Serendipity Art Festival 2022 – Researcher, Curator Raju Mansukhani shares glimpses of the recently concluded Serendipity Arts Festival – for those who couldn’t be there in the sunny Goa
Civilizations are born by the rivers: Be it the Indus, Nile, Ganges or the Yellow river, the world’s greatest and most fascinating civilizations were riverine ones. Taking this deep connection between humanity and the flowing waters is the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) that started by the serene Mandovi river in Panjim, Goa.
We could think of SAF as a ‘riverine festival’, a vast gently-flowing river bringing together the arts – visual, performing and culinary art forms, in uniquely integrated ways, often taking visitors by surprise.
The fifth edition of this fast-growing and fast-flowing festival held between 15th and 23rd December, 2022, featured more than 40 commissioned projects, ensuring that the festival is inclusive, diverse, engaging, interactive, immersive, and entertaining in every which way.
Quite clearly the curators had their task cut out for them: the music composers Ehsaan Noorani and Bickram Ghosh; dancers-choreographers Geeta Chandran and Mayuri Upadhya; authors-craft historians Pramod Kumar KG, Veerangana Solanki and Anjana Somany; theatre-holic Quasar Thakore Padamsee; and restaurateur-entrepreneur Prahlad Sukhtankar.
The curators, representing a thriving arts culture in our country, were drawn from different domains and industries. Each one of them strived to make the SAF programmes as multidisciplinary, experimental and as contemporary as they could.
Rather than grand art in museums which overawe, and often overwhelm, visitors at the different venues of Serendipity Arts Festival, discovered the arts, which are accessible, intense and exciting.
Besides the exhibitions in different venues spread across Panjim, each art form was also having its own space, aptly titled The Theatre, Foundry, The Foodlab or The Studio.
One could see, participate, and learn with the exponents, experts and performers. In such a collage of multidisciplinary environment, one can witness the merging of issues related to arts education, patronage culture, with those of accessibility and entertainment.
The River Raag – music concerts on a large decked-up boat starting off from the Santa Monica Jetty – epitomized the moods of the music and the magic created by the classically trained musicians, every evening at 5 pm. It drew in maximum visitors, and those who made it on board, had an experience which was sublime and truly memorable.
Shadaj Godkhindi was on the flute, lost in the music he was creating, along with the tabla artiste Mayank Bedekar (in the photograph). The setting sun, the river breeze, the blue skies above, made for an incomparable setting for music that touched every heart.
Other musicians who held forth on the river, unveiling the raagas of their choice, included the sitarists Shakir Khan, Abhisek Mallick, the sarod-players Pratik Srivastava, Indrayudh Mazumdar, besides vocalists Sudha Raghuraman and Shaoni Mojumdar, violinist Nandini Shankar and santoor-player Sandip Chatterjee.
From the rippling river to The Arena at Nagalli Hills ground, under the stars were the sterling dance-music-theatrical performances that held hundreds spell-bound, evening after evening.
When the veteran-choreographer Santosh Nair and Sadhya Group presented ‘The Game of Dice’ from the epic Mahabharata, it was yet another evening to remember. The production brought together the dramatic traditions of Kathakali, Chhau and contemporary dance to bring the pain and angst of Draupadi to come alive.
With just 11 performers on a bare stage, with lights and a background score creating the drama and sustaining the pace of the performance, the energy of Santosh Nair’s team was pulsating and palpable.
The photographs capture some moments of The Game of Dice, as Draupadi fights for her honour, her rousing call to Kaurava and Pandava clans to uphold righteousness and dignity in the face of such manipulation and trickery. It was indeed an hour of glory for both Santosh Nair, and the curator Geeta Chandran as they gave the audience Their Dance of Excellence.
From different media platforms, the Chairman-Founder of Serendipity Arts Festival Sunil Kant Munjal said, “we want the practitioners and audiences to be able to interact with the arts at a number of levels. We want to promote ideas, exchange new ideas and, most of all, inspire the youth of India to engage with the arts on a much greater level.”
At the riverine festival by the Mandovi river in Goa, these ideas and words, intent and energies, performances and applause are flowing and only growing with each passing year.
(The writer was witness to the spectrum of arts at Serendipity Arts Festival 2022; and is a researcher-curator; a former deputy curator of Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya.)
Photo courtesy: Serendipity Arts Festival / Raju Mansukhani