Pune: A lively performance depicting 'Ganesh Vandana' by noted actress Hema Malini and her daughter Esha marked the inauguration of Pune Festival, an annual cultural extravaganza as part of the ongoing Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
A brain child of Suresh Kalmadi, the festival entered its 26th edition this year, but seemed to lose earlier trappings of a high-profile event that used to showcase the now suspended Congress MP's political influence.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, who was expected by the organisers to attend the inauguration, as well as the state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan were conspicuous by their absence as the event was declared open by NCP minister Chhagan Bhujbal last night.
Hema Malini's performance was followed by a dance and music rendition of Lord Krishna's love for Radha staged by actor Gracy Singh and her troupe.
The veteran actress has been performing the Ganesh Vandana at the festival for the last 25 years.
Hailing Kalmadi's initiative in starting the festival, Bhujbal said it was an achievement to start and continue a festival like this for quarter of a century.
The event that attracted tourists, put Pune on an international map, he said.
A fusion of Lavani, traditional Koli and Bollywood dance sequence was one of the highlights of the evening which also saw Bollywood celebrities Jitendra, Karishma Kapoor, Bindu and Raza Murad gracing the occasion.
Industrialist Rahul Bajaj was among those present on the dais along with Kalmadi who steered clear of any political references in his introductory remarks that centred around only the cultural importance of the festival, organised jointly with Tourism department of Central government and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
The audience was also shown an audio-visual presentation portraying the festival's evolution and journey since its inception in 1989.