CHENNAI: Performers quickly get off stage after their set, only to be replaced by another group. After a short introduction, they began to perform, with audience cheering loud. On the other end of the hall were several food stalls selling organic food and traditional south Indian cuisine.
This was the scene at the sixth Veedi Viruthu Vizha held at Loyola College. The two-day event began at 9 am on January 19, and continued till January 20, with traditional folk artistes performing through the night with no breaks. Organised by Alternative Media Centre, the festival hopes to bring more attention to 1,024 forms of folk art, while attempting to set a record with the Acme Book of World Records for the most number of art forms performed on one stage. Over 5,000 folk artistes from across Tamil Nadu were present at the event.
For Tiruchy-based Kali Aatam troupe, Avvai Shanmugi Deiviga Nadana Kalaikulu, this festival was a chance to display their art form to a mainstream audience. The leader of the troupe, Aralarisan TV Shanmugam, learned this dance form when he was eight years old, and has spent the last 40 years teaching over 35 members of his troupe.
“Half of my troupe members are Christians and Muslims. It is not about religion to them, it is about the joy of dance. We ask newer members to come for performances and see our dance, and our movements, and in one month’s time, they pick up the dance themselves,” he said.
A series of paintings, depicting the victims of the Strelite protests, the farmer suicides, and the victims of the Syrian War, drawn by city-based artist Mugilan M were displayed. The 39-year-old graduate from Government College of Fine Arts believes in depicting political strife and the people’s struggles through his artworks.
“Some people want their paintings to be calming, and I can do that — I can paint them a house, with a man fishing beside it and someone reading a newspaper. But when the actions of larger corporations pollute the very land on which you build your house, where is the space for relaxation? Art can never be just art; it is always political, and I use my art to depict the pain of the common man,” said Mugilan. To him, the only way he can be free of the pain that he feels when he reads of the death and destruction wrought on people, is through his paintbrush. He hopes that the people who view his art also feel roused by the imagery.
Various panels on conservation of traditional arts were also held. Additionally, 15 senior artists over the age of 90 years were felicitated with awards and supporting funds.