Today is the last day of the 2012 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) in Mumbai. This much-awaited, one-of-its-kind annual festival comes like a breath of fresh air to a city that is starved of events like this. The week-long KGAF packs in programmes and performances in literature, theatre, films, music, and dance. In addition to this, there are heritage walks, street art exhibitions as well as street performances, and workshops on various topics for adults and children alike.
While I attend quite a few of the ‘cultural’ performances and participate in a heritage walk or two every year, what I really look forward to every year are people-watching and the handicraft melas. The latter brings in artisans and their art and craft from all over the country, and is an opportunity for me to stock up on gifts for friends and family. I also look forward to seeing the installation or street art at Rampart Row, the venue of the main KGAF, not because I love installation art, but because I am always amazed at the creativity that gets shown year after year. Just see a sample from this year’s KGAF.
My main observation about the 2012 KGAF is that it was very different as compared to the previous KGAFs that I have attended. This difference is not due to the large variety of or newer types of programmes offered this year, but rather something else altogether. Let me elaborate.
For the first time, I was not impressed by the handicrafts mela as I found the quality and pricing of products to be disproportionate. I came away without buying a single product—a first for me. The art installations, though interesting, did not throw up anything spectacular or different. But the biggest difference lay in the people who visited the KGAF.
The popularity of the festival has been growing over the years and if the crowds I saw on my visit yesterday are any indication, then this year has been very, very popular. Rampart Row was quite crowded when I arrived at noon yesterday, and the numbers just kept swelling and by 5.00 pm I could not even see the road that I was walking on. It seemed like the entire population of Mumbai and their cameras was at the KGAF.
It was a crowd that was rude and aggressive, a crowd that pushed and shoved its way through. It was an ill-mannered crowd, and a crowd that was not here to take in the festival, but to record it on their cameras. Sample this: I had to wait for about 10 minutes to photograph an installation art on the Buddha. When my “turn” came and I was about to take a photograph, a young man just came and stood in front of me and started taking photographs. I tapped him on his shoulder and pointed out politely that this was not done. His response? That it was my problem, not his ! Then there was another instance where an elderly man was knocked down by the tripod of a photographer, who was carelessly swinging it around. Instead of apologising, the photographer screamed at the elderly man ! I observed many such instances, but none that I would like to share here—its too depressing. People-watching actually took on an entirely new meaning, and for the first time I didn’t like being at the KGAF.
In my post on the 2011 edition of the KGAF, I had said that the festival is a metaphor for Mumbai, a reflection of what the city is in all its various shades and hues.This year too, if one can take the art installations or visual arts as a bench mark, then the city is classy, kitschy, bizarre, trite, queer, and morbid at the same time. And if one extends the same analogy to city based on the people visiting the KGAF, then I would have very unpleasant things to say about the city 😦
I almost missed the KGAF this year as I was travelling. After my visit yesterday, I wish that I had given it a miss.
Read about the other editions of the KGAF