The two-day ‘Svanubhava,' held in Tiruchi, had leading artists performing to an audience exclusively of school students.

The two-day festival,‘Svanubhava,' held in Tiruchi, attracted a large number of school students, who were its target audience. The programme was organised by musician T.M. Krishna.

Leading artists from different fields such as Harikatha, therukoothu, Thevaram and drama performed.

Every performance ended with an interactive session, where students vied with each other to ask questions. Their questions took the artists by surprise, who realised how keen the children were to learn about the performing arts.

“I have never performed before an audience made up exclusively of school-going children. On the contrary, a majority of my audience has been senior citizens,” said Priyadarsini Govind during the interaction. The students, who enjoyed the dance to a Marathi composition, gave her a spontaneous standing ovation.

Priyadarsini's Telugu javali also went down well. She expressed the nayaki bhava by ‘shutting' all the doors of her house in protest against the deceptive ‘nayakan'.

The Odhuvars, Kudandai Lakshmanan and Dharmapuram Naanaprakasam, also received a similar reaction from the students. Their meticulous handling of ‘Piththa Piraisoodi,' the first composition of Sri Sundarar glorifying Lord Siva at the Tirunavalur temple in Villupuram district, mesmerised the audience.

One of them even asked whether Thevaram could be learnt and practised by people belonging to different faiths. Nyanaprakasam explained that the art was above religious barriers and even a Chinese had mastered it.

Vishaka Hari's Harikatha, which was the inaugural item of the festival, centred round ‘Vaishnava Janatho' a composition in Gujarati. After her detailed lecture, she urged the children to develop values. She said that the Gujrati song, composed five centuries ago, was dear to Mahatma Gandhi because it codified every aspect of discipline. She pointed out that truth, ahimsa, duty, and respect for parents and elders were some of the important virtues students should develop. She narrated the story of Ambarish and saint Dhurvasar to drive home the points of forgiveness and tolerance.

The students watched in awe when the ‘Thugil urithal' sequence was performed during therukoothu, by the members of the Purisai Kannappa Tambiran Paramparai Therukoothu Mandram from Kanchipuram. The hour-long programme brought out the essence of the Mahabharata. A chorus at the end of the therukoothu, invoking the blessings of the rain god for the protection of earth, was a special feature.

V.R. Devika, the resource-person, explained the details of every sequence. She said that the therukoothu had been meticulously ‘edited' to suit the time, otherwise the ‘Thugil Urithal' sequence would go on for about eight hours.

The Kattiyakarar's role was not only to introduce each character but also to add humour. The construction of the ‘mandapam' – the origin of the Mahabharata - using five students selected from the first row provided fun and laughter.

Nuances of ghatam

T.H. Vikku Vinayakram, in his solo recital, explained the nuances of handling the ghatam. He explained every detail through a meticulous demonstration.

S. Shashank gave an inspiring flute concert and urged the students to play the instrument with confidence. N. Vijay Siva posed simple questions while rendering kirtans. He acknowledged that he has just learnt a little in the ocean of music and was still in the process of updating his skill and knowledge by listening to various vocalists.

Crazy Mohan, who staged ‘Choclate Krishna,' said that he was impressed by the enthusiastic reception given to his play by the students. “In fact, my play was directed at instilling values in children. The nuclear family has come to stay, but the children in such families are neglected. Themes focussing on the welfare of the elderly have been highlighted in plays, films and the media. It is high time we focussed on the children,” he said. Based on his Tiruchi experience, he would organise a workshop on humour for children. Every artist appreciated the effort taken by T.M. Krishna in organising the event.“We want to create a community of students for the performing arts and instil in them a sense of belonging and pride about our arts and culture. The programme also provides an opportunity to interact with prominent artists,” said Krishna. Having set the ball in motion to motivate students, he plans to make the event in Tiruchi an annual one. “This is the first time that the programme has been organised outside Chennai,” he pointed out.

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