Why we need another cultural summer
The past 40 years laid the foundation stone for the city's cultural base across literature and the arts. It is now up to the current set of bright minds to sustain this good run despite new and increasing odds
Last Friday, mid-day turned 40; it moved into middle age and with it the added responsibility of being an even more important voice for fair reportage in the city. No mean feat this, considering everything that's been going on with the debate over the future of print journalism. It was also a terrific trip for some of us who've watched the city and the newspaper grow in tandem.
As we pored over archival material and newspaper clippings, discussed and chatted on all its milestones with expert Bombaywallahs, it served as an eye-opener to the making of this great city. It was heartwarming to track how some segments like the food and drink industry continue to witness a phenomenal leap of faith by giving the discerning foodie so much on a platter. Likewise was the heady line-up of fabulous works put out there by writers and poets who made the city proud on the national and international level. We particularly enjoyed curating facts around the cultural landscape of the city — from how the Kala Ghoda festival took shape to theatre group Motley's coming into being and how our very own Stop Gaps choral ensemble went on to wow France's audiences. We were reminded of frames of us sitting glued to our Solidaire B/W telly set watching Sabira Merchant ask us about What's The Good Word? and how we chuckled over Hinglish's many delights during the staging of I'm Not Bajirao at St Andrew's.
Somewhere along the way, it reminded us of a culturally busy Bombay. From the richness of festivals held in stunning sites like Elephanta and Banganga to a buzzing theatre and music scene (remember Rang Bhavan and I-Rock?) that was packed with stalwarts and young bright talent, it was evident that a lot of today's performing arts owe their emergence to those heady days. It must have been an inspiring time to be theatre artistes or musicians, to fight the odds and survive, as they teared up over receiving a standing ovation inside Prithvi or after a gig at Rang Bhavan.
What came through while chronicling those 40 years was how a buoyant arts community ensured that the city kept producing great ideas, year after year — be it in dance, music, or cultural activities. An honest confession — we had quite a tough time as curators when it came to deciding on which milestone to drop!
In today's time, as the city grows, with it, its channels for entertainment have changed. And, there, we feel, is where a certain different challenge lies for our cultural evangelists. Rising costs, sky-high rents, red-tapism are just some of the reasons we hear from theatre groups, for instance, about the hurdles that make them think twice before going all out staging a production. Even a few venues that had to shut down for this reason cite this as a stumbling block. We were reminded of a chat we had some time back with a seasoned heritage and cultural voice as she revealed about the needless licences that she had to secure while planning a festival. It was only her doggedness that saw the festival take shape. The same person explained how a few previous festivals in the city met their end due to high levels of bureaucracy and a general lack of financial support for a good idea on the city's cultural calendar.
Let's hope the next 40 years see Bombay back its ambassadors even more across the performing and literary arts so they can breathe new life into it for generations to come.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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