It must be daunting to an artiste when the screen lifts and there are just five or six people in the audience in a large hall. But being the true artistes they are, they play - and play with faith and devotion that ensures that the universe listens and there is divine music in the air. At the Brahma Gana Sabha (Sivagami Petachi Auditorium) at 2-15 pm, nadaswaram players, Tiruvallur JP Siranjeevi and Tiruvallur JP Muthukumar played like they were performing to a full house. It makes you question the validity of having programmes right in the middle of the day. Is it that the nadaswaram is so taken for granted that it does not warrant an audience or is it the timing that keeps people from coming? Either way, it is most disheartening to see the poor turnout for an art form that has been passed down from generations to modern times and to those who believe and trust in this to make it their livelihood. It ensures that this form is not just restricted to playing for weddings and other celebratory occasions when they are merely backgrounded sounds to the chatter and other proceedings. A sensory ragamalika along with the vivid and energetic Tavil play by Mambalam S. V. Arulanandam and Egodupalayam V. Ganapathi was the highlight for this rasika.
Love is truly in the air at the Krishna Gana Sabha in the last three days with the Natya Kala Conference, 2017. With the theme of Shringaram, how else would it be? Love, beauty and all the finer aspects of life came into focus in the very way it looked all over. Nicely created logos, cut outs, flowers, a stage with an old-world dressing table with mirror, some casually draped silk saris, some jewellery hung here and there and artwork in a corner allowed for the mood to set. However, the customary fragrance of the ‘karpooram’ seemed to be missing at the Sabha – unless of course, it was there on other days. Thanks to the intense PR and the person behind the Natyakala Conference 2017, the large turnout in the last three days is good to see. Dancers, teachers, artists and other art-loving public has been privy to aspects of Shringaram. Is it relevant to today’s dance? Do people care? Srinidhi Chidambaram, the convener and the person who has put this together, has really made an attempt to get as many insights into this bhava through poets, dancers, cultural commentators etc all to understand whether this emotion plays a role in today’s context at all. Devdutt Patnaik’s inaugural talk- Love In The Kingdom Of God was crisp, well articulated and to the point. You may not agree with it but it was riveting in the way he put things together to understand the very basis of Shringaram. It’s not often that you get speakers who can hold your attention. You mostly get those who ramble, meander and never come to the point in a hurry. Lakshmi Viswanathan is witty and lovely. She is matter of fact and rarely adopts a pretentious way of speaking. It is utterly refreshing to hear her views on anything, let alone Shringaram. Beautiful, flowing and charming was the session by Kathak exponents, Nirupama and Rajendra who explored briefly the Hues of Shringara in Kathak. In how many ways can you show the ‘ghoonghat’ (the dupatta of sorts)? Nirupama demonstrated the use of this in such a graceful manner that one wished it was a full-fledged performance instead of a lec dem. And then what is anything without a glimpse of the film industry? That which can pull people like no other? What can be a bigger draw than a film personality? The Music Academy did it for the inauguration of their music festival with Illayaraja and here it was Kaviperarasu Vairamuthu. He took up Kaadalin Mozhi – An Exploration Of Tamil Love Story. That he is an astute orator, bringing passion and beauty to the language of Tamil and a crowd puller, is stating the obvious. But to those for whom his Tamil sounded like Greek or Latin, it was the Krishna Gana Sabha canteen for a cup of hot coffee and sit peacefully under the large lustrous Peeple tree and enjoy the great weather!
An overflowing Music Academy is a testament to the popularity and craze to hear Sanjay Subrahmanyan. No standing space and plastic chairs lining up the aisle is nothing to be surprised about. He continues to remain the flavour of the season among the seniors. A Karaharapriya that he sang found favour with some, while there were those who felt it was not quite the sensation that he is capable of. Differing opinions from music lovers bring home the fact that artists are human beings fully capable of having good and bad days. And that art is subjective. It never usually is a reflection of their talent, dedication and knowledge. If they were robots it would be quite another tale!! And truth be told, one managed to get only half a toe in, it was that packed.
Meanwhile, lunchtime at the Academy is a sight to see. Long queues for the ‘Elai Sapad’ or ‘Full Meals’ by Mint Padmanabhan-, and it’s not just those who come to the concerts. Across languages and genres, people line up to experience the food laid out on banana leaves. For the record, there is nothing new being stated here. It is now an integral part of the Chennai music and dance festival in the month of Marghazi. So is the food worth it? Not on all days. But it is imperative for those ‘who like doing things that must be done definitely’— and so to do a sabha lunch or tiffin is ticking the box!