Goethe-Institut / MMB marks golden jubilee with special line-up
Check out their three-day festival of VR experiences, workshops and art at Kala Ghoda.
When it comes to learning foreign languages, German has many takers, because it is widely considered to be a language of opportunity. City-dwellers eager to learn the tongue have been turning to the Goethe-Institut Mumbai/Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) for decades. Although today, the institute – complete with library, classrooms and gallery - sees about 2,500 students attend its offline classes annually, its beginnings in the city were a lot more humble.
When the institute opened its doors in 1969, classes were conducted on the ground floor of philanthropist Bapsy Sabavala’s bungalow at Malabar Hill.
Students learning German at Goethe-Institut Mumbai in 1973. ( Michael Friedel )
Since then, the MMB has contributed much to the fabric of the city, bringing the best of German culture to Mumbai. This October, it is set to mark 50 years in the city with a three-day festival to be held at the institute’s Kala Ghoda premises.
Professor Homi K Bhabha will kickstart the festival with a lecture on ‘The Task of the Humanist’ and the Symphony Orchestra of India will perform compositions by famous German musicians like Mendelssohn and Bach.
Other notable events include ‘Kala, Kala, Kala’ – a video mapping event that will see hypnotic visuals projected on to the Kala Ghoda statue, and an education and career fair for opportunities in Germany.
Contemporary artist Nalini Malani will hold a solo exhibition titled ‘Can you hear me?’ at Gallery MMB. The exhibition will present 50 of her animated works, from 1969 to her more recent ones.
Also part of the event line-up is ‘VRwandlung: Virtual Reality Meets Kafka’, a virtual reality experience developed by Goethe-Institut Prag, in cooperation with American filmmaker Mika Johnson and producer Shahid Gulamali. “It is based on Kafka’s Metamorphoses. Participants will find themselves in the shoes of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one morning as a bug. I’ve seen people feel quite shaken up after the experience,” says Mansi Bapat, coordinator of the VRwandlung event.
The Berlin-Bombay cultural connect has been a long-standing one. Way back in the 1930s and ’40s, the city’s first modern film studio – Bombay Talkies – fostered several Indo-German collaborations. Indian films directed and shot by Franz Osten and Josef Wirsching displayed German expressionist influences.
Since then, the Goethe-Institut Mumbai has played a key role in familiarising city-dwellers with the culture of Germany, by inviting bright minds in the cultural sphere, from both India and Germany, to hold lectures, performances, workshops and exhibitions at the institute.
Notable among them is the lecture held by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gunter Grass in 1978, Pt Bhimsen Joshi and Girish Karnad’s ‘East West Encounter’ performances in the early ’80s.
“The biggest advantage of the Goethe-Institut is that we’re rather independent. We can fully focus on building a relationship with the local arts scene. People realise that we are not imposing something on them, but looking for a dialogue,” says Björn Ketels, director at MMB. “The city too, probably India’s most cosmopolitan one, has always been open to influences from all over the world, and this has made it easier for us to thrive here. Open-mindedness is the key to creativity, and success.”