Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Navaratri at Wesleyan

Each year Wesleyan joins in the celebration of Navaratri, a nine-day festival celebrated throughout India. In conjunction with the Wesleyan Center for the Arts, a condensed (six days), but diverse set of lectures and performances will connect Middletown with the cities and villages of India.

While some student events have taken place over the past two days, the public celebration begins Wednesday afternoon with a lecture by B. Balasubrahmaniyan on Bollywood Music Culture (4:15 pm in the CFA Cinema, admission free), followed by a Bollywood Dance Workshop and a showing of the hit Bollywood film, directed by Mani Ratnam, Guru, at Beckham Hall in Fayerwether (Tickets $10 for the general public)

In a phone interview, B. explained that Navaratri is a celebration of the defeat of the buffalo-headed demon, who received a protection from death from Shiva. The demon is defeated by the goddess Devi. This defeat is celebrated as an ongoing recognition of the hoped for defeat of good over evil.

The celebration of the festival in India includes concerts, worship and food.

And while Bollywood films are not directly connected to the festival, their use of song and dance mirrors that of the festival.

According to Balasubrahmaniyan, nearly the entire output of the Indian film industry each year are these Bollywood films.

"You can hear every style of Indian music in these films," he said. "Indian classical music, folk music, pop music, Western music - even ethnic music like Salsa. These films are influenced by Western cinema, but they are a central part of Indian culture today."

Balasubrahmaniyan says that cinema, in theaters, is still very popular, even in the smallest villages. Huge crowds show up for a new film.

"The audience sings along, and claps and there is even dancing in the theater. But if the songs are bad, the audience will walk away angry."

The Navaratri festival celebration at Wesleyan continues through October 5 with musical performances, lectures and dance workshops.

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