Delhi’s biggest arts fest faces fund crunch

September 19th, 2011 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) Twenty-nine countries, 2,000 performers, an expected footfall of five million and 25 niche venues — the capital’s biggest arts carnival, the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF), has gained in size and substance over the years, but organisers say funding still remains a stumbling block.

Modelled on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the fifth edition of DIAF will open Oct 31 at the historic Purana Qila, the 16th-century Old Fort, with an international tribute to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore by performers from Hungary, Spain, China, South Africa, Israel, Bangladesh and Santiniketan in West Bengal.

A grand opera from Italy, “La Cenerentola”, composed by Rossini, will bring the curtains down on the festival Nov 15 at the Siri Fort theatre.

“But we find ourselves going around asking for small money from corporate houses and the government despite the fact that DIAF has one of the best images as a festival in the country. We can’t commission our own programmes because we do not have the financial health to do so. We are handicapped in response and funding,” Prathibha Prahlad, director and founder of DIAF, told IANS.

With a tentative budget of Rs.25 crore or over $5 million, Prahlad is “finding the task a financial challenge and a logistical riddle”.

“The estimate is frugal compared to the festival kitties in the west, which are around $40 million on an average,” Prahlad said.

“The ministry of culture, the tourism department, the hospitality sector and the government of NCT (National Capital Territory of Delhi) should cash in on the international profile of the festival, push cultural tourism, let DIAF grow and throw their might behind the festival.

“A estimate said this year the festival will grab at least five million footfalls - but there is rarely any foreign visitor. It does not feature prominently on the Incredible India website,” she said.

Prahlad has put together a formidable line-up for the festival.

The panorama includes popular western and ethnic musical acts from the US, Australia, Latin America, south Asian neighbourhood and the Arab world, arts and design extravaganza and a children’s entertainment cache to complement the diversity of Indian classical arts, which is the lifeline of the festival.

“You have to create permanent equities - that is how I view culture…equity that lasts longer than you do. Only then you have made an impact in your own lifetime. A great deal of transfer of culture - from generation to generation and people to people - takes place in a festival,” she added.

Prahlad senses a tilt to the more popular culture of Bollywood on the part of the government.

But “Bollywood is a parasitic culture,” she said.

“If the government does not promote its original classical culture, where will the parasite draw its strength from?”

“The culture ministry does not have a permanent performing arts festival cell unlike other countries, but there is a permanent film festival cell (under the information and broadcasting ministry),” she said.

She has been trying to bring the vital stakeholders of culture and its promoters under one platform at the festival, she said.

This year DIAF has come out with another special initiative — a “Colloquium” which will make the India International Centre a hub of activity every morning from 11 am through lunch, seeing journalists, writers, artistes interacting with the performers of the previous evening.

The deliberations will be thrilling, Prahlad said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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