India by the Bay back in Hong Kong with more and bigger shows

Contemporary and classical events feature in next edition of festival that celebrates the great breadth and variety of subcontinental culture

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 January, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 January, 2016, 7:01am

India by the Bay, the festival that celebrates all things Indian, is back this month with a wider selection of shows in bigger venues in response to last year’s successful inaugural edition.

Delhi-based festival director Sanjoy Roy had already tested the water by bringing occasional performances and films to Hong Kong and knew there was an appetite for Indian artists in Hong Kong.

After he discovered the Asia Society Hong Kong venue in Admiralty he fell in love with the site and determined to establish an annual festival here. Asia Society Hong Kong is the partner of India by the Bay, which runs from February 24 to March 1.

“What we try to do when we host festivals anywhere in the world is enable people to not only see something new, but take something away, whether it be history or information about the traditions, background, contemporary and traditional culture,” says Roy, whose company Teamwork has been hosting events around the world for Indian artists and writers.

This second edition sees the festival grow substantially and will feature dance, theatre, traditional music and food.

As well as entertaining, Roy hopes the festival will serve as a bridge between cultures. Last year the audience was a mix of Hong Kong Chinese, Westerners and Indians.

“The arts is one of the only vehicles that creates a window of opportunity that allows you to look into a different culture, its history, its traditions, its philosophy and economics. It allows you to take away what you want at your own pace and without feeling threatened,” says Roy, who also produces the Jaipur Literary Festival.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s festival:

An Audience with Sharmila Tagore

Sharmila Tagore was one of the leading stars of Hindi and Bengali cinema in the 1960s and ’70s. She was the first Indian actress to wear a bikini on the big screen (An Evening in Paris, 1967) – a daring move that catapulted her career and got her noticed at home and abroad.

Her late husband was the former Indian cricket captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. She supports charitable and community projects including Katha, a group for underprivileged women and children that translates regional literature into English. She will appear in conversation with festival director Sanjoy Roy.

February 25, 7.15pm. Jockey Club Hall, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. HK$300.

Words on Water: Shobha De

Novelist and columnist Shobha De began her working life as a model and then went on to a career in journalism. She founded and edited three of India’s most popular gossip magazines – Stardust, Celebrity and Society – and has written 18 books.

Her columns and commentary have an impressive following and she is respected for her sharp insights and opinions. She will appear in conversation with festival director Sanjoy Roy.

February 26, 7.15pm. Jockey Club, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. HK$300.

Celebrity chef Karen Anand

Karen Anand – sometimes called the “Martha Stewart of India” – has TV cooking shows in India and the UK and has played a major role in influencing the way people eat in India. This event includes a four-course lunch that will highlight different Indian cuisines as well as the principles of Ayurveda and healthy eating. Come to his event if you want to see how Indian spices can be used effectively in everyday cooking.

February 27, 12.15pm. Ovolo Southside Hotel. HK$500.

Rajasthan Josh

Here is a world-music band of the sort you’re not likely to see in Hong Kong often – Indian folk music with all the bells and whistles. Or in this case the morchang (a mouth harp), nagara (drum), double flute and bamboo flute. Expect a blend of vocal styles and Sufi, Punjabi and folk songs from Rajasthan in India’s northwest.

February 27, 6.45pm. Jockey Club, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. HK$200.

The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

When the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble debuted in New York, The New York Times called it “one of the most luminous dance events of the year”.

Festival director Sanjoy Roy says, “These are the best Odissi dancers you will ever see.” Odissi is a classical form of Indian dance characterised by sensuousness and lyricism. Although dedicated to an ancient practice, Nrityagram also creates new choreography and collaborates with contemporary Indian musicians to keep the company very relevant in the 21st century.

February 28, 6.45pm. Miller Theatre, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. HK$250.

C Sharp C Blunt

This is a fresh and modern one-woman show. Shilpa is an attractive, user-friendly mobile phone app. Shilpa the app is designed to please – she will sing the songs you want to hear on demand and will also dance when you tell her to.

She behaves exactly as she is programmed to – until the next app update is released. This is a sharp, satirical and very funny look at what it’s like to be a woman in today’s entertainment world. The play has been performed in Berlin and Singapore as well as all over India.

February 29, 7.15pm. Miller Theatre, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. HK$200

Buddhist Day: Shantum Seth

Shantum Seth (his brother is the writer Vikram Seth) is an ordained teacher in the Zen tradition of the Vietnamese master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Since 1988, he has been leading “In the Footsteps of the Buddha”, a Buddhist pilgrimage through India and Nepal. This workshop will include a lecture, meditation, visualisation and film about the Buddha and the Buddhist trails shared by India and China. Seth will guide those who attend into an exploration of the values of empathy and compassion within Buddhism. The ticket price includes a vegetarian meal.

March 1, 6.45pm. Ovolo Southside Hotel. HK$250

Tickets for all Indian by the Bay events are on sale through the Asia Society website asiasociety.org/hong-kong or indiabythebay.com