One of the biggest annual events in the cultural calendar of Pune is the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, which takes place in December each year and sees stalwarts of Hindustani music from across the world perform. The audience is equally diverse. Breaking from tradition, this year the organisers of the festival announced, at the last minute, that the venue for the festival — which has been the New English School Ramanbaug grounds for over 30 years — has been changed to a much farther location as the school authorities cancelled the permission. Local civic authorities jumped in to help by announcing more bus routes to the new venue and clearing other approvals.
Pune is often referred to as the cultural capital of Maharashtra, with an abundance of theatre, music, literature and film presence in the city. One of its most iconic venues is the Balgandharva Rangmandir. Among the oldest auditoriums in the city, it occupies an important place in the sociocultural fabric of Pune. As the PMC announced plans to redevelop the five-decade-old auditorium, theatre exponents and activists such as filmmaker Amol Palekar led protests questioning the intent behind the move. Currently, the plan has been stalled.
Another incident when Pune theatres made national news was when a few Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers barged into a PVR cinema hall and hit an assistant manager, over arguments of
high prices of food. The incident led to nationwide debates.
This year, one of the important events in theatre in Pune was the revival of the iconic play Mahanirvan, by playwright Satish Alekar. The two-part Marathi play was originally written in 1974, and is considered one of the finest pieces of artistic craftsmanship. It has been translated in over a dozen languages and has inspired several theatre groups and plays across the country. This year, after a gap of nearly ten years, Alekar returned to the stage with the play, albeit with a new cast.
A collaboration of five artists, led by visual artist Raju Sutar, became part of an official collateral exhibition at the prestigious Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Textile artist Vaishali Oak became the only participant from India to showcase at the 10th International Fiber Art Biennale in Beijing, in mid-October.
Another important event in theatre was the completion of a decade of the city-based Natak Company group, which has several members from the film and theatre industry, including Nipun Dharmadhikari, Amey Wagh and Siddharth Menon.
Litterateurs, writers and sociologists from 140 countries were part of the 84th PEN International Congress that was hosted by the Savitribai Phule Pune University. The meet focussed on critical situation for freedom of expression in India, representing voices of women in literature, among other issues.
Several Pune-based authors released books that made it to the bestseller lists. Notable among these were Sudha Menon’s Feisty at Fifty, Manjiri Prabhu’s Voice
of the Runes, and Deepak Dalal’s The Paradise Flycatcher.
Filmmakers from Pune also won accolades. At the National Film Awards, Prasad Pal’s directorial debut Kaccha Limbu won the Best Film award and Nipun Dharmadhikari’s Dhappa bagged the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Film on National Integration. Mhorkya received the Special Mention Award and Best Children’s Film and Nagraj Manjule got the Best Director Award for the non-feature