SINGAPORE– Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay presents the 17th edition of Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts from 16 to 25 November 2018. This year, the festival features performances by top artists who have revolutionised their art forms. They are sitar maverick Niladri Kumar, alternative rock band Avial and dancer/choreographer Leela Samson. Audiences can also look forward to five productions—including three new Singapore works co-produced or produced by Esplanade—that tell the courageous stories of mythical heroes and superwomen revered in modern-day Indian culture.

Said Rajeswari Ramachandran, Producer, The Esplanade Co Ltd, “Through our programmes at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts this year, we focus on how traditional art forms and stories can be made contemporary and relevant to our times. Groundbreaking artists like Niladri Kumar, Avial and Leela Samson have gone against the grain and made an impact in their respective fields. The Indian arts and culture has many inspiring stories of mythical heroes and heroines that are still relatable to us. We invite everyone to come and savour the rich Indian heritage and be inspired by the works of these artists and stories.”


In the Esplanade Concert Hall, Kalaa Utsavam presents two concerts featuring musicians who have made innovations in their respective musical genres. World renowned sitar icon Niladri Kumar brings his slick style of sitar playing to audiences in a concert that will leave both orthodox and progressive music lovers spellbound. He is known for having invented his own instrument, the zitar, for being the first to go electric and for his efforts to make this traditional art form relevant and interesting to the younger generation. Critics call him the “Asian Hendrix”, praising his mastery of the sitar and his swiftness and magical ability to produce soul-stirring compositions.

Alternative rock lovers can look forward to a concert by popular Kerala-based band Avial. A decade ago, the band made headlines in India’s English-singing dominated indie rock scene when they produced genre-bending, moody Malayalam rock written in their native tongue. The band is inspired by a broad swathe of music influences including electronic, folk and alternative rock, infusing its songs with earthy Malayalam poetry on social and political issues.

For the second time, Kalaa Utsavam presents acclaimed choreographer Leela Samson & Spanda Dance Company. Through Spanda Dance Company, Leela is known for reinterpreting the vocabulary of the classical dance form of bharatanatyam and for her bharatanatyam group choreography, as the form is predominantly performed solo. The group will perform NADI – The River, a work that explores the love and longing, the physical changes and the deep philosophy that the river inspired through the centuries-old voices of India’s poets.


Audiences are also invited to be inspired through five productions that tell the tales of heroes and superwomen found in the Indian culture. These include three new Singapore works coproduced or produced by Esplanade

Parasu – The Story of an Ultimate Warrior by Singapore’s Avant Theatre tells the story of Parasurama, the valiant warrior sage who is the sixth avatar or manifestation of Lord Vishnu. The production follows some of Parasurama’s trials and tribulations, exploring his struggle of having to choose between duty and righteousness. The work is an Esplanade co-production and a rare original work of Singapore Tamil theatre in recent years. It demonstrates Esplanade’s commitment to partnering Singapore theatre groups to produce works of Tamil theatre, such as its previous commissions of Adukku Veettu Annasamy, stage adaptations of a popular 1960s radio play written by pioneer Singapore Tamil writer P. Krishnan. The trilogy by Ravindran Drama Group was staged from 2015 to 2018.

Bali by India’s Adishakti Theatre is a retelling of the crucial events that led to the death of the monkey king Bali, who commanded the army of monkeys that helped Rama win his war against the demon king Ravana in the Indian epic Ramayana. The play is a meditation on justice, ethics and morality and it explores the notion of right or wrong through the viewpoints of different characters.

In her second consecutive Kalaa Utsavam outing, Singapore actress and stand-up comedian Sharul Channa returns with Disco Sheela and other Indian Superwomen, yet another hilarious one-woman show. Produced by Esplanade and directed by Kumar, the work looks at four different kinds of women in the Indian community and their struggles. It is a celebration of each and every woman, who is a superwoman in her own right or way.

Akshayambara by India’s Dramanon examines what happens when roles are reversed in a male-dominated theatre practice like yakshagana. This experimental play uses both modern theatrical tools and the dance drama to create a contemporary narrative that raises questions on female representation and male ownership. The play questions what happens to the interpretation and performance of gender when a man plays a woman and when a woman plays a man and who is the real woman and who is the real man in such an instance. In the play, a male artist in female costume plays the virtuous Draupadi and espouses the cause of women, while in a tradition-defying move, a woman dons the masculine form of Kaurava, a legendary king from the Mahabharatha who is driven by lust and power.

Ganga – The Heavenly Princess is a new Esplanade-produced show for children that tells the story of Ganga, the mischievous daughter of the mighty mountain king Himalaya who lives in heaven. It follows Ganga as she uses her power to save the Earth from severe drought, bringing back the rain and restoring greenery.


Kalaa Utsavam continues its efforts to showcase the next generation of artists with a concert by 28-year-old Texas-born music prodigy Vishaal Sapuram. Vishaal is one of the rare young artists making headway with the chitravina, an ancient 20 or 21-string lute which resembles a veena (slide lute) without frets, and sounds like a combination of the veena and a violin. Vishaal started teaching at 10 years old and travels the world to give lectures, demonstrations, workshops and classes.

Fans of Vasantham dramas and local movies must not miss Vasantham Live: Nenjukulle which features local Tamil songs performed by Singapore artists Suthasini, Vishnu Balaji, Satthia and many more.

Audiences keen on a hands-on experience can look forward to a series of ticketed workshops during the festival. These include parent-child workshops on Basic Indian Dance and Basic Yoga, as well as a workshop on the Indian martial art form of kalaripayattu.

The festival also features a line-up of free programmes that reflect the diversity of the Indian arts and culture.

Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2018 is made possible with the generous support of our Sponsor, Singapore Press Holdings and SPH Gift of Music, and our Free Programme Supporter – Bowen Enterprises Pte Ltd

Tickets for Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2018 are available for purchase on, at Esplanade’s Box Office at the Mezzanine level (Tel: +65 6828 8377), the SISTIC Hotline (Tel: +65 6348 5555) and all SISTIC’s outlets now.

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Photo Credits:”Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay”