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BONJOUR INDIA (history)

In 1985 elephants ambled down the Esplanade of Trocadero in Paris to the Eiffel Tower, heralding the Year of India in France, offering glimpses of Indian dances, music, art, theatre, handicrafts and cuisine. This cultural exchange, opened by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, left an indelible impression in France. In 1989, President François Mitterrand made a reciprocal gesture: French artists recreated their magic with ballets, exhibitions, conferences, film festivals. Mumbai still remembers the spectacular fireworks that lit up Marine Drive, drawing people in droves.

A quiet two decades later, the Festival of France in India, Bonjour India, came back with a bang. In December 2009, giving a fresh boost to Indo-French relations, a festival ambitious in scale and reach travelled to 18 cities in India. The three-month-long celebration included dance, music, literature, science, new circus, design, exhibitions, opera, architecture, economic meets and more in a reflection of the wide spectrum of exchanges between the two countries. The best of French trends in all these areas came to India and were spiced with Indian flavours, yielding an enriched programme of collaborative projects. Namaste France, the Festival of India in France, soon followed in Paris.

Riding the wave of success of the first edition of Bonjour India (2009-2010), the Institut Français en Inde and the French Embassy in India, in association with the Alliance Française India network and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), are all set to unveil the second edition of the festival from January to April 2013.

From Jaipur to Kolkata, Delhi to Trivandrum, via Mumbai, Chandigarh, Nasik and several others, a total of sixteen cities will play host to over a hundred outstanding cultural events. These will encompass the entire gamut of people-to-people exchanges between India and France: art, literature, cinema, education, sports, architecture, fashion, photography, performing arts.

Giving pride of place to original productions jointly conceived by Indian and French artists for this edition of the festival, Bonjour India 2013 presents: Luminocity, the inaugural event by light sculptor Patrick Rimoux and Nandita Palchoudhuri transfiguring reality; Indo-French designer duo Hemant Sagar and Didier Lecoanet; Ballet Preljocaj on a stage designed by Subodh Gupta; Eric Vigner casting Nandita Das in Marguerite Duras’ play India Song; composer Pierre Thilloy and the Avignon Symphony Orchestra in an original performance with sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan; a global platform of choreographic navigation for ipads and iphones by French choreographers N+N Corsino with Indian dancers Revanta Sarabhai and Pooja Purohit. Other festival highlights include exhibitions of Anay Mann photographs and Gigi Scaria paintings revisiting French heritage in India, and the analogue-digital-acoustic-electronic signature music of Scratch Bandits Crew. Bonjour India II will conclude with the grand finale of “angels” enthralling the public with aerial acrobatic dance performances at emblematic venues in Delh.

During the festival, there will be a discernible French presence at major literary events in India: France is the Guest Country for World Book Fair 2013 in Delhi, while Prix Goncourt laureate Tahar Ben Jelloun will participate in the Jaipur Literature Festival. Albert Camus’ birth centenary will also be celebrated across India through a series of events.

Innovation to fashion and new trends, revisiting the past (baroque music interpreted by Amaryllis Dieltiens), navigating the present and fast-forwarding to the future (Greater Paris architecture exhibition on creating sustainable futuristic cities), the eclectic offerings of Bonjour India 2013 promise something to delight everyone’s palate. Reflecting the longstanding ties of friendship between France and India, the events will express our common passion for the arts, be a rich nurturing ground for new encounters, and inscribe yet another significant chapter of the relationship of the two countries.

France wishes you a happy festive season and says, BONJOUR INDIA!