The Rishikesh Art and Film Festival (RAFF) took place in Rishikesh from March 3 to March 13, 2017. The event was organised and consistently distributed all over Rishikesh and Ganga, with events at – Shatrugan Ghat, Triventi Ghat, Beatles Ashram, Ganga Resort and the Whitesand Beach as well.
The festival aimed at weaving the local communities and international guests together in celebration of creativity in Rishikesh. The theme for the inaugural year of the event was ‘Sacred Life in India,’ encompassing pilgrimages, holy festivals, temple art, village life, yoga and meditation. It was designed to involve as well as to sensitise the local community to social issues through various art forms and uplifting the artists of Rishikesh and India as well.
The whole fair was a non-profit event with free of charge entries to the extravaganzas and shows spread across the 11 days.
The first-of-its-kind event was put together by RAFF team, comprising of over 25 volunteers coming from different parts of India and the world as well.
The RAFF team, headed by Deja Cross and Pradumn Nagpal along Vedansh Pandey, produced the event with support from Central and State government, Ministry of External Affairs of India, Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, and Film Division of India.
The fest was a mix-bag filled with art displays, photography exhibitions, dance and music performances, assorted healing workshops, yoga sessions, cultural performances, film screenings, and many other special events and performances by International and Indian artists as well.
The 11-day spectacle attracted people and audience from different cultures and countries including Indonesia, US, Brazil, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico, and different parts of India as well.
DAY 1, 2 & 3
The first three days were dedicated to introducing the festival to the locals and the city. Orchestrated at the bank of Ganga, the events were put together at Shatrugan Ghat and Triveni Ghat.
Filled with music, art, culture, dance and much more, the three days consisted of performances from Indian and Indonesian artists. The 3-day-event, India-Indonesia Sanngam, aimed at amalgamating and fusing the two cultures of India and Indonesia through music and dance.
Acts and performances by Sujata Ray, Sumit Kutani, Indonesian Dance and Singing Group, Odissi Natya Sala, Rishikesh Yoga Club, Ankur kumar and Yogesh Kumar garnered a lot of appreciation and ovation from the audience.
There was an art exhibition on display on the second day, put together by the Indian Public School. The winner of the art competition, Kumari Shalini from SBM school won the first position for her painting about Lord Shiva and the Ganges. She was rewarded with a scholarship worth 10 Lacs.
Deja Cross, the organiser of RAFF, gave an insight about the second day’s event and the art competition. “For the last month or so, we’ve been going around different schools in Rishikesh providing coloured sheets and art supplies to the students.” She said.
The goal of the event was to enhance art projects in Rishikesh area and in students specifically. “When I became in artist, it sort of changed my life and I want the same for the children.” She added.
The three days were accompanied the ritualistic sunset-aarti in-line with the theme of the festival.
DAY 4 & 5
The fourth and the fifth day of the festival were dedicated to photography, yoga, and meditation. RAFF team chose Beatles Ashram (or Chaurasi Kuttiya) for the two days. The festival brought alive the campus of the ashram with workshops, performances and activities all over the place. Notably, the event alike every other event of the festival, was free of cost; the only charges were from the Forest Department for the tickets to enter the premises.
The occurrence was consistently distributed all over the premises. With photographic display from Tony Ellis, Julian, Marc, Sej Sariaya, Shekhar Rawat, and Deja Cross, the exhibition was a different art experience altogether for the visitants.
A number of other activities were also a part of the event. Handwriting and Signature Analysis by Ankur Rohatgi, Sound Healing by Shiva Giresh, Heart Healing by Yana, Transcendental Meditation by Tim Jones and team, Astrology by Dr Prateek, Chakra Healing by Anne Haack, Brasilian Music by Arnold, Nada Yoga by Shivanand Sharma, Yoga Nidra by Tara Ji were among the many workshops and events that were a part of the two-day affair.
DAY 6, 7, 8 & 9
The next four days were the crust of the festival. Short films and documentaries from International and Indian artists were screened at a special arrangement done at the Ganga Resort, Rishikesh.
Over 25 movies were screened during the four dyas on the state-of-the-art cinema facilities at the Resort. Lovers of non-verbal cinema and transcendental topics enjoyed the opportunity to see the documentaries on screen. Among the many film-makers were Tina Mascara, Polly Green, Aarti Chabria, Laura Recio, RJ Gordon, Filippo Carli, Paulo Di Floria, Lisa Loeman, Colin, Graham, Liz Thompson, and Sudhanshu Sharma. Reportedly, all the shows were houseful and well-received by the audience.
DAY 10 & 11
The last two days were dedicated to the concluding events of the fest. The day 10, on March 12, was dedicated to honouring the film-makers and the team responsible for the whole event. A number of film-makers were given bestowal by the RAFF team in various categories. The evening ended with performances from local artists. Sumit Kutani, Priyanshi, Shanaya Mamgain, Manan Dwivedi, and many other local singers and musicians were among the performers.
The last day culminated with Holi celebrations on March 13 with the team relaxing and celebrating the whole festival.
Deja Cross, creative director and founder of the festival, was the reason behind the occurrence of the event. “The goal behind the fest is to infuse art in the local community and make it accessible to not just those from the country but even eager artists from abroad. Over 25 movies have been screened at the fest and we are happy that people are liking our initiative. We intend to make this fest grander with each year,” She said.
Pradumn Nagapal, the Executive Director of the 11-day event, spoke to team TGC to provide an insight to the event. “We see international guests so overwhelmed with the Indian experience and at the same time we run after westernisation. The main purpose of the whole event, for me, is to show people the cultural value of our nation.” He said.
Pradumn, who belongs to Gurgaon, met Deja on one of his trips to Rishikesh where they decided to come together to produce the whole event. “Although we do not have sufficient funding from any source but we’ve put in all we’ve got to produce all of this and so, It has been a magical experience so far.” He added.