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As the dust settles on the holidaying and the party season calls it wraps, February afternoons with dappled sunshine and evenings with salty sea breeze get reserved for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai. Started by the Kala Ghoda Association, the festival, a melting pot of cultural experiences, celebrates its 20th edition this year.
From art in every form, heritage walks, and cinema to live performances, children’s activities, literature, and stand-up comedy, there is a little something for everybody here. Our tip: Make sure to choose a time that’s not peak hour to wholly enjoy the variety the festival offers. Here’s our round-up of everything you shouldn’t miss.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Music performances at KGAF
Art Installations

If you’re in the mood for just a walk-through, there are stunning art installations in stained glass, colourful weaves, and iconic Bollywood characters set up, reflecting 20 years of the fest (they are particularly popular as selfie backdrops) at Rampart Row, the quaint road nestled right next to the Jehangir Art Gallery, which is the main festival area. There’s of course the famed Kala Ghoda Amphitheatre, with its brightly painted seating area and graffiti walls, where you can sit and stretch for a breather.

Performances

Music and dance performances are at Cross Maidan and the majestic Asiatic Library steps. Our picks: Head for the jazz and percussion by Violiopiano, an Indo-Italian collaboration, Afro Percussion by Boombay Djembe Folas, group of drummers who play traditional rhythms from West Africa, Trilok Gurtu’s Classical Fusion and performances by Apache Indian and Shaan. Keep your evenings for street performances at Rampart Row and Cross Maidan again. Dance performances at Cross Maidan have a range of Kathak, Tango, Mohaniattam, Bharatnatyam, Flamenco and folk dances lined up.Marvel at traditional folk performances like Kachi Ghodi (where artistes dress as horses) and Nut Kartab (balancing and walking on a tight rope), and Bahurupiya (an artist taking on different characters).

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
The theatre performances. Actors Neena Gupta and Anupam Kher
Book readings, movie screenings, and stand-up comedy

The iconic David Sasoon Library is the venue for literature readings – Reshma Qureshi & Tanya Singh (Make Love Not Scars) and launch of Pooja Dhingra’s new publication. Cinephiles also have something to look forward to – the public premiere of Fakir of Venice, an interesting mix of Hindi movie retrospectives, riveting documentaries like ‘Raghu Rai – An Unframed Portrait’, ‘Meet The Trumps’, and ‘The Big Little Murder’, Bengali, French and Spanish features like ‘Mayurakshi’, ‘La Passion d’Augustine’, and ‘Vino Para Robar’ to choose from. Movie screenings are at the Coomaraswamy Hall and the Visitors Centre.

Head to the historic Horniman Circle and National Gallery for Modern Art to get a fill of theatre acts. The stand-up comedy nights at Irish House at K. Dubash Marg feature Sonali Thakker, Anu Menon, Pavitra Shetty and Jeeya Sheth.
The Bombay Natural History Society will screen children’s movies. The lawns at the CNMVS museum and Kitab Khana have interactive storytelling sessions, writing, puppet and science workshops as well for the kids.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Dance performance at a previous edition
Shop

One can choose to sample the sumptuous array of food, and shop from the delightful stalls that are set up at Rampart Row. With local entrepreneurs and craftsmen bringing out their kitschy work, this is a great place to pick up artistic bags, jewellery, and home décor. Make sure to step onto the Jehangir Art Gallery footpath because that’s where you can pick some amazing art on canvas or simply sketches by artists who line up their paintings right here.

Food Walks and Workshops 

Flavours of Kala Ghoda has an interesting mix of food walks and masterchef workshops. Our picks: Discover ‘Regional Culinary Treasures’ as the chefs at Bombay Vintage reveal some of their recipes with ghee roasts and chaats. Pooja Dhingra of Le15 Café Patisserie will conduct a workshop on easy, stress-free and delicious desserts. Sample a flavour of Burmese culture and cuisine at Burma Burma with workshop on speciality salads. And definitely don’t miss the food walk through Kala Ghoda on some of the most iconic Irani cafés and their history. This is followed with a documentary – ‘The Last Irani Chai’.

Heritage Walks 

Also recommended are the Heritage Walks designed purely for the festival – you can pick from among the Art Deco Walks, Heritage Bus Tours, Gateway Walk, Wodehouse Walk and more.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is on from 2nd – 9th February. The detailed schedule for specific venue and timings at www.kalaghodassociation.com.
All images: Courtesy Kala Ghoda

Sreeparna Sengupta

Sengupta has been a director and producer of shows on movies and entertainment for the last 14 years, for some of the biggest media houses, including Zoom and Times Now. She has been reviewing movies for a living for the last two years while working as a freelance writer / editor and content developer.