Australian South Asia Forum (ASAF) is a community organisation that is aiming to bringing together the rich culture, art and literature of the South Asian countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The mission of the organisation is “to facilitate greater assimilation, citizenship and enrichment of people of South Asian heritage through enhanced public policy engagement, supportive policy formation on relevant socio-cultural, political and economic matters and contribution to harmony, multiculturalism and prosperity in Australia”.
The founders of ASAF—Kedar Paggaddinnimath and Ashish Gholkar—had worked tirelessly to put together the SAFAL (South Asian Film, Art & Literature) Festival.
Inaugurated by John Alexander, Federal member of Bennelong, in the grounds of Macquarie University on 20 May, watched on by the brooding bust of poet or yore Rabindranath Tagore, it was a most befitting way to begin the festival.
Macquarie University was the primary partner of the event, a highly commendable gesture by the University towards encouraging multicultural activities. The event, conducted over two days (20 & 21 May), was also supported by the Department of Communications & the Arts and the City of Ryde.
The festival activities were broadly divided into four domains: Art, Literature, Film and Performance. There was something for everyone’s taste.
In the Art and Literature categories, curated by Rekha Rajvanshi, there was an exhibition of paintings and artwork by Indian, Pakistani and other artists. Lalit Mital had one of his past Archibald entries on display. The other exhibitors were Francine Haywood, Shahid Malik, Ramesh Chandra Alandkar etc.
For the Literature section, the days were jam-packed with workshops covering topics such as insights into self-publishing, the relevance of poetry in today’s world, South Asian literature in Australia, and writing for theatre and films. In these workshops, writers spoke about their books, their writing journeys, pains and pangs involved in getting their books published.
Australian-Indian film makers Julian Karikalan (Love and Love only) and Abhijit Deonath (Salt Bridge) shared their experiences in film making in Australia—a real eye-opener!
The highlight of the event was the presence of N. Chandra, the director of Bollywood movie Tezaab, who had flown in for the occasion. There was a screening of Tezaab followed by Q&A session with N Chandra, who also conducted a workshop in film direction for budding film makers.
Sri Lankan movie Ho Gaana Pokuna directed by Indika Fernando, was screened and concluded with a Q&A time with the director.
Short film An Invitation by Ruturaj Dhalgade made its world premiere at the festival before getting launched on You Tube.
The festival held an award night in the Macquarie Theatre, at which, awards were presented to artists, writers and winners of talent competitions. The evening was very entertaining with stage performances by dancers and musicians representing the South Asian countries.
There were outdoor performances that were exhilarating and varied including dances, talent quest, singing competition, dhol tasha drums, fashion shows, rock bands, and karaoke. Food stalls, offering different types of South Asian cuisines, were around to delight the taste buds of visitors and guests. Definitely an enriching experience.