Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and Indian composer and sitar player Anoushka Shankar have joined politicians and cultural leaders on London’s Southbank to officially launch the UK-India Year of Culture.
First announced in 2015 by Indian PM Narendra Modi and the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the year-long event is aimed at celebrating the long-standing relationship between the two countries. A variety of cultural events, activities and exhibitions are set to take place over the coming months.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he was “thrilled” that cultural organisations in both countries had worked together to bring the vision to life.
“The UK and India are deeply proud of our rich cultural heritages and our world class creative and cultural industries,” he said. “Through the year of culture we will celebrate modern India and the long standing relationship between both countries, rooted in our flourishing people-to-people links. I hope through this series of cultural events we can connect the next generation of Britons and Indians and inspire people to play their part in shaping UK-India relations over the next 70 years.”
Representatives from the British Council, the Indian High Commission and the UK government all took to the stage at British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank on Tuesday to mark the launch of the initiative, and provide details of upcoming events.
One of the highlights of the programme will be a screening of Shiraz, a silent film restored by the BFI National Archive that has rarely been seen in India since 1928. Shiraz tells the love story of the 17th century princess who inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal. The film will be shown as part of the 61st BFI London Film Festival in October, and planning is also underway for a screening to take place in Agra, with the Taj Mahal forming a backdrop to the event. Anoushka Shankar has been commissioned to produce a score for the film and will perform live at both events.
Other highlights include India@UK2017. This series of events designed to showcase the cultural diversity of India will include the UK premiere of the Freedom Symphony by Dr L Subramanium and the London Symphony Orchestra. India@UK2017 will also support several high profile events, notably the London Indian Film festival, the Darbar classical music festival and the world premier of the opera Sukanya by Ravi Shankar, the late father of Anoushka Shankar.
Contemporary dance company Studio Wayne McGregor is set to tour its production FAR across India in late 2017, while in August, as part of its India on Film programme, the BFI National Archive will release digitised versions of 300 travelogues, documentaries and home movies shot in India during the early 20th century. Included is the oldest surviving footage of India on film, captured in 1899. The collection, Around India With A Movie Camera, will be available both as a feature length highlights programme for cinema and community centre screenings, and available to view for free on the BFI Player.
The British Museum is set to stage a landmark exhibition, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories. Structured over nine stories, reflecting key chapters in India’s history, it will showcase some of the most important objects and works of art from the country’s museums, alongside iconic pieces from the British Museum collection.
The Science Museum will run a season of exhibitions and events dedicated to the country’s people, culture and skills, while events at the British Library include the hosting of the Jaipur Literature Festival in May.
His Excellency YK Sinha, Indian High Commissioner, addressed the audience at Tuesday’s launch event at BFI Southbank.
He said: “The Year of Culture assumes special significance in light of the 70th anniversary of India’s independence. These celebrations indeed offer our two countries a unique opportunity of renewing and revitalizing the common threads of our cultural heritage and to enhance our engagement at the people to people level.
“I am hopeful that the partnerships forged during the year between people and organisations in both countries will serve us well in the years to come.”
Also present at the launch event was Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture.
He added: “The UK and India have deep bonds, born of a shared history, and focused on our close economic and cultural ties now and in the future. The diverse array of cultural events that will be held in both countries over the coming year will strengthen these bonds and raise awareness about contemporary British and Indian culture, encouraging tourism and trade between our two great nations.”
On Monday night, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for political dignitaries, as well as guests from the worlds of fashion, sport, show business and the arts, to mark start of the UK-India Year of Culture.
Attendees were treated to Indian-themed performances and a special Indian menu of canapés made by Royal chefs working alongside chefs from Veeraswamy, the UK’s oldest Indian Restaurant. The biggest talking point of the evening was a spectacular projection featuring a peacock, the national bird of India, which was beamed onto the front of Buckingham Palace.