Namaste France, Bonjour India! The cultural alchemy between India and France is for real, and is now seen in all its glory and myriad splendour in the moveable feast of Indian culture, songs, dance, films, plays and performances which has rolled out across cities in France, inviting the French to soak in the eternal wonder that is India.
The sheer scale of Namaste France festival is staggering and attest to the expanding canvas of India-France cultural relations: 75 days, 23 cities and the crème de la crème of India’s performing arts dazzling the French audience. “The best of India, and the best of France,” as C. Rajasekhar, Director General of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) says pithily, looking ahead to Bonjour India France will host in India 2017. It celebrates the growing friendship and partnership between the two countries, he says.
The Namaste France cultural festival began at the magnificent La Villette in Paris on September 15 with spellbinding performances by sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with his sons Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash and Kathak exponent Kumudini Lakhia, who enthralled around 2000 people at the inaugural ceremony. The festival was inaugurated by India’s ambassador to France Mohan Kumar in the presence of senators, officials, celebrities, cognoscenti and friends of India and France.
The festival, which will go on till November 30, has emanated from a shared understanding between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande during their meeting in January 2016 when the latter visited India as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
Staged in iconic venues spread over French cities, including Paris, Strasbourg, Nice, Nantes, Marseilles, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Tropez, Tourcoing, this is the first time the festival of India will be staged in the four French Overseas Territories — Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin and the Reunion Island.
Celebrating Navratri and Diwali in France
The festival aims at deepening connections of the heart and mind between people of the two countries. Fittingly, Namaste France includes celebrations of Indian festivals, including Navratri and Diwali. Navratri festival would be celebrated October 3-11 with the Sujit Vndur troupe, and Diwaliwould be celebrated in Paris on November 8 with performances by Pandit Bhajan Sopori. “The curtains would come down on the festival on November 30, 2016 with a violin performance by Dr. L Subramaniam and a Kuchipudi dance led by Raja and Radha Reddy,” said Mr Rajasekhar.
Placing the Namaste France against the larger backdrop of India-France friendship, France’s ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler underlined that Namasté France is a wonderful opportunity to boost the vitality of our cultural exchanges.
“France and India share a great friendship, which is reflected in our excellent bilateral relationship. But it is nowhere better illustrated than in the initiatives that bring our people closer. Culture, fashion and art are strongly related to the images of both France and India, and these areas are the best to enhance what I call a strong ‘partnership from the heart’ between our two countries.”
The envoy also announced that the third edition of the Bonjour India festival will be held next year. “Namasté France and Bonjour India will enable a whole new generation of youths in both countries to discover the common vision that they share of the world and novel ways of expressing it,” he said.
The fest will showcase icons of India’s performing arts, including, among others, legendary dancer-choreographer Astad Deboo, renowned Kuchipudi dancing couple Raja and Radha Reddy, illustrious santoor player Pandit Bhajan Sopori, violin maestro Dr. L. Subramaniam, sarod virtuoso Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan and Ayaan, master dhrupad exponent Ustad Sayeduddin Dagar, Kuttiyatam master Sivan Namboodri, and theatre veteran Girish Karnad. Blending the ancient and the modern, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, fashion designer Rahul Mishra and Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia will also participate in Namasté France.
Music of Ideas
The French, who are known as much for their love of good food and wine as philosophy, literature and music of ideas have a rare treat awaiting them: celebrated danseuse Sonal Mansingh will share with them her notion of “Dance as Darshan” in a masterly exposition that will illuminate philosophies and ideas behind Indian dance forms.
Culturally, India and France connect and bond beautifully. It’s a meeting of minds, with education a growing focus area of cooperation. There are around 3000 Indian students studying in France.
Around 400 MoUs have been inked between Indian and French universities and private institutions. Paris, the cultural capital of Europe, remains the dream destination for Indian tourists, and the India Story has always a captive audience in France. Bollywood rocks in France, and the French avant garde cinema has a devoted following in India.
Get ready to relish this enduring Indo-French romance of culture and ideas, and East marries West-themed concerts of Odissi, Bharatanatyam and an Indo-French Kathak jugalbandi!
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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