The South Asian Times

21 October 2018 08:40 AM

Delhi arts fest rich in culture, low on cash

By Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, Sep 27 The slogan for the fifth edition of the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF) next month is "Unusual and international". Among the things unusual about this 15-day fest is the budget allocated to it by the culture ministry - a mere Rs.8 lakh.

Festival director and principal promoter Prathibha Prahlad, also a noted Bharatanatyam danseuse, says the total cost of the Oct 27-Nov 11 festival works out to approximately Rs 1.2 cr. "We are going ahead with the festival with the Rs.15 lakh at our disposal: Rs. 8 lakh from the government and Rs.7 lakh from corporate funding," Prahlad told IANS.

The event is being organised as a private-public partnership, with the culture ministry, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and several corporate and media gaints providing logistical support.

Flamenco from Spain and Kathakali from Kerala; Ganga-Jamuni "tehzib" and new-age literature - one will be able get a taste of it all at the fest.

There are out-of-the-box events too: the "Flaggers", marchers and flag mast entertainers from Italy, traditional puppets from the Czech Republic, the aboriginal Pilbara project from Australia, Sahara music from Morocco, Mandala prayer chants from Lithuania, Tagore theatre by Ratan Thiyam and Buddhist cultural performances from Bhutan and Sikkim.

"DIAF celebrates culture in its entirety. It unites artistes and performers from around the world, from the traditional to the avant garde," Prahlad said.

In the last five years, the festival has drawn performers, painters, artists and writers from around the world. This year the festival has expanded its canvas to tap into alternative music and ethnic genres, some of which are spiritual in nature.

The festival also coincides with a flurry of diplomatic activity in the capital.

Prahlad said that the "Days of Moscow" will begin in India Oct 26; the Australian Oz Fest kicks off Oct 16. Israel is set to commemorate 20 years of diplomatic ties with India in October, even as the Indo-German Friendship year draws to a close.

This offers the festival room to brand its repertoire with cultural components from the countries that will already be showcasing their cultures in India, Prahlad said.

The possibility of future collaboration with the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festival (AAPAF), to which Prahlad has been invited, has also opened up. The meeting of this body will take place in Shanghai Oct 16-19.

"The AAPAF is represented by 20 cultural festivals in Asia. This year, they said that without India, the network would be incomplete. I was invited to join. It is an international honour... It will lead to collaborations," Prahlad said.

The director of DIAF, however, lamented the paucity of funds for the festival in Delhi. "Money is a huge issue. I don't want to be unrealistic and subject myself to humiliation and rejection... The festival had begun as a concept in my mind in 2007 and I had worked diligently to build partnerships. Our politicians and bureaucrats should remember that we have moved beyond the feudal system, and the arts should be patronised at such a level that the artist can have a sustainable economic model," Prahlad said.

The festival hopes to rope in a new segment as part of the audience this year: school children.

It will host truncated programmes in the morning in at least 10 schools each in Gurgaon and the capital, Prahlad said.

"The international artistes will be going to schools to interact with students," Prahlad said, adding: "Art offers a peep into the culture and the life of a civilisation".

The founder of the festival says that international participation in the event has been growing over the past five years. The greater diversity, and the rising footfalls are a sign that the capital has embraced syncretic global culture, Prahlad says, soldiering on, the shoestring budget notwithstanding.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

--Indo-Asian News Service

Update: 27 Sep, 2012