Incredible India comes to Washington

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Feb 27 (IANS) Incredible India in its myriad wondrous colours is all set to make a splash in this American capital with "Maximum India", a mega festival celebrating its cultural diversity.

The 20-day cultural extravaganza opening Tuesday at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts here on the Potomac river also promises to transport one to a street market in bustling Mumbai, a silk shop in Chennai and an airy palace in Rajasthan.

"Maximum India may not be on the same scale as the Festival of India, but it is a major effort to display the creativity, ferment, and dynamism that characterises Indian arts," India's Ambassador Meera Shankar said unveiling the programme.

Being held in cooperation with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Embassy of India, "Maximum India" will feature "perhaps not a million, but many wonderful and unusual aspects of the country's diverse arts and culture, from folkloric to classical and contemporary," the centre says.

It will feature dance, music, and theatre performed by India's most acclaimed artists as also film selections from the world's most robust movie industry, featuring both indie and Bollywood films.

The show stealer is expected to be "The Manganiyar Seduction," an eye-popping spectacle created by Indian-born director Roysten Abel, featuring 43 Manganiars, a Sufi clan of folk musicians.

Every musician - the dhol drummers, the singers, the men playing the accordion-like harmonium - performs in a lighted, red-walled cubical, part of a structure that is 36 feet wide and 21 feet high.

When a note rings out, the lights on that musician's box come to life, creating an effect that at once recalls "Hollywood Squares" and the street-peddling of Amsterdam's red-light district.

Prize-winning authors reading, debating, conversing, and sharing their insights; exhibitions that astonish and confront; incredible and unimaginable crafts from exquisite collections; jewels that dazzle from the princely era of the Mughals and Maharajas, will be another feature.

And, to top it all, there will be feasts of Indian food for the entire three-week period of the festival, prepared by 12 world-class, award-winning Indian chefs, representing all regions of the country.

Promising to transform the Kennedy Centre's two eateries into full-fledged Indian restaurants is Hemant Oberoi, the executive chef of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, who prepared a seven-course feast for the Obamas in Mumbai on their November visit.

While most of the performances are ticketed with prices ranging from $10 to $100, there are many free events, including those on the millennium stage, which will also be webcast live.

The Maximum India logo is a coming together of all the languages that make India the diverse land that it is.

It combines the many scripts India has; it showcases its oneness in its diversity. Fusing the scripts with a contemporary type style, the logo is traditional yet contemporary; just like India.


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