It was definitely a festival opening to remember what with the guest for the inauguration Kapil Sibal, union minister for law and justice, absent from function, despite having his name mentioned in the programme schedule. But the function went on with some surprise names thrown in. In this silver jubilee year of the festival, it was a usual mix of some big names, some usual faces and Suresh Kalmadi holding the roost, at the Ganesh Kala Krida Manch. Chagan Bhujbal, the state minister for tourism was the chief guest, with the state minister for co-operation Harshavardhan Patil in tow. Other dignitaries were Daniel Mancini, Ambassador for Italy, Tariq Anwar, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Udayan Raje Bhonsle, veteran classical singer Pandit Jasraj and Vipul Chaudhari, Gujarat Co-operation Milk Marketing Federation. Kangna Ranaut, Dimple Kapadia, Randhir and Rajeev Kapoor, Sameera Reddy, Suniel Shetty, Abhimanyu Singh, Esha Kapoor, Chunky Pandey represented Bollywood.
The programme began with the laser man show by Sachin Nayak, while known Carnatic singer Nandini Gujar performed the Shri Ganesh Par Stuti Vandana. What caught people’s mind was the coronation ceremony scene of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from the mega play Janata Raja. Hema Malini who is also the chief patron of the festival, performed her usual Ganesh Vandana performance. As usual, her performance was well-received. Children from Jammu and Kashmir associated with the organisation Sarhad, performed the Mile Sur Mera Tumhara dance show and got a thundering response.
This year, Pune Festival Awards were given to legendary Carnatic music exponent M Balamuralikrishna, well-known social activist Dr. Prakash Amte, the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal which organises the Sawai Gandharva music festival, Bank of Maharashtra head Narendra Singh and Dynoba Landge who has been organising bullock cart races for a number of years.
While speaking about the function, Kalmadi made statements about how the festival has brought tourism to the city, along with him putting the required sum for the city’s development as an MP. “The festival is a confluence of music, dance, drama and a whole lot of cultural activities. I give the credit for its success to the artistes who came here to perform, the volunteers, and the people. In the last 10 years, I have given a lot to the city as an MP. There has been a lot of development happening in the city like the Balewadi stadium, Commonwealth Youth Games and so on. Plus the Pune International Marathon is being organised for the last 27 years. I have brought around Rs. 2,500 crore to the city.” He told the audience to look out for more things from him in the coming two to three months and he will do nothing to damage the city’s reputation. The rest of the guests too made their usual round of speeches.