February 23, 2007

Dateline Chidambaram; Reporting Natyanjali fest

The past week has been wonderful as it always is when we camp in Chidambaram.
We, meaning my team at KutcheriBuzz, the web site for music and dance.
Every year, at Mahasivaratri time, we camp in Chidambaram and do the rounds of this region, covering the annual Natyanjali dance festivals held at the local temples.
Over the years, the fest fever has spread strongly, and today, dance festivals are held in over a dozen large and famous temples in this region.
I am convinced now that classical and folk dance festivals must be staged in public spaces if we are to get wonderful audiences for talented artistes.
Day 5, February 20, 7 pm. At Chidambaram.
The programmes are warming us all up but well before they do there are at least 3000 people packed into the venue which is the outer yard on the eastern gopuram side of this magnificient but badly maintained temple.
When the much-awaited ‘Ardhanareeswarar Kuravanji’ finally goes on stage, the evening’s schedule is delayed by about 60 minutes.
It is 10.20 pm. And yet, there are close to 2000 people eager to watch the production starring Roja Kannan,
N. Srikanth, Priya Murle, Aswathi Srikanth and four junior dancers. They enthral the rasikas for over an hour and get a double blessing - the grace of the Lord at his sannidhi and rounds of applause from the audience.
I cannot watch the show in peace because my cellphone keeps ringing all the time. Calls from people who are anxious to watch the recital on their computers. Yes, this year’s web cast of prime time dance recitals on KutcheriBuzz.com was a huge hit - some 20,000 visitors over the five days of the festival. (The videos are still on on the web site, in case you are interested to check them out).
In Chennai, I head straight into the ‘Chennai Sangamam’ festival, kicked off for the first time. A fest which promises to present all forms of art, music, dance and performance at all major public spaces in the city.
The Sangamam has been inspired to some extent by the annual ‘Mylapore Festival and that makes us feel good.
And to share that goodness, we re-create some of the ‘Mylapore Festival’ atmosphere at a mela at a college campus off the Marina beach for the ‘Chennai Sangamam’.
Clearly, it is time community groups took charge of open spaces like parks and auditoriums in our city and played host to a variety of performances.

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