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Kalaa Utsavam: Weekend events you cannot miss

Singapore residents, and especially Indians in the Lion City, should gear up for a special week with Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts kicking off tonight at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Get ready for a total immersion in the dance, theatre, literature, music, exhibition and cultural heritage of India.

There are ticketed and non-ticketed shows, workshops, and community engagement events that leave the artist and audience equally enriched. Listed below are some of the highlights of the weekend during the festival.

Anjaneyam – Hanuman’s Ramayana (Dance)

Date and Time: 8 pm, November 17, Friday

Venue: Esplanade Theatre

Duration: 2hrs 20mins (including a 20-minute intermission)

Photo: Connected to India

Catch a stellar performance of the ancient Indian epic ‘The Ramayana’ through dance and music from the perspective of Hanuman. One of the most beloved characters in the story, the monkey god plays a crucial role in Prince Rama’s quest to rescue his wife, Sita, from the 10-headed demon king Ravana.

Conceptualised by Apsaras Arts, this cross-cultural production puts together a creative team from around Asia including Era Dance Theatre (Singapore), Kalakshetra Repertory Theatre (India) and Bimo Dance Theatre (Indonesia). It features an arresting juxtaposition of Indian and Southeast Asian depictions of the epic, told through Bharatanatyam and Javanese dance and set to a stirring, original score to follow the life and adventures of Hanuman, from the time of his birth, to his meeting with the exiled Prince Rama, and to the heroic battle against Ravana and his forces.

Khwaab-Sa – Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Theatre)

Date and Time: Friday-Sunday, November 17-19 (Nov 17: 8pm, Nov 18: 3pm & 8pm, Nov 19: 3pm)

Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio

Duration: 1hr 40mins (no intermission)

Khwaab sa
Photo courtesy: Esplanade

Squabbling fairies, young lovers lost in the woods, a man with a donkey’s head, and a woodland sprite armed with a magical love potion, up to serious mischief — what could possibly go wrong? This November, go under the spell of award-winning director Atul Kumar’s farcical spin on Shakespeare’s much loved classic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Audiences in Singapore will get to witness Mumbai-based Kumar's unique application of contemporary dance and Hindi gibberish to a Shakespeare play. Kumar's fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, will be seen arguing in operatic tempo, lovers expressing their angst through contemporary dance, and a theatre troupe of 16 dancers and village bumpkins talk gibberish.

The performers are set to weave Hindustani classical and electronic music, contemporary dance, spoken word, and gibberish into an enchanting landscape where fairies banter in raag, lovers express torment with their bodies, and actors converse unintelligibly.

Advisory: This performance includes mature themes. Recommended for audiences aged 13 years and above. 

#BuySingLit Book Cart (Exhibition)

Date and Time: Friday-Sunday November 17 – 19 (Nov 17: 3pm – 8.30pm, Nov 18-19: 10am – 8.30pm)

Venue: Esplanade Theatre Meeting Point

The #BuySingLit Book Cart project aims to cultivate interest in Malay and Tamil literature as well as enhance retail options for them.

Look out for the #BuySingLit Book Cart at the Esplanade and check out the collection of Tamil books by Singaporean writers. Featured books include children’s picture books and works by award-winning Singaporean writers. There are also storytelling sessions and you can meet the authors.

19 Nov, Sun, 3.45pm: Lulu and Sundeli with Prema Govin
25 Nov, Sat, 3.45pm: Rocky and Ramu with Jensrani Thangavel 
26 Nov, Sun, 3.45pm: Kaalathinaal Seitha Nandri with Prema Govin

#BuySingLit is an industry-led movement to celebrate stories from Singapore. Advocating ‘Buy Local, Read Our World’, homegrown book publishers, retailers and literary non-profits have come together to encourage more people to discover and embrace Singapore’s literature.

The book cart is managed by Crimson Earth, organised as part of #BuySingLit and supported by the National Arts Council.

Parent-Child Workshop – Basic Yoga (Workshop)

Date and Time: 11am & 2pm, Sunday, November 19

Venue: Esplanade Rehearsal Studio

Duration: 1hr 15mins (including breaks)

With the introduction of International Yoga Day and the growing popularity of the ancient art across the world, it is a good idea to focus on the practical applications of India’s cultural heritage and history. Spend a fun, healthy Sunday bonding with your child as you discover the joy and benefits of parent-child yoga. Learn relaxation techniques for a healthier body, breathing exercises that sharpen one’s focus, and get into different poses that help improve flexibility. Give it a try and start your child on yoga early.

Please bring your own yoga mat and dress comfortably.

Advisory: Recommended for children aged 5 and above. Accompanying adult must be 16 years and above.

Sharul Weds Sharul (Theatre)

Date and Time: 5pm & 8pm, Saturday, November 18

Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio

Duration: 1hr (no intermission)

Sharul weds sharul
Photo courtesy: Sharul Channa Facebook page.

Singapore’s first Indian female stand-up comedian cordially invites you to her big fat Indian wedding…to herself.

Sharul Weds Sharul is stand-up comedian Sharul Channa’s rib-tickling take on Indian weddings. From couple hashtags to the extensive wedding buffet, from Aunt Sunita to walking around the fire seven times for a promise of seven lifetimes, no matter what kind of Indian, no matter which caste, social strata or community, we have all experienced the oddest practices at Indian weddings. Whether they are superstitions or cultural traditions, we have been guilty of prioritising the part of the wedding we are most interested in, and we have all at some point questioned some of the practices.

Watch Sharul as she finds answers to some of the burning questions she has about Indian weddings. Be her guest at her wedding, and your ticket will be counted as your blessing.

Advisory: This performance includes coarse language. Recommended for audiences aged 13 years and above.

Chakra-thon (Music)

Date and Time: 9:30 am, Saturday, November 18

Venue: Various Locations

Duration: All day

In Hindustani classical music, time-specific ragas evoke moods and emotions that relate to the different periods of the day (prahar) and seasons of the year. Curated by National Arts Council Young Artist Award-winner Nawaz Mirajkar, Chakra-thon is a series of raga concerts that run from morning to dusk, at Esplanade’s performance venues as well as at different nooks and crannies of the centre.

Comprising seven free programmes which culminate in Raga Tarangini at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the whole-day affair features a whole array of local and overseas musicians.

Twelve hours, eight chakras and eight concerts—are you ready?

Check out the Esplanade website for a complete list of events during the festival.


Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation.