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India festival in France beckons Indophiles

India festival in France beckons Indophiles

Author: Ranvir Nayar, Paris
Publication: India Abroad
Date: April 21, 2001

You are a nonresident Indian (NRI) in Europe and are suddenly homesick. You would like to go and see the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay for the 17th time?

Or you want to listen to some heartrending Baul music from Bengal? Or do you want to have the feel of a good, old Indian bazaar.

This weekend you can do all this and much more in France. Just go to the 10-day Indian festival Voyage en Inde (Voyage in India) at St. Die des Vosges, a town 500 km northeast of Paris.

The festival, to be inaugurated by French Industry Minister Christian Pierret Saturday evening, features a kaleidoscope of events from screenings of popular Hindi films, music concerts, dances, a sale of Indian handicrafts, Indian food, and debates and discussions on Indian politics and society.

"The idea is to expose the people of France and specially from smaller towns in far flung areas to Indian culture. People here don't know India and have often very misplaced ideas about Indian culture," said French author and Indophile Anne Klasen, who organized the fair.

"I wanted them to have another look at India and have another idea about India, instead of the clichés that they have been used to. I did not want to show them misery since I think that they do not need to go so far away to see misery, they can see it right here," said Klasen.

Klasen says that the festival aims to show more of popular than elitist aspects of India and that is the reason that she has chosen popular films like Sholay, 1942: A Love Story, Trishul, Yaadon Ki Baraat, along with classics like Satyajit Ray's Ek Din Pratidin.

Klasen said her love for India began in the 1960s while visiting Morocco, where she saw Ray's 'Apu Trilogy', which tells the story a young village boy called Apu, who goes from the idyllic but impoverished settings of his village to the big, bad urban world.

"Since then, it had been my dream to visit India. My first visit to India was to Kerala and I was totally taken up by its environment and the people. I decided to visit India each year. And then that I thought of bringing the popular Indian culture to France," said Klasen.

This is the third such festival that has been organized by Klasen. The first two were held in southern France. Besides entertainment, on the agenda, are a series of debates and discussions about India's political, social and religious aspects. The subjects include Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, the caste system and Indian politics as well as the Mughal architecture in India.

The festival will also feature several photo exhibitions, with pictures about the Taj Mahal, tribes of Orissa, Mughal architecture in various Indian cities. Klasen has also organized a small bazaar where visitors can see and buy Indian handicrafts and objects as souvenirs.

The festival will also go to all the schools of the town. Videocassettes about India have already been distributed to the schools, which have been showing them to the students. All the students will also be treated to a typical Indian meal, which will be served in all the school canteens during the festival.

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