It can be hard to see current changes in India. This festival helps us see these changes happening in India, and also the way the generation here is blending two cultures together,” says Ambika Sahay, Director of Art Forum and organizer of Eye on India, an annual arts festival. “We promote Indian culture, not just the classical arts but also contemporary arts and fusion.” The Eye on India festival will showcase the best of Indian performing and visual arts, including Bollywood actors interpreting Shakespearian theatre, popular fusion musicians, film lectures, and exposure to literary heavyweights.
Eye on India travels throughout the United States, stopping in Chicago, Seattle, and Boston as well as the Bay Area. The festival was conceived by Teamwork Productions of New Delhi, responsible for the Jaipur Literature Festival. Sahay saw a previous Eye on India in Chicago and was inspired to bring the festival to the Bay Area. “The Bay Area is a cultural hub as it is. The synergy is already here, we’re simply building on it,” explains Sahay. Events will take place during three weeks of June in San Jose, San Francisco, and Atherton.
The Saxophone Sisters will kick off the Eye on India festival at the Asian Art Museum. Lavanya and Subbalaxmi, sisters from Mangalore, play jazz, Karnatik, Hindustani, fusion, and Bollywood on their saxophones. They will be joined by local musician George Brooks. “The Asian Art Museum is holding an India Day on June 15. There will be plenty of activities for kids and there will also be a Bollywood flash mob with the Mona Khan Dance Company outside in the afternoon,” says Sahay.
The festival features a play, Hamlet The Clown Prince, directed by Rajat Kapor. A bunch of clowns are putting up a show of Hamlet. They sometimes interpret the text, sometimes find new meanings in it, sometimes try and understand it, very often make a mess of it. They chose to use some phrases from the play and mixed it with Gibberish. They even edited the text, threw out some important scenes, and made a mess of the order of things as if the pages got mixed up. But through this all they were simply looking for the essence of Hamlet, and trying to find a context in our own times. Kapoor is an actor, writer and director, whomade his full length directorial debut with Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus One.(1997). He has written, directed and appeared in Corporate and Bheja Fry.
Kalki Koechlin was born to French parents in a small village in Pondicherry. She debuted in Anurag Kashyap’s film Dev.D, and has been featured in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani .
One of the highlights of Eye on India is Words on Water, its literary facet. With panels on Technology, with Nipun Mehta, moderated by the Editor of India Currents, Jaya Padmanabhan; Women’s Issues with Sonia Pelia, and Ela Callan; Visual Arts with Dipti Mathur and Mary Ann; and Shattered Windows and Connected Doors, a documentary screening.
“We were putting our toes in the water last year with our first Bay Area festival. This year we’re growing and reaching out to a non-diasporic audience, collaborating with a variety of academic institutions,” says Sahay. Eye on India is an excellent platform for dialogue and discussion about contemporary India and the diaspora in the Bay Area. “The events are new, changing as the arts coming out of India evolve,” concludes Sahay.
June 15, 12:30 p.m. Saxophone Sisters and a dance flash mob by Mona Khan Dance Company., Asian Art Museum. 200 Larkin St, San Francisco.
June 22, 5-7 p.m. Hamlet The Clown Prince. Heritage Theater, 1 W Campbell Ave., Campbell. $25, $55.
June 22, 7-10 p.m. Dinner with Rajat Kapoor and Kalki Koechlin. Heritage Theater. 1 W Campbell Ave., Campbell. $50.
June 28, 12 p.m. Words on Water, Menlo College. 1000 El Camino Real, Atherton.