Thane’s own version of the Kala Ghoda festival – Upvan Arts Festival attracts huge crowds

Photo credit: Samyukta Maindarkar

By Samyukta Maindarkar | dna Webdesk

Crowds continued to throng to the Upvan Arts Festival in Thane on its second day. With more than 300 stalls, Thane’s first large-scale festival devoted solely to the arts, both visual and performing, has attracted not only art-lovers but local residents and visitors from all over Mumbai and beyond.

The festival, organised by the Upvan Art Foundation, a local not-for-profit organisation, opened to a packed first day on 10th January. Friday’s main attraction was the evening performance by Zakir Hussain, accompanied by world famous artists like flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and Japanese taiko player Leonard Eto. Saturday began with an early morning Sufi music recital by Roop Kumar Rathod.

Photo credit: Samyukta Maindarkar

While the celebrity performances have admission charges, there is no entry fee for the rest of the festival, something that has assured that people keep streaming in. Cultural performances will also include music and dance shows by different linguistic and tribal communities.

“It’s great that we have an arts and culture festival right here in Thane. Usually such events happen only in South Mumbai, or in the Western suburbs,” said one visitor. This sentiment was echoed by several others.

Rucha Mehta, visual director and curator of the Upvan Art Foundation, which has also set up a visual art exhibition at the festival, said, “Thane has a well established scene for theatre and musical performances, but not much emphasis has been given to art here yet. We wanted to open up the arts to more people.”

Photo credit: Samyukta Maindarkar

And she and the other organisers are delighted by the response they have received. “On the first day, we had a long queue outside the art exhibition pavilion that stretched all the way down the road,” she said. “We expected crowds, since this is Thane’s first such event, but we were still overwhelmed by its success.”

Over 200 local, national and international artists are being showcased at the three-day event, including big names like Akbar Padamsee, Sudhir Patwardhan and Sunil Gawde.

For Sandeep Karnavat, one of the main organisers, the festival is also an opportunity to promote the arts on an academic and professional level to young people. “We need to get out of the mindset that engineering, medicine or commerce are the only fields where one can work. The arts can be a very lucrative career option. This festival aims to nurture young people’s interest.”

To this end, the organisers involved schoolchildren in a project called Mapping the City, where they were encouraged to create a map that defined their vision of Thane. The result is a series of innovative, colourful drawings that have all been displayed along part of the walkway surrounding the lake.

Though this event has been touted as Thane’s own version of the Kala Ghoda festival, Karnavat said no comparison to the south Mumbai festival was intended. “Upvan Lake is one of the largest open spaces in Thane, and an ideal backdrop for an arts festival. It can hold an event of this scale, including stages, stalls, an amphitheatre and parking space. Plus, it brings people away from buildings and the city. The idea is to help them de-stress amongst nature.”

“I wanted to do something big or not do it at all,” he added.

*Originally published on on January 11, 2014