The stage is not on the Yamuna, quite a distance from it: Nitin Desai on AoL controversy

Mar 10, 2016, 10:40 IST | Hemal Ashar

Mumbai’s ace art designer Nitin Desai sets up stage for the three-day Art of Living cultural extravaganza; says look at the positives not at the controversy

Nitin Desai, Mumbai’s ace art designer is putting the finishing touches to his 1,200 sq. feet long stage, for the Art of Living (AOL) event, the World Culture Festival to begin tomorrow and go on till March 13 in the capital. Desai is in Delhi, and in the distance, he can see the Yamuna, flowing quietly along. The river became the focus of a huge controversy with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s mammoth event being fiercely opposed by environmentalists who believe the site of the festival, and the infrastructure set up for it, near the banks of the river Yamuna spells ecological disaster for the region. On Wednesday evening, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) did not stay the festival but slapped an initial fine of R5 crore on the AOL. The AOL has to pay the amount as “environmental compensation.” The AOL then released a statement saying it had not committed any violations and will appeal against the fine.

Also Read: A Rs 5-crore slap and nod for AoL event on March 11

Workers put final touches on the stage which incorporates all the elements of nature. Pics/PTIWorkers put final touches on the stage which incorporates all the elements of nature. Pics/PTI

Desai laughs down the phone from Delhi, amidst supervising the stage design saying, “I do not want to be embroiled in another controversy. I was similarly ensnared in the, ‘Make in India’ imbroglio when a fire broke out at Chowpatty, and now this, though it seems to have been resolved now. I have never had these problems in 32 years of my career.”

Ready, set, show for Nitin Desai
Ready, set, show for Nitin Desai

Desai says with just one day to go, his stage just needs a few final flourishes. He adds, “This stage has been made with the help of 150 workmen, and I started conceptualising it six months ago. I have incorporated all the elements of nature which are, earth, fire, water, wind and sky in the ethnic stage design, which captures the essence of our culture. I do not know why the stage was being targeted by environmentalists, I have just heard a little of what had transpired in the past few days, since we have been working 12 hour days. The stage is not on the Yamuna, quite a distance from it. It is near the DND flyover. though of course we can see the Yamuna from that site.”

Read Story: Art of living fest: NGT questions Centre over issuing clearances

Desai says that instead of stressing on the controversy, people need to look at the positives. “This stage is one of the biggest in the world, it will surely set a record and certainly one of the most challenging projects and one of the most satisfactory of so many I have done.”

He signs off with, “We have not harmed nature in any way.”

Desai’s all the whirl’s a stage sentiment resonates with Pt. Birju Maharaj, the legendary kathak maestro of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana, who has trained several Bollywood stars. Birju Maharaj has been training more than 1,800 dancers for the World Culture Festival. Birju Maharaj’s senior disciple, Saswati Sen said that they had been too caught up with work to follow the controversy closely, and that “whatever issue has come up with the festival is now sorted out. We have been training thousands for the programme. We are only concentrating on the training sessions,” finished off Sen, in a crisp, business-like manner.

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