“We started this festival with a mission to create stronger links and collaboration between Egypt and India. Culture is not about bringing performances and getting applause, it’s about creating connections,” India’s ambassador to Egypt, Navdeep Suri, said when he opened the press conference dedicated to the India by the Nile festival which will run between 30 March and 16 April.
The ambassador went on to say that with each edition offering something novel, this third edition of the festival will be particularly special.
“For example we brought two classical dances in the past two editions, and this year we bring Manipuri dance,” he said, enumerating a number of events that will take place during the festival's edition: yoga and wellbeing sessions, Indian food, traditional music, Bollywood shows and of course Bollywood films starring Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who is the festival's guest of honour.
With Indian films being watched by a large number of the Egyptian viewers, the festival also puts stress on other cultural riches from India. “For us the festival is an opportunity to move beyond Indian cinema, we are looking to present India’s diversity, like Egypt, with its ancient culture, many religions and ethnicities,” Suri commented.
“As friends of Egypt, we recognise a crucial importance of tourism to the Egyptian economy,” Suri said, revealing his talks with Minister of Tourism Khaled Ramy.
“Through the festival and the presence of Indian journalists, and Mr Bachchan, we hope to join the Ministry of Tourism to show that Egypt is a country that is stable, safe and ready for tourism,” he continued.
“We are two very ancient civilizations, we have a great level of tolerance and acceptance of different cultures. There is a friendship sensation between both people. It impresses all our tourists how Egyptians and Indians are friendly,” Suri added.
Suri’s opening talk was followed by a word from Sanjoy Roy, head of Teamwork Arts, the company that organised India by the Nile.
“When we first started the festival in 2013 we didn’t know what to expect. I just came here and fell in love with your country,” Roy said.
During the conference, it was revealed that ambassador Suri, who was a main initiator of the festival, is leaving Egypt in coming weeks. This prompted a question regarding the festival's continuation in the country. "The festival is not linked to me as a person," the ambassador replied. "It is cooperation between a number of bodies including the Indian Embassy, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt. As such, those bodies will continue working on the event."
In his turn, Roy assured that the festival will continue, saying that he is already laying plans for India by the Nile 2016.
When asked about a possibility of the same festival, presenting Egypt's culture in India, Roy replied that “we are actually in discussions about this option and hopefully at a certain point we'll have a festival in India from Egypt, or one that gathers a number of African countries."
Bachchan joined the press conference at a later stage, creating a large commotion among the attendees.
“Every time I come here I’m greeted warmly, thank you for making me part of this wonderful event,” Bachchan said. Having arrived yesterday, Bachchan presence is of high interest to many Egyptians who have been following his films since the 1960s.
In his long career, the superstar has repeatedly visited Egypt to shoot movies, the first time was in the 70s.
“Every time we come to shoot here we are met with great cooperation from the people and state institutions,” he said.
“I look forward to the festival’s programme, it’s great to find so many Egyptians watch our movies and appreciate our work,” said Bachchan, adding that he is currently working on three projects: movies and television.
The star will appear again today at the evening discussion at the Cairo Opera House and during the official large launch of the festival planned to take place at the plateau in front of the Pyramids.