Bollywood great Rishi Kapoor joins India by the Bay line-up – Hong Kong’s festival of Indian culture and cuisine

Third renewal of event also features actress who played Mrs Kapoor in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and flamboyant British-born

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 5:49pm

India by the Bay, that annual smorgasbord of cultural delights, is back for its third year with a line-up including a Bollywood great, a miniature painter, a dance workshop and a play starring Lilette Dubey, best-known as Mrs Kapoor in John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The week-long festival in February is deliberately eclectic so that Hong Kong can get acquainted with traditional and contemporary Indian culture from varied and unusual angles, says festival director Sanjoy Roy.

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“We look at what other Indian programmes other presenters bring here and make sure we offer something different,” says Roy.

Roy is co-founder of Teamwork Arts, a production company that runs 25 cultural festivals in 11 countries, including the Jaipur Literary Festival. It organises the Hong Kong event with the Asia Society, which also provides most of the venues.

The festival will feature dance, theatre, art, traditional music and food, as well as a question-and-answer session with Rishi Kapoor, the veteran actor and director, and a talk on Indian textiles by the founder of a charity supporting traditional Indian craftspeople.

Roy’s company promotes Indian culture through similar festivals in the US, Europe, Egypt, Israel and South Africa, but he sees himself as more than an ambassador. He wants to promote the arts as an important economic asset.

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“Look at the UK and the millions of pounds that it makes from cultural exports. I want to prove that culture pays,” he says. “Understanding other people’s culture is also necessary if you are doing business with them.”

He always sees the festival as a vote in support of Hong Kong, he says. Hong Kong is going through an uncertain time and people are worried that mainland China may make it less free, he says. Helping to bring more diversity to the cultural offerings here is one way of highlighting the importance of such freedom, he says.

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Here are some of the highlights of this year’s festival, which runs from February 17-25.

The Ramayana and Miniature Painting Talk

Artist Mahaveer Swami will discuss how the epic poem Ramayana has been represented in miniature paintings through the ages. He was born into a family of painters in the Bikaner tradition, a style developed for the Rajput courts, and strongly influenced by both Mughal and Rajasthani miniatures. He will be talking to Edward Wilkinson, executive director of Bonhams Asia and an expert in Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art. The talk will be accompanied by an exhibition of miniatures at Bonhams Gallery, Suite 2001, One Pacific Place.

10.45am-noon, Feb 18, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, Admiralty

Rishi Kapoor in conversation with Sanjoy Roy

Rishi Kapoor has done it all. From child star to romantic Bollywood hero, and later, a mature actor who took on diverse roles, Kapoor has managed to grow his fan base well into the social media generation. He boasts 1.4 million Twitter followers and his new autobiography has had extensive media coverage. It probably helps that it is subtitled “Uncensored” and includes details about his storied actor father Raj Kapoor’s affairs and drinking habits. Now you can meet him in person.

6.45pm-8pm, Feb 18, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, Admiralty

India by the Bay family day

A day at the Asia Society for children and their parents. There are storytelling sessions, workshops in theatre, crafts, yoga, and dance.

11am-4pm, Feb 19, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, Admiralty

Dance Like a Man

Actress Lillete Dubey (Monsoon Wedding, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) directs and stars in Mahesh Dattani’s play about the lives of a professional dancing couple past their prime. It is India’s longest-running English-language play.

6.45pm-8pm, Feb 21, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, Admiralty

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A Date with Manju Malhi

Anglo-Indian cuisine doesn’t just mean England’s favourite takeaway food. UK-born chef and food writer Manju Malhi will explain the long history of a cuisine that mixes Indian and Western influences. Malhi hosted the Simply Indian series on the Taste Network in 2001 and also wrote the award-winning book Brit Spice.

6pm-9.30pm, Feb 25, Ovolo Southside hotel, Wong Chuk Hang

Elsewhere, find out about the sari and other aspects of India’s textile tradition with Laila Tyabji, founder of an independent charity supporting traditional craftspeople; learn how to dance like a Bollywood star with choreographer Gilles Chuyen; hear a violin recital by L. Subramaniam and son Ambi; and watch Aditi Mangaldas perform the classical dance form Kathak.