Travelling festivities

Kerala’s first roving cultural festival ‘Enroot’ is modelled on the idea of a space that would hold different cultural impressions of a region where all walks of life would be celebrated
The festival, modelled on his idea of the space that would hold different cultural impressions of a region, will be held in Thiruvananthapuram on July 13 and 14.
The festival, modelled on his idea of the space that would hold different cultural impressions of a region, will be held in Thiruvananthapuram on July 13 and 14.

KOCHI: When you are alone, call it tranquility or freedom, and when you’re with many, call it not a crowd but a festival, so goes a Stoic thought.

Kalki too thought on similar lines as he hopped from one venue to another across the breadth and length of the state volunteering for festivals. As a student of Mass Communication, it was his dream to put together a space where all walks of life would be celebrated. And such a celebration of life, to him, was a festival. 

His real name is Adarsh Murugan but “somehow Kalki stuck, which was a stage name of mine in school,” says the 22-year-old, amidst the works of bringing together yet another gala event, the first the state to experience as a roving festival, the Enroot.

The festival, modelled on his idea of the space that would hold different cultural impressions of a region, will be held in Thiruvananthapuram on July 13 and 14. “This will be the first part of the sessions planned in the capital,” says Kalki. The rest will be held at Kovalam, Varkala, and Ponmudi. 

“We conceptualised it as a roving festival. After the Thiruvananthapuram sessions, we want to take it forward to the rest of the state -- to Kochi, Kozhikode and even to places where probably the concept of festivals is yet to take shape,” says Kalki.

His colleague and co-founder of the festival Gatha Satheesh chips in. “Thiruvananthapuram has had several festivals, mostly government-run, but all of them followed a pattern. We wanted to break this pattern and hence studied the scene here during our pre-sessions and monthly ‘Over-the-Cup’ meets where we reached out to community groups and people in general and found that there was a need for a celebratory space here.

But what was required of it was very complicated because of the social make of the region. You have several communities traditionally rooted here with each one deeply imprinted in its culture. It would take time to reflect the complete ethos of the place but we resolved to keep trying till we could do it.”

And that is the concept of a travelling festival too, she says. “It is more about taking the festival to the region than asking people to congregate at an area. Our logo is the origami version of the Siberian crane which flocks in large numbers to Kottayam and then traverses the region. The travelling spree of the bird is what we plan to capture in the festival as it moves from one venue to another reflecting the innate need of the people to feel the culture around them.

And exactly for this reason, no one session of the festival can be the same. Our session here will be very different from the one at Ponmudi where we are packing nature and adventure into our schedule and at Kovalam and at Varkala, it would have a lot to do with the sea and the ways of life it inspires,” Gatha says.

The Thiruvananthapuram session, to kick off this weekend, has been designed to cater to the five senses of the culture connoisseurs. “As said before, it is tough to show the difference facets of the place due to the presence of multiple traditional streaks here. And hence we have divided it into the sensory zones: Visual, Sound, Artist alley, Taste and smell, Activity, and Main stage,” says Kalki.

The Visual and Sound sections would have presentations that allure the respective senses in the way Thiruvananthapuram identifies rather than the usual festival items so far where artists were brought in and the art that was shown or heard was mostly a mish-mash of art forms from regions other than the capital.

Pre-sessions conducted by Enroot
Pre-sessions conducted by Enroot

The ‘Artist Alley’, especially, would reflect this ingenuity with little-known artists from the region given the space to showcase their talent. “For example, consider archery. We have a group from Nedumangad area who would be telling us more about traditional archery as was practised in the region rather than the way the sport is now machine-driven,” Kalki says. Taste and smell would be exclusively for food where too, the theme would be strictly ‘go regional’.

‘Activity’ and ‘Main Stage’ are forums where Enroot would collaborate with the varied community groups in Thiruvananthapuram that have sprung up in the last five to six years which will give avenues to enthusiasts to indulge in gaming, reading, writing, poetry sessions, and art and digital technology classes. Gaming sessions too would be included. For the ‘Main Stage’, Enroot would have performances from veterans such as Sachin Warrier, the band ‘Jam of Coast’, independent artist Rakhoo, etc., and talk sessions by Aju Varghese and the debate group ‘Tatvika Avalokanam’ along with the Kanthari group,” says Gatha, explaining how the festival aims to do justice to its theme of being an ‘experience-based’ travelling fiesta.

“The logo explains it the best,” says Abhishek Ajayakumar, who is part of the organising team. “A crane from the Siberian lot that breaks free and travels for new experiences based on the cultures of the lands it traverses. Similarly, Enroot has plans to move further on, from Thiruvananthapuram to other regions of the state, where it will look for innate, homegrown experiences. Hence, what we have as a package in the capital will change as we move to Kochi, where the crowd is entirely different with a new set of experiences. Kozhikode may have a crowd that relishes its food and music. Thrissur may need a different treatment,” he says, adding Enroot would travel along, imbibing and reflecting these experiences.

Collaborations will be made with communities in these areas, who would be roped in to set the show as per the taste of that particiular place. “So no two fests will be the same package, neither those who work in them, except probably the managing team,” says Gatha.

“As of now, we are kicking off with the Thiruvananthapuram chapter. The idea is new and hence open to improvisations as we move along. We are a bunch of fresh passouts and youngsters who have worked in several fests in several positions – from volunteers to vendors to media team, and hence organising something as innovative and big as these will open several doors too before us. It took us four years to dream of such a festival and eight months to put it into action. That, in itself, was a unique experience,” says Kalki, with the resolve to bring in as much celebration into the cultural space of Kerala that reflects the tastes of the land and its people.

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