Diwali in B.C. spotlights women in inaugural series

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      After curating Diwali Fest for the past four years, Rohit Chokhani is taking on an even bigger vision.

      He’s launching Diwali in B.C., a five-week cultural celebration from Thursday (October 12) to November 16 that takes South Asian–flavoured, culture-fusing theatre, dance, and other works provincewide.

      The inaugural year puts the spotlight on women, with the artistic theme of Shakti, or the power of the feminine. “I just wanted to represent people who aren’t being represented—and women are doing diverse work,” Chokhani tells the Straight by phone.

      Chokhani, who’s worked as everything from an apprentice director at Bard on the Beach to producer in residence at the National Arts Centre, explains his desire to go provincewide was partly because of high demand from audiences and a wish to expand his personal curatorial statement. He adds there’s no shortage of work to program, or local artists doing it.

      “The way you celebrate Diwali in Canada is different from India,” he says. “I’ve always curated the fest to be multicultural.”

      Amid the offerings, look for not only the interdisciplinary performance Encounter at the Cultch, but Deepa Mehta’s most recent film, Anatomy of Violence (November 4 at the Cineplex Odeon International Village), which takes a hard look at the men who committed the notorious gang rape on a bus in India.

      Elsewhere, Diwali in B.C. is copresenting the return to town of Dipti Mehta’sHonour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan (October 20 to November 4 at the Vancity Culture Lab), and Touchstone Theatre's production of Pamela Mala Sinha’s Happy Place (October 19 to 29 at the Firehall Arts Centre, in association with Ruby Slippers Theatre). November 16 at the York Theatre, look for classical bharata natyam work Shyama, choreographed by Mandala Arts and Culture Society’s Jai Govinda and performed by Arno Kamolika, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s epic drama.

      There’s more programming (see www.diwalibc.ca/), with a cabaret-style Diwali celebration at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, the farthest-afield of the offerings—so far. Chokhani hopes eventually to reach the farthest corners of B.C. with his arts offerings. “This year is just a steppingstone,” he says.