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None to boast of as our own

None to boast of as our own
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The government agencies are working at a feverish pace to bring together the best possible Heritage Festival of Hyderabad, scheduled between April 12...

The government agencies are working at a feverish pace to bring together the best possible Heritage Festival of Hyderabad, scheduled between April 12 and 18. For that matter, Andhra Pradesh till date has no festival to call its own, that which has branded itself atleast on the national scene, leave alone international tourism circuits. While one is upbeat about celebration of any kind; going by the past experiences, one cannot help but ask � Will this festival continue for long? Or will it bite the dust once the stakeholders A change guard

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Rajeshwari Kalyanam

The Union Tourism Ministry accorded the title of the 'Best Heritage City' to Hyderabad in the year 2012. The celebrations were earmarked with the launch of a week-long Hyderabad Heritage Festival spread across the city at various heritage structures including Qutubshahi tombs, Taramati Baradari, Salarjung Museum and Chowmahalla Palace with food, music, dance and arts dominating the scene. The annual festival is in its second year and plans are in full swing to have a festival on a bigger scale.

Newer venues like Golconda Fort, Mah Laqa Bai Tomb and Purani Haveli are on the cards. This year gets more special with the award of the Best Civic Management and the Best Heritage City status to Warangal. "Without such activities the city will not develop as a destination," says Kishan Rao, Director, Chowmahalla Palace and Consultant to AP Tourism, who is planning to rope in various hotels and restaurants for the festival this year. The festival will start on April 12th and conclude on the World Heritage Day, April 18.

Cultural Festivals are not new to Hyderabad, there have been many in the past and several others will be there future. While some are initiated by the government departments, many others are being painstakingly conducted by private agencies who face many an issue to sustain their initiatives, year after year. However Andhra Pradesh till date has no festival to call its own, that which has branded itself atleast in the National scene, leave alone international tourism circuits.

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Festivals of India The desert sands of Rajasthan adorning myriad colours, as villagers in their vibrant best perform raslila - the romantic balad recreating the immortal love of Lord Krishna and Radha, folk dances and operas by amateurs and professional performers, music and gaiety marks the Brij Festival of Rajasthan that happens in the spring season (February / March) as a prelude to the festival of colours, which is yet another festival filled with fun and gaiety.

The entire calendar of the year is marked with many such festivals in Rajasthan like the Mewar Festival, Bikaner Camel Festival and Jaisalmer Desert Festival that among other things marks the amazing trips to the picturesque Sam sand dunes, where dancers and musicians recreate the magic of the ethnic desert land. Every year lakhs of tourists from across the world time their visits during these festivals.

While Odisha's famous Car Festival of Puri Jagannadh is popular for spiritual reasons, it also serves as a major tourist attraction in addition to the Puri Beach Festival. The five-day beach festival has exhibitions, cultural events, classical and folk dances, handicrafts, food festivals and night long fun on the beach. With each year the popularity of the festival is increasing and the credit goes to the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Orissa which sponsors the event and the co-sponsors include the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Department of Tourism and Government of Orissa among other. The different government and non-government agencies come together to put up the festival that only gets bigger each year.

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The Bengaluru Habba started as an event in 2003 and today it is all about celebrating the local art, artists, music, dance and food and it is one of the most awaited seasons in the capital city of Karnataka. And not to forget the Dussehra in Mysore with its magnificent Elephant procession and the numerous dance and music events, the pomp and the glory of which is enjoyed by tourists from across the world. And then there is the Onam time in Kerala with its magnificent boat races, Gujarat's Rann Kutch festival when a tented city springs up and the visitors are treated to the best that Gujarat offers in terms of the food, fine arts, craft, the Margazhi of Chennai which is the Mecca for all classical musicians and dancers, the Khajuraho Festival etc., Goa's Sunburn Festival and International Film Festival, Jaipur's Literature Festival and several such festivals across India are marked prominently in the wish list of tourists of not only India but from other countries too.

The main reason for this is these festivals serve as single window to the art and culture of the region, the food and crafts of the region in addition to providing loads of fun. Such festivals are promoted zealously by the respective tourism departments which have recognised the amazing potential in attracting large number of tourists. Most importantly these celebrations are the perfect way to preserve and promote our local art, handicrafts and handlooms and traditions.

Closer home

Coming in Andhra Pradesh, a land that is as diverse as India itself with its longest coastline in South India, has the most varied food cultures, the best of landscapes, the most beautiful rivers, lush green forests with its rich flora and fauna and an amazing repertoire of art, music, theatre and dance forms, be it the classical or the folk traditions and the most unique architecture owing to its interesting history.

And justly so it enjoys the second position in terms of tourism in India, next only to Uttar Pradesh. However, it is interesting to note what makes AP the second largest in tourism influx. With Tirupati temple attracting hordes of visitors, Andhra Pradesh has become the top tourist destination in India. According to AC Neilsen Org-Marg report, 2010, the total number of tourists ot visitor arrivals in the state during the period of 1st July 2009 to 30th June 2010 in 7,48,71,378, out of which 99%, i.e., 7,44,92,309 are due to the presence of the religious shrine Tirupati and this mostly constitutes domestic tourists and the foreign tourists is less than 1% of the total tourists to the state. This is old data; however nothing much has changed over the years if not worsened. It is definitely a matter of introspection on why tourism is being ignored as an industry in a state which otherwise has a huge potential.

