Artistes singing traditional Gujarati songs from a stage on a 43,000-sq ft ground without any audience — this year’s Navaratri may be like no other.
For organisers of Kora Kendra Navratri in Borivali, one of the popular spots in the city for Garba during Navratri, however, this seems to be the only option in case they do not hear from the State government.
“We have sent a proposal to the state government asking for permissions to organise garba (a traditional Gujarati folksong), while observing measures of social distancing. The ground accommodates 10,000 people, but we could cap it to 4,000. If not, we will only install the Mataji’s idol and broadcast performances online from the ground,” Ganesh Naidu, organiser of the event, told The Sunday Express.
The nine-day festival, which starts from October 17 this year, would earlier fetch over Rs 25 lakh through ticket sales alone, Naidu said. Mumbai’s open grounds, and even roads and alleys in parts of the city’s Gujarati-dominated neighbourhoods, come alive with crowds dancing to garba and dandiya numbers on Navratri evenings. According to garba and dandiya organisers, the preparation for Navratri usually begins six months ahead of the festival — grounds are booked, artistes finalised, sponsors sought and promotions kicked off.
“We were hoping for some miracle, though it seems unlikely now,” popular Indipop singer Preeti, part of Preeti and Pinky duo, said. The Gujarati sisters, best known for having sung the Bollywood song ‘Piya Piya’, are sought-after artistes for Navratri events. “Ours is a band of 35 musicians. We are worried about them, but we also don’t want to take a risk. We have not finalised any virtual shows because the magic of live interaction with the audience is irreplaceable,” Preeti said. Possibly the first time in her three-decade career, singer Falguni Pathak, who has been Mumbai’s Navratri mascot for many years, will not be performing at offline events this year, her spokesperson Rushabh Vasa said.
With less than a month to go for the festival, the event organisers are still uncertain whether there will be any spark in the festivities this time around. “I will try my best to see if I can find work for the artistes associated with us, even if it is virtual. We have also approached few banquet halls, but we will need to work out the feasibility of it,” said Tushar Sonigra, who runs a music band ‘Beats 16’. Sunil Soni, a Gujarati folk musician said, “Other businesses have begun and we hope to start working too. Apart from the financial losses we have borne because of the lockdown, Navratri is an opportunity for us to publicise ourselves through associations with popular garba venues.”
Soni’s School of Garba Dance (SSGD), a popular round-the-year school for learning garba, is likely to organise events for its students and their families at banquet halls, said co-founder Suhrad Soni. “We have a concept called ‘relive Navratri’ where we used to host garba events through the year. Our batches start in January. When the lockdown started, we had already begun training 300 students,” he added. Choreographer Ajit Bagwe, known for offering garba crash courses, rues about lack of possibility in partaking in an event this year with his team of nearly 100 students.
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