Danseuse Prathibha Prahlad on planning the Delhi International Arts Festival.
She is known as one of the most successful Bharatanatyam dancers and her organisation, the Prasiddha Foundation, has launched some of Bangalore’s best known festivals, notably Sharad Vaibhava, Eka Aneka and the Hampi Vijayotsav. With all that organising under her belt, it is no wonder, really, that Prathibha Prahlad decided to move on to bigger things. In 2007, true to style, she launched what she called “India’s signature international festival”. In its first edition, the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF) featured many of the ‘usual suspects’, as far as the classical arts were concerned.
This year, the ongoing festival is even bigger and seems well on its way to realising Prathibha’s and her executive director Arshiya Sethi’s ambitions of making it the most important such festival this side of the globe. Excerpts from an interview with Prathibha:
What is the seed concept of this festival?
I had conceptualised it initially as ‘India in the world and India and the world’. We are trying to showcase all forms of art in India and also trying to bring in groups from other countries.
How do you select artistes from such a wide range?
We have the expertise of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Zonal Cultural Centres and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. We start the process of dialogue with them early and identify the art forms we would like, and they help identify the groups. We want this to be the biggest and most important festival of this kind in this part of the globe.
There is a feeling that deserving artistes, especially in remote corners, never see the limelight.
This has to do with the personal destiny of the artiste. That’s true of every field. A lot of people are left out of the mainstream and are unable to make it to the top of their respective careers. But having said that, I also feel we are trying to give an opportunity to thousands of artistes every year, and giving them hope that they will get a platform somewhere. We also have something called a young artistes’ festival, where we have artistes from outside Delhi also. We try to provide them the best platform and media publicity, we give them transport and accommodation so they are not out of pocket, and after performing at such a big festival they do get other opportunities.
Have you managed not to repeat artistes over these three editions of DIAF?
We have not repeated artistes, except the Wadali Brothers and Talat Aziz who are very popular and are performing at the Town Hall.
Do you get audiences that don’t normally go to cultural programmes?
Yes, we have thousands of people. Our phones are constantly buzzing, our emails are clogged. Our website gets 10000 hits a day. Arshiya and I have worked really hard, and I think we have arrived as a festival.
Is the lack of a seminar segment by policy?
Yes. This is a people’s festival, not a niche one. We don’t want to discuss some archaic subject in a seminar, but we do have a literary segment, on the 10th of October.
About the funding…
We don’t have guaranteed funding. We don’t know if the money is going to be available till the end, but we go on committing artistes and parallelly looking for funds. SNA is our valuable partner, but we don’t get an annual grant from it. They pay for the classical artistes when we ask them, because there is no corporate funding for classical artistes and I think SNA understands that. But these challenges are part of the journey, and the benefits outweigh the problems. A life without art is not worth living.