioneer artist Santha Bhaskar, this work traces her journey from her humble origins in Kerala, India, to the blossoming of her career as a dancer and choreographer in Singapore. It sheds light on the various passages in her life that have forged her artistic sensibilities, from her arranged marriage to dance doyen KP Bhaskar, her encounters with cultural purists which guided her spirit of rule-breaking innovation, to her exposure to other cultural dances in Singapore, whose forms she later incorporated into her unique choreographic style. Santha Bhaskar’s daughter, Meenakshy Bhaskar, directs and choreographs this dance biopic, featuring music composition by BV Balasai.

Local playwright A Yagnya presents Between 5 Cows and the Deep Blue Sea… , which will explore traditional Indian matchmaking and the struggles of a Tamil girl. Caught between traditional Indian arranged marriage and modern dating, Girl is made an unwilling participant of a bizarre game show. She is thrown around the space by Man, who morphs into everything from a Bollywood star, to a questionable fortune teller, to even Girl’s Mother who has bought into The Patriarchy™ and thinks her daughter will never find happiness without getting married. Starring Indumathi Tamilselvan & Kewal Kartik, with direction by Alvin Tan.

Presented as part of PopLore – A Year of Singapore Popular Music in celebration of Esplanade’s 20th Anniversary, the Esplanade welcomse back the ever-popular Vasantham Live which will chronicle the evolution of the Indian pop scene in Singapore. Anchoring this performance are artists Shabir Tabre Alam and Murali Krishnan, who will be belting out their popular original tunes and songs from their independent albums. They will be flanked by a slew of Vasantham artists, who are emerging singer-songwriters, as well as celebrity hosts to provide a holistic variety show that will keep the audience entertained throughout the night.

Kalaa Utsavam also features many exciting and upcoming musicians, such as Punjabi outfit Band Walle, Tamil group D.N.S.V and a night of soul and R&B with singer-songwriter Shak’thiya. This year, the festival also welcomes back international musicians for the first time in two years, with world music icon and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, collaborating with Austrian percussionist Manu Delago and Singapore’s very own Orchestra of the Music Makers; Maverick Indian carnatic vocalist T M Krishna and his ensemble; and popular Malaysian hip-hop collective #PU4LYF.

The Esplanade also presents theatrical works on the lighter side of things, such as Can I Make You a Suit, Mate? by Singapore stand-up comedian Rishi Budhrani as he takes us down memory lane with a comedic monologue based on his father’s experiences as an immigrant from India, and The Indigo Jackal directed by Grace Kalaiselvi which adds to the list of popular children’s productions that were commissioned in the past few editions of the festival. The festival will also feature workshops, talks and a slew of free programmes for everyone’s enjoyment.

Moving into a new decade of the festival, the Esplanade invites one and all to join in on this continued journey into the endlessly fascinating realm of Indian culture and arts with Kalaa Utsavam 2022.

Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2022 runs from 18th to 27th November 2022. Full programme and lineup available here

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