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'Culture as a change agent' : A glimpse into the 1st edition

Under The Raintree women’s cultural festival, India’s first multi-arts festival curated by women, was held from November 17-19, 2017 at seven venues inside Ravindra Kalakshetra. This Festival was a unique concept covering Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Craft and Design, and attracted a crowd of more than 6000 people from across the country over the three days. Over 200 artistes from various parts of Karnataka as well as those who have achieved national and international fame participated across the six disciplines of Art, Dance, Music, Theatre, Cinema and Literature.

The Festival was conducted by an eminent team consisting of Madhu Nataraj, acclaimed dancer & choreographer, MD Pallavi, award winning singer, actor & filmmaker, Arundhati Raja, actor & Founder-Trustee, Jagriti Theatre, Ammu Joseph, independent journalist & author, Dr. Pramila Lochan, art historian & writer, and Kavitha Lankesh, award winning film director, along with Sandhya Mendonca, Festival Director, writer & publisher, who has conceptualised the festival.

The Festival was inaugurated on November 17 by eminent author Shashi Deshpande. In her inaugural speech, Deshpande interpreted the theme of the Festival “Culture as a Change Agent”, and what it means to the modern woman – setting the tone of the upcoming events over the next three days.

There were three literary panel discussions where eminent writers across language and genre, such as Dr. Vijayamma, Volga, MS Asha Devi, Sharda Ugra, Samhita Arni, Poile Sengupta and others spoke about women’s roles in literature, the difference literature can make in a society, and rediscovering epics from a woman’s perspective. Films directed by Shonali Bose (Margarita with a Straw), Ananya Kasaravalli (Chronicles of Hari) were screened and were followed by interactive sessions. Several short films were specially curated for the festival by The British Council and Shamiana - The Short Film Club.

There was also an art gallery where works of artists such as Anjolie Ela Menon, Dimple Shah, Shan Re, Rani Rekha and others were on display. Three art workshops found many takers - Art Experiential Workshop conducted by Anuradha Nalapat, Woodcut Workshop by Urmila VG and a workshop on Chittara Art by award winning folk artiste Lakshmakka.

There was a special cultural showcase every evening, specially curated for the Festival. The dance showcase on November 17 was curated by acclaimed dancer Madhu Nataraj and featured eminent gurus such as Vyjayanthi Kashi (Kuchupudi), Sharmila Mukherjee (Odissi), Madhu Nataraj (Kathak) and Anuradha Vikranth (Bharatanatyam), along with their students.

The music showcase on November 18 was curated by MD Pallavi and featured a jugalbandi between Jayanthi Kumaresh (veena) and Anupama Bhagwat (sitar), an original performance featuring MD Pallavi and Bindhumalini, and world music by SubraMania.

The theatre showcase on Nov 19, curated by Arundhati Raja, was a double bill in English and Kannada – “On My Own” by actors from Jagriti, directed by Arundhati Raja and “Hennallave” by Laxmi Chandrasekhar. Arundhati Raja also conducted an acting workshop.

The valedictory address by renowned playwright Poile Sengupta, summarised the feeling of all the attendees, “Let us be proud of being women, because we are the aesthetics of civilisation”.

Poetry reading, open mic sessions, stand up comedy and performance art kept the buzz going through all 3 days. A special showcase of ‘Culture for Children’ had classical music performances by SaPa followed by energetic folk dances captivated 300 school students.

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