Esplanade's Indian festival of arts Kalaa Utsavam to return from Nov 15 to 24

SINGAPORE – The 18th edition of Indian festival of the arts Kalaa Utsavam will return next month with a colourful lineup of music, theatre and dance.

The festival, presented by the Esplanade, runs from Nov 15 to 24, and is sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) under the SPH Gift of Music series.

Here are five highlights from the festival.


Dance and theatre come together in Marabu – The First Ripple, the first part of a trilogy by Bhaskar’s Arts Academy.

The production is set during the height of the Srivijayan empire and traces the passage of the Indian community from India to the Malay peninsula.

Veteran artist Santha Bhaskar, 80, who is working with co-choreographer Ajith Bhaskar and theatre director G. Selva for this production, says this is the first time in a long while Bhaskar’s Arts Academy has combined theatre with dance.

“It is an experiment,” she says, adding that it will prompt the audience to question who they are and where they come from.

The show features performers from Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, Suvarna Fine Arts (Malaysia), Avant Theatre and Gamelan Singamurti.

Dance and theatre come together in Marabu – The First Ripple, the first part of a trilogy by Bhaskar’s Arts Academy. PHOTO:  COURTESY OF ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

When: Nov 15 to 17, 8pm (Nov 15 and 16) and 3pm (Nov 17)

Admission: $30

Info: Performed in Tamil with English surtitles


Amit Trivedi, one of Bollywood’s most in-demand composers, will mark his Singapore debut with songs such as Emotional Atyachar, from the black comedy Dev.D (2009); Sawarloon, from the historical romance film Lootera (2013); and Darya, from the romantic comedy Manmarziyaan (2018).

The award-winning musicianhas been hailed by some people as the heir apparent to the Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman.

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Nov 23, 8pm

Admission: From $55


This contemporary work based on the Indian dance form of kathak explores notions of the human body.

“It marvels at the intricacy of the body, its fragility, its vulnerability and the fact that it is going to disintegrate as the body ages. And yet there is a kind of resilience, a renewal, that is fascinating,” says dancer-choreographer Aditi Mangaldas, 59.

The show, whose title alludes to the idea that in life, “interruptions are constantly around the corner”, features a group of dancers (including Aditi) and three musicians.

It is presented by Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation.

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Nov 16, 8pm

Admission: $40


India’s great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, is known for its heroes, poetic grandeur and the story of a dynastic struggle culminating in the battle of Kurukshetra.

“But how about the little guy – the small person for whom even a tiny action of a hero has catastrophic consequences?” wonders Bangalore-based theatre practitioner Ram Ganesh Kamatham.

His comedic play, Ultimate Kurukshetra, now offers an “ant’s eye view” of the epic from the perspectives of fictitious mythological characters such as a mahout, courtesan and warrior.

This production by Actors Ensemble India Forum, which took 38-year-old Ram Ganesh some 14 years to stage, premiered in India last December (2018).

The play is an epic comedy, he notes, but it also delves quite seriously into the themes of the Mahabharata.

“One of the central motifs in the Mahabharata is the idea of what’s the right action,” he says. “Faced with a choice, what do you do?”

Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

When: Nov 23 (8pm) and Nov 24 (3pm)

Admission: $30

Info: Performed in English. Recommended for ages 13 and above


Swarhythm Ensemble, known for its contemporary twist on traditional music, is presenting songs from its first album.

The group of Singapore musicians led by tabla musician Nawaz Mirajkar performs with a diverse range of instruments – from the sitar and bansuri to the erhu and Spanish guitar.

Where: Esplanade Recital Studio

When: Nov 17, 7.30pm

Admission: $30


WHERE: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive

WHEN: Nov 15 to 24

ADMISSION: Free and ticketed programmes available

INFO:For more information, visit, call 6348-5555 or e-mail [email protected]

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