HYDERABAD : It was on a crisp autumn day in 1980 that Alliance Francaise Hyderabad (AFH) was founded. This year on November 3, it turns 40. And despite the ‘new normal’ the official 40th anniversary is being celebrated online along with many other events which range from literary-gastronomy discussions to art, photography, science and history.
Several noted personalities came together four decades ago for founding this among whom the chief personality was Achyut Bhogle, a lecturer of Chemistry in Osmania University, who went to pursue a doctorate in France but returned to India as a linguist expert in the French language.
Among his two sons is the famous cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, who is speaking at the inaugural panel today on an online platform. “As India began to expand in the industrial sectors and partnerships began to develop with French companies, the growing demand for the French language from the industrial sector created even more interest.
Around 1965, I began teaching the French language to business executives at companies,” reminisces Meena Reddy, daughter of the famous scientist RV Tamhankar, and a historical member of the faculty. Alliance Francaise Hyderabad, after it was founded, became a cultural centre of the city attracting artists, historians, writers and musicians alike.
Talking about the Indo-French connection, Samuel Berthet, the director of AFH shared, “There has been a major cross-cultural exchange between the two countries especially in the mid 18th century. The Nizams used to visit France quite often. And that’s how the influence of French cuisine was brought in the culinary methods of Hyderabad.
Later French architecture, technology and linguistics also left imprints. Soon, the City of Pearls became a major learning centre of French language and literature.” The AFH is recording 20 Indian and French narrative artistes. Other than that their focus is on science and women speakers. Artist Beatrice De Fays, whose second home is Hyderabad is working on a set of 12 paintings. There’s also going to be an art exhibition and a coffee table book containing photographs of souvenirs.
AFH was also a pioneer in promoting sciences in collaboration with the Birla Planetarium and the Cité des Sciences in Paris, hosting events in the city. At least two French Nobel Laureates visited the AFH including Pierre Gilles De Gennes and Jean-Marie Lehn. The AFH has also held science talks and an exhibition on the history of ISRO and CNES in March.
Samuel adds that the French Institute India is starting a year-long history of Indo-French scientific partnership project beginning in January 2020 and astronomer Pranav Sharma is the in-charge.
Another highlight of the anniversary celebration is a Master Class by Chef Christophe Dufau on December 6 at 9 pm.
He’ll be conducting it online from his restaurant in the South of France. Samuel further adds, “We will also be working with the Accor Hotels for culinary projects and author Begum Fatima Shahnaz, who’s an expert in Indo-French cuisine, will be a part of it.”
- Prince Mukarram Jah, the titular Nizam of Hyderabad was born in Nice, France.
- The Paris Book Fair, which is to be held in March 2021, will have India as its Guest Nation
— Saima Afreen saima@ newindianexpress.com @Sfreen