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Bonjour India

Seine and Sensibility


SALAAM-NAMASTE : (Above) The show, 'Luminocity', which will combine electronic music, visual arts and fashion;(below) a still from the 'Ballet Preljocaj'


When I do happen to look for what is most fundamental in me, what I find is a taste for happiness. I have a very keen liking for people. At the centre of my work there is an invincible sun. " This was Albert Camus' famous comeback to a journalist's poser about his reputation as a nihilist, an impression shared by not a few who are distantly acquainted with his work. In this, the year of Camus, whose 100th birth centenary will be celebrated world over, France's most influential son will be widely read, debated and better understood. So too in India, where Camus is part of the lineup of Bonjour India, the 3-month long French cultural festival that took off this month, and will continue well into March.

Camus will make an appearance at Bonjour India via a symposium titled, My Favourite Camus, organised by The Book Office of the French embassy. It will gather Indian and French intellects who will each talk about the Camus - writer, radical, philosopher - who spoke individually to them.

It's not all thought, but plenty of action too at Bonjour India this year. In its second coming, the festival has upped the ante in the scale and grandeur of its events. Unlike the 2009 edition which spread itself over 18 cities and 40 events, this year's lineup is leaner, with 30 events across 15 cities. "We've made the programme more compact, but we've got bigger names and we've working on a bigger scale, " says Aruna Adiceam, cultural attache at the Institut Francais en Inde. Bonjour India is a product of the Institut Francais, which has collaborated with agencies like the Alliance Francaise, the ICCR, and several private partners.

Although it reprises the familiar fomula of the cultural festival - encompassing elements of the arts, gastronomy, academia, fashion and so on - Bonjour India (Part Deux) tries hard to surprise - and it does. Within the ambit of gastronomy for example, the festival will stage, across several cities, a public picnic. Although, for logistical reasons, the picnics will be hosted on the lawns of large hotels and will be paid affairs, the repast on the grass will remain true to the European practice, with wicker hampers, chequered picnic blankets, live music - in other words, everything but the Seine. Those who prefer their meals indoors, can hike to the 'French bistros' that will be temporarily quartered here. Typical bistro cuisine, including coq au vin, creme brulêe, bouillabaisse and millefeuille, will be served at select Indian restaurants that will double as bistros for the occasion. French ingredients and wines have already started working their way into the country.


In a separate event, art and apperitifs will convene to stage what's called the Floating Buffet, a victual spectacle. Here, helium balloons will anchor choice morsels in midair, and visitors will be called to indulge in the food, and observe simultaneouly the flight of the balloons as they're made lighter for the consumption. The two artists of La Cellule (Becquemin&Sagot), who've conceptualised the installation, want participants to chew on the two expressions of desire - sublimation and consumption.
Clearing the table of food and bringing academics to the plate, the festival will organise a scientific seminar on astronomy, to be led by Denis Savoie (astronomer and sundial expert, a field of study called gnomonics) and Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud (astrophysicist at the Astrophysical Department of the French Atomic Energy Commission) along with Indian specialists.

From the sun into the shade, the festival takes us to a nocturnal sound and light show at the Jantar Mantar called Luminocity, where electronic music, visual arts and fashion will combine. Another festival highlight, also to take place at the Jantar Mantar, is the ariel acrobatics show, Flying Angels (Place des anges) which was part of the opening act of the London Olympics last year. The feature will place acrobats dressed as angels on tyroliens, and from their spotlit perches above the crowd, they'll shower the public with feathers, creating a supernatural climax.

In locating many of their events outdoors, and in public spaces, Bonjour India attempts to return to the Indian streetscape (a platform we've lately lost to crime and policing) the artistic vibrancy that has always been innate to European street culture. "It has been difficult in many cities to get the authorities to sanction the use of public spaces, but where we have got approval, we want to show that these places can be used as much for leisure as for political protests, " Adiceam says.
Bonjour India's playbill is long and varied, and most of its offerings are free to the public.
As far as international dos go, this one just might be the big cheese.

For details, visit www. bonjour-india. in

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