“The extraordinary thing about Sensorium is how resplendently it is an act of friendship. Everyone who has worked for it is a friend of the photograph, of the passing moment, of the shared and unspoken narrative, of each other, of the lingering in a gallery, of being alone with a story, of the friend in imagination and a friend because of intention,” Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi tells Homegrown.
The vision of the honorary director of the Sensorium Fest, a writer who has left an indelible imprint of magical surrealism on Indian literature, was to do something ‘small and serious, definitive and defining’. With the inaugural edition of the festival fast approaching, the anticipation is electric and tangible. We were looking to get some behind-the-scenes glimpses of a first-of-its-kind event that transcends your run-of-the-mill photography exhibition, to tread into an area that explores photography in the larger context of the arts; delving into a meditation on its intersection with literature, cinema and music. An embodiment of the unquantifiable fluidity of the arts, as they blend and run into each other at the edges, the festival has a host of particularly intriguing stalwarts in the industry gracing it, including Anusha Yadav of The Indian Memory Project, screenwriter and photographer Sooni Taraporevala, and it will be showcasing the inimitable Dayanita Singh’s works as well. The creative director of Sensorium is none other than the esteemed independent photographer Prashant Panjiar, co-founder of the Nazar Foundation and the Delhi Photo Festival. One of the young photographers we’ve had our eyes on for a while now, Anurag Banerjee (having showcased his photo story ‘I’m Not Here’ earlier this year), happens to be working on this festival as a part of production, and was kind enough to walk us through what the journey leading up to what it has been like, through a photo narrative from his Instagram feed. Homegrown correspondent, Aditi Dharmadhikari, will be documenting the festival this weekend too so watch this space for more stories from Sensorium’s grid.
It was sometime around April or May this year when I was sitting with Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, discussing our small collaboration “Gone Away”, that he mentioned an upcoming arts festival in Goa. “It will be sometime in December, would you like to be a part of it?” I remember him asking. I was gripped with fear, for I thought - in my excitement - I would not say anything at all, and he would think otherwise. I did however manage to squeak out a “Yes, definitely.”
A month or so from then he put me in touch with Prashant Panjiar on e-mail. That name needs no introduction and for a photographer barely a year old in the industry, needless to say, I had lost my voice again. Thankfully, that does not translate over e-mail. A few days from then, at the end of June, I found myself having lunch with him; my first Sensorium meeting. It took me a while to get over the fact that I was having lunch with one of India’s best known photographers, and focus on what he was saying.
As Prashant took me through the idea of the festival, I knew that this would be something that no one has seen before. He told me specifically that this would not be a photography festival, but an arts festival. Sensorium, this year, only looks at how photography interacts with other art forms, at its intersection with other art forms.
This year Sensorium looks at how photography and music share a space, with Farrokh Chothia’s “Jazz”; we look at the relationship between photography and cinema, with Sooni Taraporevala’s “Script to Screen”, a look at how the script of Salaam Bombay translated into an award-winning film; then, there is photography’s connection to literature with the likes of Fausto Giaccone’s Marquez-inspired “Macondo” and Sohrab Hura’s Kundera-inspired “Life Is Elsewhere”. To think that this is only a part of the festival, with more exhibitions and events lined up, had my head spinning.
Siddharth has always maintained that he wanted Sensorium to be small and serious. For the same, there could be no better place than the Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts. The place has a beautiful old-world charm to it; wooden floors, arched windows, lush green lawns with majestic trees and a quaint little café, Bodega, which fits in perfectly in the courtyard of this old Portugese villa.
I arrived in Goa a little more than a fortnight back. Only my second time in Goa, this time, too, I happen to be here because of Siddharth. To be in the company of Siddharth and Prashant and Gauri, ex-editor of Time Out Mumbai who got wheeled in as project manager, has been an utter privilege. Every moment is a learning experience, every conversation is a lesson. Besides, to see everyone doing their bit to bring to life our beautiful venture is nothing short of inspiring.
Two boys play chess on the steps that lead up to the Sunaparanta from the road below.
In the words of our patron, Raj Salgaocar, the spine of Sensorium: honorary director, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and creative director, Prashant Panjiar.
An old, abandoned car in a tiny village called Mala in Panjim.
Sunaparanta hosts a quaint and beautiful café called Café Bodega. The courtyard of this old Portuguese villa has been transformed into a café.
Gauri Vij is the project manager for Sensorium. She brings her 20 years of magazine experience, including almost two and a half years of being the editor of Time Out Mumbai, into the festival. It is difficult to imagine the festival without her. Here we see her trying to decide what to order at a lovely restaurant in Panjim called Vinete.
Two members of a brass band exchange notes before the show begins in the Garcia de Orta, in Panjim.
Shekhar Pujari, staff member of the Sunaparanta guesthouse, strikes a pose for the camera. Pujari, 29, is originally from Karnataka but has been living in Goa for the past 18 years. His family is also here now and they visit Karnataka only on certain occasions. Forever smiling and always ready to help, Pujari adds delightfully, “I love Goa.”
A young girl stands in line to buy fresh bread at the “poder’s”, the bread man. The term comes from the Portugese term for a bread man, “paderia”.
Harinder Maurya works on the wiring of one of the galleries of the Sunaparanta. As the work for the festival gears up, everyone tries to chip in and do their bit.
Uttam Porgaonkar waits at the courier office to post some packages. Porgaonkar, 32, has been a staffer for Sunaparanta since its inception six years ago, a fact he proudly states. Always ready to carry out whatever is assigned to him, he’s been taking me around town on his scooter. “I like meeting new people from all over who come to the gallery,” he says.
The pleasant November afternoon sun drapes a woman trying to scribble on her notepad at Café Bodega. The café offers a variety of great dishes and drinks and also a generous amount of solitude.
One of the galleries in the Sunaparanta awaits a makeover in preparation for Sensorium.
Sensorium opens to all on Sat 6 December, which is right around the corner now. Looking back at the past six months, I cannot help but feel grateful to find myself in the company of such stalwarts and await the festival of arts, literature and ideas.
Find out more about Sensorium here:
Follow Anurag Banerjee’s Instagram account to keep up with the latest updates from Sensorium taking place at the Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts.
Exhibitions will be open from December 6, 2014 to February 5, 2015
Mon-Sat: 10 am to 7 pm | Sunday 10.30 am to 6 pm