Kalaa Utsavam 2016: Programme Line-up!


Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Arts Festival celebrated annually during the festive period of Deepavali –is back with its 15th year edition. Launched in 2002 as a three-day festival, Kalaa Utsavam has since grown into a 10-day festival that presents an exciting selection of classical to contemporary performances by acclaimed Indian artists from Singapore and beyond.

This year of the festival presents favourites such as Bombay Jayashri, Anil Srinivasan, Kalakshetra Repertory Company, Ranga Shankara, and Strings as well as popular artists like Devdutt Pattanaik, Meesha Shafi and Arundhati Nag. Join in from 18 – 27 Nov as Esplanade celebrate the best of Indian theatre, music and dance.

Here is a list of all ticketed programmes lined-up for this year.

1) Guru Vandanam – To Sir with Love
Featuring Bombay Jayashri & Abhishek Raghuram (India)

It takes an innovator to create a distinctive style, but a true luminary to establish a musical tradition. In his lifetime, the late Lalgudi Jayaraman was both, having created the Lalgudi bani (meaning “style” in Hindi) in the mid-1960s that continues to resonate in the Indian classical music world today. A consummate violinist, vocalist and composer revered for his tonal control and innovation, Lalgudi was among the legendary trinity of carnatic musicians responsible for establishing the violin as a solo instrument within the genre. He was known to “coax lucid lyrics and a pitch-perfect human voice out of the instrument” (The Hindu).

Celebrating the man, his legacy and his unparalleled artistry, Bombay Jayashri, Abhishek Raghuram, Vittal Ramamurthy, Embar Kannan, Anantha R Krishnan, B Ganapathyraman and Ojas Adhiya bring you an evening of some of his most beautiful creations, ranging from varnams to tillanas and kritis and compositions that he made popular.

Date: 25 Nov 2016 (Fri), 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets: S$35 Limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors: S$18


2) In Concert with Strings featuring Meesha Shafi
Pop rock duo Strings featuring Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia need no introduction. Last here in Singapore at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2012, the pair returns this year with more of their impassioned display of guitar skills, rock tunes and compelling fusion folk melodies.

This evening not only sees them perform their hits, but also showcases them as the executive producers of the extremely popular televised music programme – Coke Studio Pakistan. Joining them on stage is up-and-coming Pakistani singer and actress Meesha Shafi, who made her singing debut in Coke Studio. She has appeared in television blockbuster Mor Mahal; the Hollywood film The Reluctant Fundamentalist; as well as the critically acclaimed Bhaag Milka Bhaag.

Date: 26 Nov 2016 (Sat), 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets: S$40*, S$60*, S$80, S$100^*Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$28, S$48


3) Stree Shakti by Bharathaa Arts (Singapore)
A strong-willed woman who defied the laws of the Universe to save her husband from the clutches of hell; the chaste, justice-seeking wife who avenges the death of her husband; and a conflicted, virtuous mother who struggles to find forgiveness despite the death of her 100 sons. Three epic tales of love, justice and virtue unfold through the eyes of Savitri, Kannagi and Ghandari—heroines of Indian literature who epitomise the sacred feminine power referred to as shakti. 

Following a successful Singapore premiere in 2014 and a second staging at the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 2015, Bharathaa Arts’ Stree Shakti at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2016 explores the different manifestations of shakti through bharatanatyam. Set to an original score by Singapore and Malaysian artists, this dance production features 15 dancers performing to live instrumentation.

Date: 18 & 19 Nov 2016 (Fri & Sat), 8pm
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Tickets: S$30^* (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


4) Girish Karnad’s Bikhre Bimb – Broken Images
by Ranga Shankara starring Arundhati Nag (India)

Winner of best playwright, actor and director at META 2007

Manjula Nayak is an English literature professor who hasn’t found much success with her Kannada short stories. But as soon as she writes her first English novel, it becomes a bestseller and garners her international acclaim. She is invited on television to introduce her work, and in a twist of events, is confronted by her own image on the screen. Her virtual alter ego questions her betrayal of her language and identity.

Originally written in Kannada by celebrated playwright Girish Karnad exclusively for Ranga Shankara in 2004, Bikhre Bimb (Odakalu Bimba in Kannada) is the Hindi adaptation which premiered the following year to rave reviews, directed by Karnad himself and KM Chaitanya. The play explores the relationship between language and identity in response to the proliferation of Indian authors who have found success as English language writers. Veteran actress Arundhati Nag reprises her role as Manjula. Performed in Hindi with English subtitles.

Date: 22 & 23 Nov 2016 (Tue & Wed), 8pm
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Tickets: S$30^* (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


5) Saraswati Antharvahini
by Kalakshetra Repertory Company (India)

India’s premier bharatanatyam dance company

A mythical tributary, a life-giving source, a symbol of knowledge—the Saraswati was one of the main rivers mentioned in the ancient Vedic poems of Rig Veda, believed to have disappeared into the ground over time. Today, only the legends remain.

From Rukmini Devi’s prestigious dance academy – Kalakshetra Foundation – comes this original production that weaves the myths and tales of the Saraswati River with the poetry of dance and music. Tracing the history of this waterway that has been erased by time and natural forces, Saraswati Antarvahini is the creative result of archaeological, anthropological and cultural findings, articulated through a dance narrative that captures the pulse of a river so closely intertwined with life in the Indian sub-continent.

This will be performed by the Kalakshetra Repertory Company which is one of the leading professional repertory companies of the country. The repertory company has a corpus of more than 25 productions that are performed all over the world.

