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A still from Elephant in the Room, a play about the coming-of-age story of Master Tusk, based on the story behind Lord Ganapati, the elephant-headed Hindu god.

India by the Bay festival in Hong Kong: authors, a Bollywood star and a Parsee feast among the attractions

The week-long festival brings the best of Indian arts to the city, including the Salaam Bombay screenwriter, dancers, musicians, a theatre group and a celebrity chef


“India by the Bay” returns to Hong Kong next month with a veritable cultural thali, offering local audiences tasters of subcontinental art forms and experiences.

The festival runs from February 2 to 9, and kicks off with a Parsee wedding banquet prepared by Anahita Dhondy, the young, female celebrity chef behind SodaBottleOpenerWala restaurant.

The head chef of the national chain of Mumbai-style “Irani” cafe and bar will be serving Parsee dishes such as sali chicken and kid gosht, as well as vegetarian options such as paneer akuri, while guests are regaled by local historian and Post Magazine columnist Jason Wordie on the history of the Parsees and the Zoroastrian community in Hong Kong.

Anahita Dhondy will serve a Parsee wedding banquet at this year's India by the Bay festival.
There are two events for film buffs. Sooni Taraporevala, the screenwriter behind the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay! (1988) and other films directed by Mira Nair, will share behind-the-scenes stories and tell how she came to direct her own feature film, Little Zizou (2008).

Bollywood icon Zeenat Aman will talk about an extraordinary career that saw her become India’s first on-screen sex symbol in the 1970s, and break new ground with her portrayal of strong-willed, independent women. The star of Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) and Don (1978) will be in conversation with festival founder Sanjoy K. Roy on February 3.

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On February 4 Roy will also be speaking to Shrabani Basu, whose book Victoria and Abdul, based on the unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria and a young Indian servant, was turned into a film last year starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.

This year’s theatrical offering is Elephant in the Room, which will introduce younger audiences to Lord Ganapati, or Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god. The play is an adaptation rather than a faithful rendition of the traditional tale of how the new head came about. Young Master Tusk gets lost in the forest and encounters many dangers before emerging with his new head “firmly on his shoulder”.

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt will give a concert on February 6.
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Grammy award winner and a disciple of Ravi Shankar, will give a concert on February 6 with his Mohan veena – a hybrid of a Western slide guitar and traditional Indian stringed instruments that he continues to adapt to experiment with the melding of contemporary and classical, Eastern and Western composition.

There is more fusion on February 9 as Calcutta-based Rhythmosaic Sengupta Dance Company performs with students of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Rhythmosaic Sengupta was founded by APA alumnae Mitul Sengupta, and its dancers explore ways to combine India’s classical Kathak with Western dance forms, especially jazz.

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Most events will be held at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre.

On February 5, Bhajju Shyam, a Gond artist from the central Indian tribal village, will give a talk at Bonhams’ Pacific Place gallery. The auction house will have an exhibition and sale of the work at the same time, as well as a separate exhibition of Indian art and accessories owned by a private collector.

Inquiries: The festival will run from February 2 to 9

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: India by the Bay promises a feast for the senses