May 27, 2012

Spaces for the arts

Anushkha Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar , two young creative souls have been on an Indian odyssey which is incomplete because they ran short of money.

Some months ago, the two Chennai-based people decided they would embark on a unplanned journey to parts of India they read and hear about but not seen. They decided to borrow a camera from a friend in Delhi, tap into their FB and theatre circles for donations and set off.

They ran across Rajasthan and Himachal and the North East and wherever they went the sound of local music enchanted them so they let the camera whir on local artistes and performers, even on people who created a music of their own when they farmed or of people who practised communal farming and sat around every evening for songs and dinner.

Last weekend, the duo screened lots of bits of their film footage at Spaces, the space for the arts left behind by the iconic dancer and guru Chandralekha at her home off Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar.

The bits and pieces film clips will be used to create a film  - U-ra-mi-li much later. For now though the duo are hoping they get enough money to fund the second part of their travels.

The audience at Spaces was large and if most of them are encouraging, the duo should have lots on their hands.

Commentator and art critic Sadanand Menon who manages Spaces has opened the gates here to all kinds of performances - music, talk, theatre, docus, lec-dems and campaigns. Menon gives his nod as long as these events are not-for-profit and the effort is genuine.

In another part of the city, in Virugambakkam theatre artiste Sree Devi is glad that a local school provides her the open, green space or its hall to stage Thamizh plays.

Devi who has been groomed at the well-known Koothu-p-pattarai manages her own theatre group. So when she has a play ready to be staged, the offer of a space is hugely welcome. More so when it is offered gratis.

Each neighbourhood has open spaces which fall under the city's civic body. Some are run down, some offer  a simple stage, some even have a performance space and seating built around it.

If Chennai Corporation fits these spaces with core facilities for performances and maintains the places, surely local residents can exploit the facility. To stage short plays, performances, screen films and the like.

Such spaces can be lively only if local communities and the civic body work hand in hand. They fail when they are treated as civic projects outlined in budgets!

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