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N-E fashion fest in Feb.

- Mix of glamour and Culture

New Delhi, Jan. 10: The ministry of home affairs (MHA) seems to have taken a page out of Bhutan’s book of governance as it sponsors a North East Fashion Fest in Guwahati next month with actor Soha Ali Khan as brand ambassador.

Sources said attempts are also being made to persuade Shah Rukh Khan to be another brand ambassador for the fest.

The North East Fashion Fest (NEFF) will showcase fashion designers and Assam silk weaves on February 20-23 in Guwahati. The department of state tourism, Bodoland Territorial Council and the department of handloom and textiles of the Assam government will be associates in the venture.

Soha’s excitement was infectious. “Hi guys, I am excited about it…women in Northeast are fashion conscious like me!” the actress said in a presentation today.

But is it just about fashion?

In neighbouring Bhutan, the government has married security and culture, having a “ministry of home and cultural affairs”. New Delhi has taken a page out of Thimphu’s philosophy of understanding the intricate relation of security and culture, conceded an official although North Block is not comfortable with too much attention to its involvement.

Thimphu believes in mainstreaming its culture into the country’s development policies, plan and programmes through this ministry. The MHA wants to bring the Northeast’s culture to the rest of India and “mainstream” an entire region, officials said.

“We are just nurturing the show out of love and affection for the people of the region,” said MHA deputy secretary Ajay Kanoujia at the curtain raiser for the three-day festival.

The show, however, is the brainchild of an initiative by the MHA that began just before the Olympics where the stars were from the Northeast. As the Games began last year, huge hoardings were put up by a company, Basics Concepts and Marketing Ltd, showing Olympians Mary Kom, Chekrovolu Swuro, Shiva Thapa and other medal prospects from the region. Mary Kom, of course, fought her way to becoming a national icon.

It is the first time that the MHA has stepped out in the open to concede that it is “diversifying” into supporting cultural events too. After all, its adversaries the insurgent outfits also carry out “cultural activity” to showcase the politico-cultural issues in India and abroad to further their cause.

A show in Guwahati will be followed by the MHA-empanelled Basics organising similar events not only in Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi but also in Bangkok and locations across Europe.

The company had also helda programe, Maa Tujhe Salaam, that featured music directors Shankar, Ehsan and Loy saluting the spirit of Assam.

That was meant to heal the wounds of riots in the Bodoland Territorial Council areas last year. Another show will feature singers KK, Joi Barua and Janki Parekh on February 16. Barua and Parekh had also sung alongside Lucky Ali at a show titled Sadbhavana in cities like Pune, Chennai and Bangalore.

“The next six months will be an integration drive to focus on heroes from the Northeast in the fields of culture, music, science and technology,” said Basics director Anand Kumar.

At the NEFF, one will see works of young fashion designers Annu and Amrit from Assam and jewellery designer Yana Ngoba rubbing shoulders with silk fashion personality Sunita Shankar.

Ngoba said she is experimenting with the diversity of the 400-odd communities and their unique traditional motifs and jewellery. She has chosen the motifs of Nyishi, Apatani, Minyong tribes of Arunachal along with Angami, Lotha, Ao and Sema tribes of Nagaland besides other tribal jewellery from across the region.


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