CHENNAI:Away from the paved walkways and ice cream sellers, tucked behind the Ellaiamman Koil, the scene was vibrant. Old cars and tempos decked up in painted cloth banners, with children sitting on top cheering, graffitied walls announcing Urur Olcott Margazhi Vizha, against the backdrop of fishing boats and the waves. As the crowd of outsiders trickled in, the people living in Urur Kuppam also began gathering at their doors to watch the performance, drawn by the beats of the drums. The second day of the Urur Olcott Margazhi Vizha organised by T M Krishna saw a diverse set of performances, with the intention of bringing different forms of art and different classes of people together.
The mood of the theme was set in the first performance, Paraiattam by the group Ambedkar Kalai Kuzhu. The rhythm and movements of the performance had the audience, both the visitors and the people from the settlement, decked in Pongal festivity moving their heads to the beat of the drums. Some stood on top of houses to watch the performance and kids danced behind the stage. A paniyaram stall made brisk business.
The children from the village were not just the only ones high on energy, a group of young girls put up a performance of Villu Paatu, singing of art uniting people. “Everyone knows the Thalapakatti restaurant that came here a few years ago, but nobody knows of the village behind the restaurant that has existed for centuries,” sang the girls.
After the enthusiasm of these novice singers followed the performance by a seasoned and favourite voice of Chennai, who’s fame spread beyond the closeted world of Carnatic music with his film song Ennavale Adi Ennavale in the 1994 movie Kadhalan. Unnikrishnan, in his mellow and effortless style, sang a number of songs including the popular Thaye Yashoda in Thodi and Bharatiyar paadalgal, finishing his performance with a brief rendition of two of his film songs, Ennavale and Narumugaye from Iruvar, to much cheering from the audience, whom he thanked for giving him a chance to perform in the setting. The last programme of the day was a Kattai Koothu performance themed Krishnan Thudhu, by the vibrantly dressed performers from the Kattai Koothu Sangam in Kancheepuram.
“We are enjoying the show, although we liked our performance the best!’ said Sangeetha, a bright young kid who performed in the Villu Paatu programme. The show saw a large crowd on the first day too, which had a Carnatic instrumental concert, Bharatanatyam from Anitha Guha’s troupe and another show of Paraiattam. “We have been very happy with the turnout, and have got excellent feedback from both the performers and the audience,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, environmental and social activist who organised the festival along with T M Krishna and the people from the fishing community including K Saravanan.
The aim of the festival, Nityanand believes, is not quite about bringing high art like Carnatic music to the ones deprived of it. “We are not doing anyone a favour. But this sort of a programme brings different forms of art together, and the change of venue from the ghettoised sabhas add value both to the music and to the artiste,” he said. Taking Villu Paatu to the Sabha, he said, is not quite his purpose as he believes that these need not be the only places where music needs to be performed in order to have some value. Moreover, he hopes that apart from the musical benefits, the programme could bring some recognition and identity to this place that is home to the fisherfolk, who’s livelihood is under threat. The organisers are hopeful that such programmes could do something about the gentrification that has set in with beach beautification proposals, that do nothing for the people whose life depends on the sea.