Festival highlights

INAUGURAL CONCERT -- Official opening of the festival at Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., evening of Indian music and dance featuring Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain, and Kathakali dance troupe. June 13. CULTURAL SYMPOSIUM -- ``The Canvas of Culture: Rediscovery of the Past as Adaptation for the Future,'' co-chaired by Mrs. Pupul Jayakar, an Indian minister of state and chairman of the Indian advisory committee of the festival, and Smithsonian secretary emeritus S. Dillon Ripley, is the scholarly centerpiece of the festival. At the Smithsonian Institution June 21-23.

SCULPTURE OF INDIA -- Stone, ivory, bronze sculpture from 3000 BC to AD 1300, with lectures, gallery tours, music, dance, and drama program. National Gallery in Washington, now through Sept. 2.

ADITI: A CELEBRATION OF LIFE -- 40 folk artists, 1,500 objects in a 14-section exhibit recreating stages of Indian life. National Museum of Natural History in Washington, now through July 28.

19th ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLIFE -- Indian performers, crafts, foods. On Washington's National Mall, June 26-30, July 3-7.

INDIA: A FESTIVAL OF SCIENCE -- 10,000 square feet of space devoted to Indian science and technology since 2500 BC. Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry June 6-Sept. 2, then in Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; and Boston.

INDIA -- Indian art from the 14th to 19th centuries, including bronzes, textiles, paintings, ivory, jade, miniatures. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Sept. 14, 1985-Jan. 14, 1986; the Metropolitan's Costume Institute will exhibit Indian court costumes, saris, decorative textiles, objets d'art, furniture Dec. 16, 1985-Sept. 1, 1986.

NEW TANTRA ART -- 80 contemporary Indian paintings. Wight Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles Dec. 17, '85-Feb. 2, '86.

THE GOLDEN EYE -- World-class architects and designers, including I. M. Pei, Jack Larsen, Mary McFadden, Milton Glaser, Mario Bellini, have been invited to India to work hand-in-hand with Indian artisans; their collaborative works will be on display at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (National Museum of Design) in New York Nov. 9, '85-Jan. 19, '86.

INDIA FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND DANCE -- Seven performances featuring ancient and new Indian performing arts. Lincoln Center in New York Sept. 10-15. Also at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17-24.

SALUTE TO INDIA -- The New York Philharmonic opens its 1985-86 season under Zubin Mehta's direction with a concert of music, musicians, and composers of India, featuring Ravi Shankar. Lincoln Center in New York, Sept. 11.

FILM-UTSAAV INDIA -- Two-part survey of 30 classic Indian films and 15 new Indian feature films, plus four documentaries. New York's Museum of Modern Art Oct. 25, 1985-Jan. 24. 1986, then in Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Berkeley, Calif.; Minneapolis; Boston; Austin, Texas; and Honolulu.

Last winter PBS inundated viewers with its TV series ``The Jewel in the Crown,'' based on Paul Scott's ``Raj Quartet'' of novels about the end of the Raj, or British rule, in India, and almost simultaneously director David Lean released his momentous film version of E. M. Forster's novel ``A Passage to India.'' The Sunday-night PBS series became so popular that fans refused to make other plans for that evening, not wanting to miss a minute of the scenes involving the dashing but tragic Indian Harry Kumar, the beastly Lt. Ronald Merrick, and the cool romantics Sarah Layton and Guy Perrine. Before Americans were totally Raj-ed out, public broadcasting stations raised pots of money during the suspenseful last episode by running interviews with the principal actors.

And moviegoers flocked to ``A Passage to India'' even before its Oscar nominations and subsequent Academy Awards.

But one prominent businessman in Washington's Indian Community, Asit K. Chatterjee, warns: ``People should not judge India by looking at that movie, because it does not say anything about India. It's all about the British Raj. It doesn't show India, its culture, its heritage.''

Indian Minister of Culture Niranjan Desai, who organized the festival, points out that the TV series and the David Lean film ``deal with the British in India. They deal with less than 10 years of history, in 200 years of British connection, while we go back 5,000 years.

`` `Jewel in the Crown' was excellent,'' says Mr. Desai, ``but it was basically a study of British India and the British class system, with India acting as a catalyst. Same with `Passage to India,' but it was more; it was the interaction of the two cultures.''

Mr. Desai speaks warmly of Richard Attenborough's recent Oscar-winning film ``Gandhi,'' as ``a moving film which conveyed the message of the man'' and talks of the Indian-US cultural connection it illustrates: ``Gandhi was very much influenced by the ideas of Thoreau on civil disobedience, and in turn he influenced Martin Luther King.''

Mr. Desai believes that American views of India are colored by two common stereotypes. ``One is India the exotic, the opulent East with the Taj Mahal, the snake charmers, and the yogis. The other stereotype is also there, very common: India as a very troubled country, a lot of poor people, shantytowns, heat, and dust, and squalor.

``There's a third image also in certain parts of America, that impinges on these two stereotypes: a successful Indian community in the United States, very highly educated, moving very highly into professional positions. . . .

``The festival is an attempt to show . . . that India is . . . a very ancient country but a very young nation, barely 37 years old, which has this tremendous capability to carry the past into the present and the future.

``You look at what we went through in October and November, the traumatic experience of the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi and the industrial disaster of Bhopal, and yet we went ahead, had our elections. It just shows the resilience of India to absorb shocks and also shows the vitality of our democratic system. None of these features are present in today's perception of India in American thinking.

``So the object of the festival is to bring India here in all its aspects. . . . Perhaps with this small window on our culture, there will be a better understanding of what India stands for and what makes India tick.''

Indian writer Santha Rama Rau, now working on a magazine memoir of E. M. Forster, says of the Forster perception of India, ``He got it right in the novel; but it's not right in Lean's film.''

From Forster, then, the last, ambiguous word on India, as the festival begins:

``How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile. The important towns they build are only retreats, their quarrels the malaise of men who cannot find their way home. India knows of their trouble. She knows of the whole world's trouble, to its uttermost depth. She calls `Come' through her thousand mouths, through objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? She has never defined. She is not a promise, only an appeal.''

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