The 28th Pune Festival kicked off on Friday evening with former MP Suresh Kalmadi, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, former union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and actor Sharmila Tagore lighting the lamp.
The festival is held every year as a part of the Ganeshotsav. The lifetime achievement award was conferred to Tagore, while other Bollywood personalities who were present at the inauguration included Mallika Sherawat, Shekhar Suman, Suraj Pancholi and Pooja Hegde.
Interestingly, it has been more than 25 years that Pune Festival enthusiasts have witnessed the festival being inaugurated with the Ganesh Vandana by Hema Malini, film actor and MP.
However, this year, since the actor was scheduled to attend another event, she could not perform at the Pune Festival. So far, Malini has been giving the first performance of each of her ballets at the Pune Festival in Ganesh Vandana. The Ganesh Vandana, this year, was presented by Arundhati Patwardhan, Tejaswini Sathe, Pracheeti Dange and group.
The organisers of Pune festival had been saying that Hema Malini would make her appearance at the festival but her absence was felt at the inauguration. “The actress will not be there for the Pune festival as she is out of the country,” said Deepak Bidkar, media coordinator for the festival.
“Hema Malini has been patron of the Pune festival and has been performing a ballet here for years. The actress has been the face of the festival for long and her absence is bound to be felt,” said a former associate of the festival. The actress not performing for some reason would be understood, he said, adding, “It was expected that being a patron she should at least be present on the stage during the inauguration.”
At the festival, while the Sanai Vadan was presented by Tukaram Daithankar, the welcome speech was by given Devika Nadig and Yogesh Deshpande.
The inaugural ceremony also witnessed a folk dance titled ‘Colorful Festivals of Maharashtra’. A song was presented on the 125th anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The event ended with a lavani performance.