Date: 26 & 27 Nov 2016 (Sat & Sun), 8pm
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Tickets: S$30^* (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


6) You Are Here
by Pooja Nansi, directed by Joel Tan (Singapore)

Pooja Nansi is getting married, and planning a wedding in Singapore is making her think about her roots. As with all migration stories, hers bears the weight of travellers past, a complex cultural map of her parents’ move from India to Singapore, and the border-crossing love story of her grandparents. At the same time, her life is a constant, often funny struggle with finding a place for her culturally-mixed voice within Singapore’s idiosyncratic ethnic rubric.

This one-woman show, interspersed with Pooja’s trademark mix of poetry and storytelling, is an attempt to find a place for her family’s messy sprawl of stories in orderly Singapore. You Are Here is about navigating and positioning, and as Pooja soon discovers, a map doesn’t provide one with answers; it only suggests where one should begin—whether in discovering and orienting oneself, putting things into perspective, or re-examining things.

Directed and dramaturged by Joel Tan, You Are Here was first performed to great acclaim at Checkpoint Theatre’s What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem in November 2015. Earlier this year, as part of Esplanade’s The Studios series, it was presented as a work-in-progress.

Date: 18 Nov 2016, Fri, 7.30pm | 19 Nov 2016, Sat, 3pm & 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets: S$30^* | Floor seating: $10 (Limited capacity) (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


7) Tales in Black and White
by Devdutt Pattanaik and Anil Srinivasan (India)

Renowned mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik joins forces with close collaborator, master pianist Anil Srinivasan to explore Indian mythology and its depictions of the feminine divine. From symbolisms invoking power and strength, to those that extol the more discernibly softer and subtler characterisations, stories of Durga, Lakshmi, Sati, Parvati, Saraswati and Kali come alive in Pattanaik’s storytelling, of simple anecdotes and stories, interspersed with music.

Dr Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist and author whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology, and management. He has written a number of books related to Hindu mythology, including Myth = Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, a novel, The Pregnant King, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata and Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana.

Date: 20 Nov 2016, Sun, 5pm
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets: S$30^* (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


8) King of Ghosts
by Soumik Datta Arts (UK) feat. members of Orchestra of the Music Makers (Singapore)

Step into a cinematic world of fantasy adventure conjured by master storyteller and Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement recipient Satyajit Ray, a giant of Indian cinema. Follow the off-beat journey of Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne, two musicians who are driven out of their villages for their mediocre talent and are granted three boons by the benevolent King of Ghosts: they can have all the food and clothes they want by clapping their hands; travel anywhere with the magical slippers they are granted; and render their audience immobile when they perform.

British sarod virtuoso and composer Soumik Datta revives Ray’s award-winning 1965 Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne with a reimagined score that features the haunting sounds of the sarod, Indian folk rhythms, and strings. With scenes from the film projected on a large screen, King of Ghosts takes you on an atmospheric, breathtaking journey through time and space, against the backdrop of a monochrome rural India.

Commissioned and toured by the Edinburgh Mela in 2014, King of Ghosts was composed by Datta, percussionist Cormac Byrne and Johannes Berauer. It has been toured to Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, Hong Kong and Malaysia. This performance at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2016 will be presented as a reduced version for  a string sextet, featuring musicians from the Orchestra of the Music Makers and Byrne on percussions.

Soumik was last featured at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2012 in Sounds of Bengal, a travelogue film accompanied by live music, based on his travels across the Indian state of Bengal.

Date: 25 Nov 2016 (Fri), 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets: S$30^* (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


9) Utterly, Butter-ly Stories of Krishna (Singapore)
Produced by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Did you know that when Krishna was a child, he wore an enchanted peacock feather, loved to eat butter and played a magic flute? Utterly Butter-ly Stories of Krishna follows the adventures of him as a young boy growing up in Vrindhavan. Watch the stories of how he defeats a monstrous serpent with many heads and gains divine powers to lift a mountain with his little finger unfold through Indian dance and music.

Directed by Carina Hales and script by Gauri Gupta, with music by Renu Suresh, this dance theatre production features dancers Ponnamma Devaiah, Kalaivani Kumareswaran, Krithika Somsundram and Varsha Vishwanath, with actor/narrator Sangeetha Dorai.

Date: 27 Nov 2016, Sun, 11am, 2pm & 5pm
Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets: S$18


10) Vasantham LIVE! Samarpanam (Singapore)
The Vasantham music extravaganza of the year has arrived with this special edition of Vasantham LIVE! Samarpanam.

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Vasantham Boys band led by Mohd Raffee, performing their popular hits and Kollywood songs. Catch your favourite local singers Rishi Kumaar, Shabir Music Ensemble, Lady Kash and Suthasini. Join hosts Jaynesh and Bharathi, together with Vasantham drama actors and actresses as well as Oli 96.8FM DJs in the flesh.

Don’t miss out on the special meet-and-greet session after the show. Performed in Tamil.


Date: 18 Nov 2016 (Fri), 8pm
Time: Esplanade Theatre
Tickets: S$25*, S$40^ (* Concessions for students, NSFs & seniors: S$18)


Check out our event calendar for more details on Kalaa Utsavam 2016 programe.




We are a bunch of desis, very much like you, who moved to this urban land and are trying to call it home. For us too, it doesn’t matter which part of the world we go, we carry our desi likes and dislikes with us. We explore, like and love all things new, but cherish and miss the old. We do not stop by the temple so often now, but we still close our eyes and silently pray as we pass by. We explore, travel, evolve and make new friends but we stay close to our roots and loved ones. We love pizzas and satays, but nothing matches the tandoori tikkas and idli dosai from back home. We are busier in our lives than ever before, but we never miss celebrating weddings and festivals in our own grand style. This is us – you and me – Urbandesis!

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