Veteran theatre artists Amal Allana and her husband Nissar Allana visited the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and lauded the contemporary art festival for its “varied” ways of responding to a “strong” central theme.
Filmmakers Nandita Das, Kunaal Roy Kapur and Geethu Mohandas, too, visited the 108-day event, praising the line-up of the exhibits under a core subject and stressing the need for fairer gender equations in society.
For the Allanas, this was their third visit to the biennale (inaugural in 2012) that is currently in its fourth edition. “The festival reminds us of the kind of world we are living in — largely frightening, yet occasionally lending hope,” said stage director-designer Amal, 71, who is chairperson of the National School of Drama, her alma mater in Delhi.
“There is so much of violence and coldness around,” added the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, who has directed around 60 plays. All the same, there are stories for us to be optimistic,” she added, citing the example of the works of Bengal-born young Delhiite artist Vicky Roy, whose photographs also reveal his wonderful story of emerging from the pangs of poverty and coming out with images that went on to earn global fame.
“Art should not always deal with sadness and sorrow,” said 73-year-old Nissar, known for his exceptional ways of stage designing. “I believe art is also celebration of life, where you can be like a child and see everything beautiful.”
Nandita, at the sea-facing and sprawling Aspinwall, said on Tuesday the venue was “fantastic” and that every artwork bore a unique story yet stuck to the overarching theme. “I wish this were a travelling exhibition so that at least some works would go to other parts of the country,” she noted. “It is sad that even in the 21st century we have to talk about the need for more women participating. Something that should be otherwise be very natural and normal…”
“I really feel, I shouldn’t be called a female director, or someone shouldn’t be called a woman curator. Somebody is directing and writing, and you are thinking of their gender identity!” Nandita said, congratulating Anita Dube for the curation of the ongoing biennale.
Geethu, too, spoke on similar lines, expressing happiness over stronger women participation at the ongoing biennale. “I think cinema and art can’t be gender-biased about anything,” she said. “You see the artist, not their gender.”
Actor-director Kunaal Roy Kapur, accompanied by his artist-wife Shayonti, said it was “wonderful” to see the way the works have been curated. “The subjects may appear to be widely different, but there is an underlying common theme—whether it is about sexuality, caste, creed or nationality,” noted the 40-year-old Mumbaikar. “Amazing that it brings so many artists together using a singular subject.”
The host city of Kochi itself has a layered history, with so many different cultures having gone into its spirit over the centuries, he noted. “It is such a thriving place!”