The arts need as much attention as the economy, says Sunil Kant Munjal, founder, Serendipity Arts Festival

By: | Updated: October 29, 2017 2:09 AM

Chairman of Hero Enterprises Sunil Kant Munjal reveals his passion for the arts and its promotion as he talks with Ivinder Gill about the second edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival, to be held in Goa in December, which, he promises, is growing phenomenally in scale and complexity.

Sunil Kant Munjal

Chairman of Hero Enterprises Sunil Kant Munjal reveals his passion for the arts and its promotion as he talks with Ivinder Gill about the second edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival, to be held in Goa in December, which, he promises, is growing phenomenally in scale and complexity. Edited excerpts:

Serendipity Arts Festival started with a bang last year. You have roped in the best names in every field of art. How does the festival get bigger and better this year?

The scale is much larger, we have more venues, more projects and we hope to have a larger participation from the masses as well. Last year, we had about 50-odd projects. This year, we have 70, not really a large number, but in each one, the size and complexity is much larger. There are over a thousand performing artistes apart from other visual artists part of the festival. This time, we have a bigger focus on performing arts; we are looking at food as an art form… There is a lot of research that has gone into each art form, so that both students and intellectual researchers get more actively engaged in the arts. We have also invited several institutes to be part of the event. Over five lakh man hours have gone into the event so far in its designing, programming, curation and execution.

However, we want this not just to be large, but also approachable. You don’t want to scare people away, you want them to enjoy every part of it and to appreciate the complexity. So we are making it very accessible and very inclusive in many different ways. We have engaged with a wide spectrum of individuals, for example, street children. We are doing projects with young girls, with people affected by terrorism in J&K. Not only across India, we have approached artists from neighbouring countries as well… Afghanistan, Bhutan… We are also introducing a new set of awards for arts and artists.

Do you think events of such scale and quality require individual patronship or corporates behind them?

That’s a very important question. One of our objectives is to raise the attention of those who are patrons or potential patrons, because worldwide, whether it’s education or healthcare or arts or other cultural activity, they grow, they stabilise and they thrive on patronage. You look at any major museum in the world, any major university or research institute. They all have support through philanthropy and corporates. While we do this in India, the need is much more. So we want to raise the red flag here that there’s a need for people to look at this. We are talking to companies, foundations and individuals to tell them that here’s an opportunity, come and get involved. Which is why it’s called ‘Serendipity’, and it’s not named after our company, Hero. It’s not a personal property that we are building; it’s a foundation and we welcome anybody and everybody to come and ride along with us. Last year, we had a dozen patrons, we had about 40 companies that got involved. Hopefully this year, there will be more.

Have you seen more people coming forward this year?

We have some of the same people, of course, and also some new ones. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw last year put up an amazing project of science and arts together. We have the Dalmiyas this time, who are doing some very interesting work and getting involved with us… who are looking at cement as an art form. One patron is the government of Goa, which has been very supportive.

A performance at the 2016 Serendipity Arts Festival

Was this effort at inclusiveness of other corporates also the reason why you have not associated the Hero name so prominently with the festival?

Absolutely. If it is called Hero, it will be seen as only ours. Hero is a highly appreciated brand in the world and in India, but we felt that this foundation should not be seen as a business or for profit. Second, we want as many other corporates, institutions, organisations, schools and universities involved, so that it should be seen as neutral. And ‘serendipity’ is a wonderful word. It has a wonderful meaning itself and our theme this time is called ‘chance upon’, like chance upon music…
What was the personal motivation in taking up something like this on such a large scale? You were actively involved in every event and project last year

I feel arts is an area that is crying out for attention right now. India is doing well economically and politically. We will be among the top economies in the coming years. Politically, India is becoming more and more important. There are many areas in which we are front and centre now, but our arts and crafts and cultural heritage are somehow taking a backseat, and for us to be a successful civilisation and society, it is as important to give attention to the arts as much as other things like the economy.

Are you going to take the festival across the world as well, maybe in subsequent years?

We do have requests right now to take it to other countries, either parts or the entire festival there, but at this moment we are neither equipped nor do we want to take a chance. Our effort right now is to ensure that the second edition comes out bigger and better than the first one. But we will, for sure, take little bits and pieces of the fest to other places. We have something happening next month in Hyderabad, for example, at the local entrepreneurship summit of the US and the Indian governments, where we will demonstrate entrepreneurship in India through India’s crafts.

Serendipity Arts Festival will be held from December 15-22 in Goa

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