Divya Gandhi

BANGALORE: The USP of Bangalore Habba, the annual cultural festival of Karnataka's capital, is perhaps the varied fare it offers at no cost to audiences. Artistes from the State and outside participate in the event.

Contrary to popular perception, the State Government has given the Habba no funds at all over the last four years of its existence, say Nandini Alva and Padmini Ravi, Habba organisers. They had to put in several lakhs of their own money for the event."The Government only supports us from behind the scenes. It did, however, give a recommendation to the central Tourism Department which we received around Rs 10 lakh a year for the last couple of seasons" a fact corroborated by Vittal Murthy, Principal Secretary, Department of Kannada and Culture.

In fact, most of Habba funding comes from corporate sponsors.

The festival started on a high note, but appears to have run into financial problems over the last couple of years, according to service providers for the Habba. "While the artistes were paid well and even given an advance sometimes, peripheral expenses like my work were just not given priority," says a prominent art director who has executed the designs and ambience for virtually every event at the Habba. He attributes this, however, to "bad management, not bad intentions."

Another service provider says he is still waiting for his Rs.20 lakh fee.

Though Ms. Alva denies the allegations, many service providers who worked for the Habba in its first year backed out last year because of unpaid bills. However, sponsorship for the Bangalore Habba may get a boost from Ashok Kheny, Managing Director of the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise. Mr. Kheny told The Hindu that for every rupee that the Habba organisers raise, he would match the amount (with an upper limit of Rs.1 crore).