Except for religious places like temples and week-end destination like Suryalanka and Papikondalu (which too have a lot to be desired in terms of maintenance), there is absolutely no emphasis on tourism. While most of other states have cultural and tourism oriented festivals happening in the most exciting manner, AP state has none to call its own. Even age-old festivals like Medaram Jatara and Rottela Panduga in Nellore are localised and no effort is being made to elevate them, considering they are the festivals that enjoy great popularity.

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Hit and miss scenario In 1998, AP State Government started a festival of music, dance and theatre and called it the 'Swarnandhrapradesh Festival'. The one week festival featured the best of the Indian talent. Some of the biggest names including Ustad Bismillah Khan, Santoor maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sarma, Birju Maharaj, Kelucharan Mahapatra, Vempati China Satyam, Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Anup Jalota, Zakir Hussian and several other stalwarts performed during the festival, which was a week-long festival starting on November 1.

The festival continued successfully for five years featuring masters in addition to local talent, who has the opportunity to perform and showcase their art to the masters. A change of regime saw drastic change and the new government obviously had other priorities when it decided to discontinue the festival. An effort waiting to take off was nipped in the bud putting a stop to any further work in the direction. The Visakha Beach Festival that started gloriously around the same time is reduced to a mere formality today. Hyderabad Film Club conducted an International Film Festival for two years 2007 and 2008.

In the second year the week-long festival featured around 150 films, hosted around 45 delegates from different countries and screened the films at Prasadz. But it was discontinued for the obvious lack of funds and support.

While one is pained by the scenario, various organisations, in their own way continue to put in efforts to flag off cultural festivals in Hyderabad. The International Kuchipudi Festival by Department of Culture, the various theatre festivals happening around the city, the literary festival being conducted bravely year after year by Muse, the 100 days of Hydourite festival, Krishnakriti Festival, Bonjour Festival of the French government and several others. While one hopes that these festivals sustain over the coming years too, it is definitely the government that has to spearhead and support the programs in a more systematised manner.

Mohammed Ali Baig, noted theatre personality who organises the annual Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival believes that such festivals need wholesome support of the government. Last year he presented his play 'Taramati' at the Taramati baradari for the festival. This year he is presenting his play, 'Quli - Dilon ka Shahzaada' at Golconda Fort. It is the stage version of the era of poet-prince Quli Qutub Shah and his danseuse beloved Bhagmati. He is playing the role of Quli Qutub Shah. He shares.

"It is high time we have had such a festival. It's not easy for any individual organisation to conduct such festivals and continue them over the years, despite the right intentions and efforts. However, it is up to the state government to come forward and help these festivals. Not just by providing pittance of few thousands of rupees but they should really pay the right respect such festivals deserve. The government and the concerned ministry should wake up and pay attention to such festivals."

Need of the hour In addition to sponsorship, the need of the hour is a coordinated effort of all agencies, individuals and institutions in coming together to make such efforts as large scale initiatives that see larger response. In today's day of dynamic communication means, a well-planned festival showcasing the rich art and craft and culture of the city and a festival that has something for everyone, will take no time to gain in popularity.

And they are the vehicles to promote tribal arts like Mandechchula Katha, Harikatha and Burra Katah, Shero shayari, classical music, folk art forms and classical dance forms like Kuchipudi, Perini, Andhra Natyam and Vilasini Nayam, the handlooms, the bidri and other crafts, the vibrant film making � including the amazing short stories and documentaries created here - There is so much to show but such little initiative.

In addition to sponsorship, the need of the hour is a coordinated effort of all agencies, individuals and institutions in coming together to make such efforts as large scale initiatives that see larger response

If this is the state of affairs in the capital city with the official machinery in place, one can only imagine the state of other places in AP which are equally if not more rich in fine arts and performing arts.

"We do not know how to present ourselves," says Sumanaspati Reddy, Radio Broadcaster and promoter of the Documentary Circle of Hyderabad. "While private initiatives cannot sustain on their own, neither the industry nor the government believes in supporting them. Even when some events are being conducted, there is no effort in trying to reach out to the national scene.

While it is a valid reason that we do not have quality in some areas, we also don't know how to feature what is good. There are around 6-7 folk art forms and fantastic performers. There is a need to project our art forms with informed understanding for an audience who may not always be Telugu people. An English commentary can be used. Focus can be on a particular artist instead of presenting a large group on one platform. Madhya Pradesh does it by projecting people who have the range to cut across language barriers."

Gone are the days when one always found excuse in that the younger generation is not interested. Look at Kalaghoda, a festival that started as non-profit initiative in Mumbai's art district, has progressively gained in popularity. This year the footfall has been over 5 lakhs. And one sees as many exuberant youngsters as the grave looking seniors. There is something for everyone there and that is the key.

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