The Goa-based multi-arts festival will host its curtain raiser at the Mumbai landmark this week

Serendipity at the Royal Opera House

Rukmini Vijayakumar in a still from The Dark Lord. Courtesy The Radha Kalpa Dance Company

Smriti Rajgarhia, director of Serendipity Arts Festival, has a long wish list of curators, a very long wish list. We wonder who’s left considering her list of curators for this year’s edition of the Goa-based festival (December 15-22) includes Rahaab Allana and Ravi Agarwal for photography; Ranjit Hoskote and Subodh Gupta for visual arts; Rahul Akerkar and Odette Mascarenhas for food; Leela Samson and Ranjana Dave for dance; Atul Kumar and Arundhati Nag for theatre; Aneesh Pradhan and Sneha Khanwalkar for music; and Annapurna Garimella and Rashmi Varma for crafts. If there was a telephone directory for prominent Indian artists, this list would take up half the space. “We were really lucky that all of them came onboard,” says Smriti Rajgarhia. “It was really heartening to see all of them say yes.”

On the selection of curators, she says, “We wanted people who had different worldviews [so we could] create a very diverse festival. The format was that both the curators came from different worlds. For instance, Leela Samson and Ranjana Dave are both our dance curators. Ranjana Dave is the programme director for Gati, which is experimental dance. We all know Leela Samson and what she’s done for classical dance [Samson was director of Kalakshetra, Chennai, from 2005-2012]. When they come together, what you get is a programme that reflects the diversity of the country. So, while we look at the past, we want to own our present. We were also very mindful that curators needed to come from all parts of the country. That’s how we chose the combination of curators.”

Another interesting combination is music composer Sneha Khanwalkar and tabla player Aneesh Pradhan. “Her [Khanwalkar] curation is not about putting together a show,” says Rajgarhia. “She wanted to experiment with sound. So, she’s doing Self Morph, a sound museum, a space where you’re guided by sound. Aneesh is doing Bandish Antakshari, which is actually an Antakshari between classical musicians, in which they’re singing bandishes. It will be exciting to see how people react to it.”

At the curtain raiser this week, the curators will be introduced to patrons along with a dance performance by Rukmini Vijayakumar’s The Dark Lord, a dance theatre performance depicting the plight of the many gopis who yearn for Krishna, at the Royal Opera House on September 27. It would be a small sampler of what Rajgarhia and her team are trying to achieve with the festival. As Rajgarhia says, “We gave our curators complete creative freedom.”

When: September 27, 7 PM 
Where: Royal Opera House, Girgaon