The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the city's best known cultural event, has kicked off with a line-up that's bigger, bolder and full of surprises.
A culture of creativity at Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
South Mumbai's Kala Ghoda, meaning "black horse", gets its name from an equestrian statue of King Edward VII.
The British have left and the statue has long since been removed but the area - with its array of culturally and architecturally significant buildings including the Jehangir Art Gallery, the Prince of Wales Museum, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library and the National Gallery of Modern Art - remains the perfect location for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, a nine-day cultural extravaganza now in its 15th year.
The festival was launched in 1999 by local residents to preserve the area and promote it as an arts precinct within Mumbai. Through the years, the scope of the festival has increased dramatically; this year, it will feature a staggering 350 events. More than 150,000 people are expected to visit before it finishes on February 10.
"The theme this time is 'Change'," explains the director, Brinda Miller. "The various sections of the festival have been labelled accordingly - Cinema for Change, Appetite for Change [food], Young Transformers [children], Traditions and Transitions [dance], etc."
The festival opened yesterday with a show by the Bollywood singer Usha Uthup and her band. Other significant events over the next few days include Folk Nations, a musical programme presented by the British Council; classical dance concerts by Rama Vaidyanathan and the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company; a puppetry show by Dadi Pudumjee; White Caps, a UK multimedia dance presentation; several stand-up acts; and theatre performances including Mahua, a Hindi play by the director Rajit Kapur.
For children, there are literature and films sections, and workshops in art, craft, poetry and dance, including a special one on puppetry. Titled Mad for Tygrs, it teaches children the art form while raising awareness of India's endangered tiger population.
The events are spread over several venues but the main hub is Rampart Row, a busy length of street in front of Jehangir Art Gallery and Max Mueller Bhavan that is crammed with music shows, installations and stalls selling books, food and handicrafts.
To make the most of the balmy February weather, some events have been set up outdoors at Cross Maidan, the David Sassoon Library gardens and Horniman Gardens. According to Miller, new venues have been added to accommodate all the events.
Besides the big draws, there are palmists who'll predict your future for a small fee, artists who can carve your name on a grain of rice, and numerous street performers - from tightrope walkers to folk dancers - who are popular with the crowds, especially young families. Teenagers come to shop for the funky T-shirts on sale and to eat chaat, Mumbai's spicy, delicious street food. Besides the regular food stalls, there are also food workshops.
But the KGAF perhaps is most visited for its creative art installations, which in previous years have included giant beehives made of steel cables, colourful postboxes, and autorickshaws fitted with helicopter blades or enormous gilded wings.
Sannidhaanam – inner spaces: A bharatnatyam (classical dance) performance by Rama Vaidya-nathan, an interpretation of poetry from different parts of India that ‘expresses love for the divine’, 7pm-8pm at Cross Maidan
Raqs Sharqi – Rare and precious: Belly dancing by Veve Dance, tracing the Silk Route through Middle Eastern dance and live music, with a final jugalbandi (face-off) with Indian classical music, 8pm-8.30pm at Cross Maidan
Fictive Mumbai/Bombay: Avan Jesia, Piyush Jha and Altaf Tyrewala discuss their recent books about the city, 8.15pm-9.15pm at David Sassoon Library Gardens
Dissidence: The writers Arun Ferreira and Dilip D’Souza in conversation, 6pm-7pm at Arbour
Poetry: Arundhathi Subramaniam, poet and writer, 2pm-4pm at Kala Ghoda Association Office
Zumba: Sucheta Pal, the ‘international Zumba education specialist’, 11.30am-1.30pm at Artists’ Centre
Heritage Bus Tour of South Mumbai: 4pm and 5.30pm, starts at the bus stop opposite Regal Cinema
Crawford Walk: Wander along the northern end of the old British town, taking in the various architectural styles, and ending at Crawford Market, the city’s first covered market, 11am outside Elphinstone Technical Institute, opposite Metro Cinema
Making soup bowls from coconut shells: Conducted by Chitrapatang Art Workshops, 4pm-5pm at Prince of Wales Museum gardens
Story Time with the actress Konkana Sen Sharma: A dramatic retelling of Karadi Tales, 5.30pm-6.30pm at Kitab Khana
For more information, visit www.kalaghodaassociation.com