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!

May 19, 2012

Mayor, get people of Chennai involved

Mayor Saidai Duraiswamy is nowadays seen distributing laptops to school students or switching on high-mast street lighting.

But it would also be good for the Head of the City Fathers to join the neighbourhood kids at a football match or sit on Elliots Beach and share buttermilk with young volunteers who have just cleaned the beachfront.

He could keep aside the pressed dhoti and come by in Bermudas this summer.

The line to open with the city's community and its neighourhoods is also through fellowship and informal meetings in the coolest of places.

For, a Mayor like Duraiswamy carries the aspirations and desires of a growing, modern metro.

He can hint to the city's young community of his willingness to work alongside it because it can achieve two things - creates spaces for the young to also contribute ideas and plans and strengthen bonds between the city's civic body and its people.

Here is one opportunity.

The Chennai Corporation proposes to re-paint or erect new street name boards.

Can the Mayor and his Commissioner open up this idea to invite ideas on a key civic feature and will it accept one great idea?

Today, we have those gaudy yellow cement and iron name boards that turn and angle the way that street corner behaves. Planting them at corners is no good. Yes?

They compete with garbage bins, cattle and abandoned cars. They become supports for the sun shades of our elaneer or keerai hawkers. They droop and drop off in a  year or get knocked down by tipsy bikers.

Can the Mayor ask young designers to submit new designs here?

In Bangalore, metal street name boards are in green and even carry the names of the local Ward councillors and their contact numbers. They are hung from posts placed at every street corner at heights of eight feet.

In Mumbai, the metal-ceramic name boards hang from posts that are tall and enable us to read the names from afar.

Abroad, many civic bodies use walls of streetend houses or stores to display the street names. They can even choose from a selection of designs.

Chennai's Mayor can and must get into communities. Tap their talents. Get the young involved. For street signs, public art, green campaigns, heritage projects.

How about launching with Skrat and Anil Srinivasan concerts on the lawns of Ripon Buildings ( hopefully the Metro has not swallowed all that land!).

May 05, 2012

Help! Help! In Chennai

'Chennai Corporation . . .'
'No sir'

'Chennai Corporation Complaints 1913?'

'Yes sir'

'Can you please take my complaint. . .the streetlights in Avvai Nagar have not been burning for a week now and there are street dogs all over and we cannot sight them . .

' Sir, please don't rush. . .we have a problem here . .'

' But aren't you supposed to take note of our complaints?'

'Yes sir, but we don't have the staff sir'

'But you are talking to me now . .'

'Yes sir, but did you not know the staff are suspended?"

'OK, OK but the streetlights not burning is a big problem for seniors . '

' Sir, our Mayor suspended the staff so how can we work?'

'Maybe the Mayor took the right action?'

'What right action? Hundreds of people like you keep calling about lights and dogs and roads and potholes and how do you expect 4 people to take down all these complaints?'

'But that's why you are given the jobs na?'

'What jobs sir, do you think the Mayor knows the headaches we have?'

'He says you people had not taken down our plaints and so he threw you out'

'Sir, why do you keep calling us? Why don't you file your problem online?

'I did but . . '

'Then why are you bothering us sir?'

' I filed complaints three times about the drains . . '

' You would have got quick reply no'

'Yes, they sent one SMS - your complaint has been noted. Then a second SMS - your complaint has been upgraded to division engineer. Then they sent third SMS - your complaint will be looked at by the engineer . . '

'Then why do you want to call 1913 sir?

'The engineer calls and says we will do our best but nothing happens . . '

'So will the Mayor throw out all those engineers? He does not understand sir and we poor people get caught'

'So will you take down my complaint or not?

'Sir, may I make a suggestion? Why don't you call 9999?'

'Is it the Mayor's hotline?'

'No no sir . .'

' I read the police are getting a common helpline to cover traffic and ambulance and  . .'

'Good idea, good idea . .'

' But what is that 9999/'

'It is the Mother of all Helpline numbers sir. Just call now'