Like homemade pickles, the annual Mylapore Festival
is getting better and better.
The 2005 edition, called the Sundaram Finance-Mylapore
Festival, held over four days (January 6 to 9)
is just in its second year and it attracted over
40,000 people to its venues - ten spaces in and
outside the famed Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple in
It brought people from all corners of the city,
especially on the weekend, when over 200 women
on each evening took part in the annual kolam
contest held on North Mada Street.
From Mannady and Tambaram, from Valasarawakkam
and Thiruvanmiyur, they came to show off their
talent and found that there was so much to enjoy
in the bargain. And they stayed on. As Sundaram
Finance Managing Director Srinivasaraghavan says,"Our
vision is to have a fest that reflects Chennai
and have it in the middle of the most lively places
in the city."
and food, vintage coins and Tamil books, folk
and classical arts, music, drama, cinema and music.
Out in the open.
It was a mela. And a mela where friends from all
corners of the city met and shared from a plate
loaded with Kanchipuram idlis! Carnatic singer
T. M. Krishna and his singer-wife Sangeetha rubbed
shoulders with thappattam artistes from Muthukkadu
in the Food Stree,t while Mylapore police Inspector
Parandhaman, captivated by Velu Saravanan's Children's
theatre, pulled up a chair next to artiste-editor
Revathy Sankkaran at the Rasi quadrangle, to sit
and soak in the main shows.
What began as a simple neighbourhood kolam contest
some nine years ago is now accquiring the form
and substance of a major cultural event that Madras,
that is Chennai, can boast of.
And since Mylapore is a must-see stop for all
tourists, there were busloads of foreigners feasting
on the carpet of kolams. And international tennis
players, including Leander Paes, participating
in the Chennai Open, who got trapped in the celebrations
while visting the temple, got a glimpse of the
celebrations from their gleaming Mercs.
Festival accquired some other distinct features.
Its managers trained local schools in folk arts
and gave them the stage every evening. Community
groups - Probus, State Bank of India (active and
retired) staff and others, worked willingly as
And, local brands like Leo Coffee, Sukra Jewellery
and Viveks, were happy to be event sponsors, while
Tamil Nadu Tourism and the central government-managed
South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, also supported
the fest. (The other sponsors were PPN Power and
of Lady Sivaswamy Girls School, Mylapore, CSI
School for the Deaf, Santhome, and Rani Meyyammai
Girls School were trained by Kannan Kumar in the
folk dances that were peformed daily on thstage
before the main shows on the last two days. Kannan
Kumar's troupe performed Devarattam, Oyilattam
and Tahppattam on the main stage.
Another fascinating folk art was the kokkalikattai
attam with dancers dancing vigorously on their
If 'Comaganin Ragapriya's concert of unforgettable
melodies of yesteryears, tuned by M. S. Viswanathan,
kicked off the main shows on a warm note, the
shows for the weekend drew large crowds.
Bombay Gnanam's troupe, presenting a Tamil play
on neighbourly relations, was a bit of a let-down
but the colourful, earthy Kaliattam by a Pondicherry
troupe, fascinated the large Sunday evening audience.
is a huge temptation. But popular art? Well, the
people who thronged Pitchu Pillai Street, transformed
into Art Street, demonstrated that common people
do enjoy fine arts. The Fine Arts students of
Stella Maris College painted on canvases and on
the walls of local houses, made jewellery and
handmade paper items and offered mehendhi designs
while former students of the Government College
for the Arts, Chennai, drew portraits of visitors
- and this queue did not dry up even as late at
Tamil books exhibition and sale on East Tank Street,
held for the first time, took time to warm up
but the publishers have promised to come back
in 2006 in a big way. The big surprise of the
fest was the vintage coins exhibition at Lady
Sivaswami Iyer. Members of the Madras Coin Society
were great guides and later said that they had
never received such a huge response.
highlight of the four day programme was definitely
the kolam competitions, which gave birth to the
idea of a festival.
On January 8 and 9 evenings, 200 women on each
day, participated in what must be the biggest
kolam contest, transforming North Mada Street
into a veritable 'carpet of kolams'. Traffic was
diverted with the help of the police (Mylapore's
Traffic and Law and Order departments - (ACP Murugesan,
Inspector Parandhaman and Inspector Kulandai).
Judges Mallika Madhavan of Stella Maris College,
and actor and 'Mangaiyar Malar' editor, Revathy
Sankkaran, took over an hour to select the best
fifteen kolams. On Sunday, 30 'kutti' children,
inlcuding two boys, also designed kolams at the
far end of North Mada Street. The 2006 fest will
make this a full-fledged event.
may have been held early in the morning, but the
Carnatic kutcheris by young musicians at Nageswara
Rao Park, now developed by Sundaram Finance Group,
drew a decent crowd of listeners. The young artistes
sang sitting on the Chess Square. The ambience
created in the park with flowers and thoranams,
On January 8 nd 9, L. Baba Prasad presented magic
shows to captivate children at the R. K. Swamy
Auditorium in Lady Sivaswamy Kalalaya. At the
same venue on the morning of January 9, photographer
D. Krishnan gave a talk on 'Madras through the
Ages', using his vintage and recent photographs.
This was followed by The Madras Quiz for school
studens, conducted by Vincent D'Souza. Children
simply loved the quiz, and the ones in the audience
seemed to know as many answers as the finalists.
Prizes came from Odyssey, Taj Coromandel, Janaki
& Co., and Essen Musicals.
was something for seniors too. Vintage movies,
produced by AVM Studios, were screened at P. S.
High School. Cinema historian Randor Guy introduced
the movies, and AVM Saravanan dropped by that
The audience loved 'Sabapathy', an enormously
funny picture, and which most viewers appreciated
for 'clean' comedy.
and historian V. Sriram took 42 people on a Carnatic
music heritage walk on Sunday. Winding through
Alwarpet, Luz and Mylapore and ending at R R Sabha
and breakfast at a heritage house.
all four days, there were shows on the stage outside
the eastern gopuram of the Temple. Performers
performed in the open air, and the audience sat
under a canopy of starry skies, creating the atmosphere
of a thiruvizha.
On January 8, Gayathri Balagurunathan and group
mesmerized the audience with the performance of
'Ayigiri Nandini', a dance drama with colourful
costumes and light effects. People waited to see
the film clips of M. S. Subbulakshmi's songs like
'Deviyei poojai seivai' and 'Katriniley varum
geetham' ( courtesy: Vintage Heritage and Surveswaran's
handicrafts workshops for women were conducted
on all four days at three different venues. The
last day saw a varied selction of folk arts. Dr.
Velu Saravanan of Pondicherry worked for a week
with young children of Children's Garden and Rani
Meyyammai schools, to present a children's theatre
show in Tamil.
Pralayan's Chennai Kalai Kuzhu, presented a street
play after this. Pralayan's show has been an on-going
feature of the festival, and popular with the
A sparklers show, sponsored by Sivakasi Fireworks,
was largely looked forward to for the finale of
the Fest. But it was cancelled - to respect the
mood of the tsunami affected.But the golden ther
inside the temple came out as scheduled, and was
the grand finale.
festival was put together, executed and managed
by the Mylapore Times, the neighbourhood newspaper.
A team of just twelve people who work fulltime
on the newspapers, and also work for the December
season of music and dance, assisting Kutcheribuzz.com.