As Maamadurai Potruvom, the much-anticipated festival to celebrate the Temple Town and its traditions divulges today, the artists, designers, organizers, singers and writers who have made it a reality speak about their love for the city

This is meant to be a people’s festival. The commoners of the city are consciously taking part in Maamadurai Potruvom to make it a success story and a forerunner for future initiatives. The impact is already visible in the various small voluntary projects that have grown under the larger canopy of the festival and many hope that the mega event would continue to celebrate the city and its richness in the coming years. The logo has been designed by artist Trotsky Marudu.

Paintings by the pavement

A group of school art-teachers and freelance artists are beautifying a part of the city. Colourful paintings adorn the Medical College compound wall, and a number of artists are working on the platform. “They have been working since a week,” says Gandhirajan, artist and art historian and also the co-ordinator for Maa Madurai art project. “Nearly 50 paintings have been done for the festival. This is an initiative to spread awareness about Madurai’s richness in art and architecture.” The paintings point to the typical elements that define the city from the sculptures of Pudumandapam and the temple towers to jasmine fields, Yanaimalai and the everyday life of the people.

“Apart from the obvious factors of Madurai, we have tried showing lesser-known aspects of the city like the Jain sites and the number of Brahmi inscriptions found in and around Madurai,” says Gandhirajan. “There were many art movements in Madurai which people hardly know about. There is a reference to the painters who lived in Chitrakara Street in literary works like Madurai Kaanji.”

Artists belonging to a group called ‘Chitrakkal’ have also replicated colonial-era photographs and paintings of the city. An old photograph of the Thirumalai Naick Palace by photographer Daniel in the year 1857 has been replicated on the wall. Pointing to a rural scene, Gandhirajan says, “This is a replica of a photograph belonging to the 19th century. The photo was taken at Vellalapatti near Melur. It depicts the dressing, life and material culture of people in that region.”

Gerald, an art-teacher at a government school, has replicated a mural painting from Alagar Kovil. He says, “This is a good opportunity for us to show our mettle. We feel proud to chip in whatever little bit we can for the sake of the city.”

Mohan, another artist, feels that such paintings should be done across the city to promote tourism. “In cities like Jaipur and Jodhpur, you may find paintings depicting the local culture, art and architecture.” Certainly the stretch from Gandhi Museum to Medical College has become livelier with these paintings. Locals, foreign tourists and passersby are already stopping by the pavement to gaze at the upcoming wall art!

Movies for Maamadurai

Three budding designers have worked out an ad promo for the festival. “The video shows how everything from the people, the slang, temples, festivals and food to the streets and markets is vibrant in Madurai,” says Praveen, a member of Kiruku, a city-based graphic-design firm. The two-minute-long promotional video is a mixture of photographs, motion graphics and 3D images made on Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects software. “We worked on it for nearly 10 days,” says Ranjeeth Kumar. “The ad gives the message that Madurai is dynamic and expresses the wish that it should continue to be so.”

Praveen explains the concept. “We have juxtaposed the old and the new – the elements the town already has and the ones that are in the pipeline. The video shows these two as different forces adding up to the vibrancy of the city.” Ranjeeth feels that there are not many photos of Madurai on the internet and says that he wants to create an online photo bank. The team will also be doing the photo and video documentation of the festival. The ad promo can be viewed on Youtube and Facebook and is also being aired on local TV channels.

Karthick, another enthusiastic youngster and a Maduraiite living in Georgia for nearly two years has made an eight-minute video for the festival. “I came to know about Maamadurai Potruvom through Facebook and immediately designed a video using the some photos and movie clip from the net,” says Karthick. “I have put across as many aspects of the city. I have also matched the visuals with the lyrics of the theme song. I miss Madurai a lot and this is my humble contribution for the festival. I was happy to see the likes and comments and collector’s appreciation message.” Karthick’s video has been posted on Collector Madurai page on fb and also on Youtube.

Sungudi turns stylish

In view of Maamadurai Potruvom, February 8 has been declared as ‘Sungudi Day’ to revive the languishing craft of tie and dye. Voluntary members of the Federation of Tie and Dye & Printed Textile Cluster, a self-help group under the aegis of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), have been visiting colleges to sell Sungudi products as part of the promotional drive.

A.K.Ramesh, the secretary of the federation, says, “Traditionally, Sungudi is considered to be worn only by elderly women. We wanted to break that notion and push Sungudi among the younger generation and students. In three days, we covered over 10 colleges and sold goods worth 7.75 Lacs.” He adds, “The response among youth was tremendous. Students picked up items like cell phone pouches, purses and surukku pais apart from saris. Our products are nominally priced between Rs.250 and Rs.600.”

Sankaranarayanan, Assistant General Manager of NABARD, says, “The festival is an apt platform to project Sungudi’s importance and ethnicity. Like the malli flower, Sungudi should also be considered an inseparable part of the city and protected.”

Usha Krishna of World Crafts Council, says, “Madurai Sungudi is not just a piece of cloth but embodies skills of crafts persons which have been acquired over time. We are happy to note that the Madurai administration has recognized the importance of Sungudi to their heritage and is providing stall space at the Madurai Vizha. We are especially encouraged that February 8th has been declared as “Sungudi Day” in Madurai. We hope that this practice will continue in the years to come. This will ensure that Sungudi once again attains its preeminent position among the famed textiles of India. The hopes and aspirations of the Sungudi artisans can be realized with the support of the people of Madurai.”

The city’s anthem

“Devathai pol oru Vaigai nadhi odum Madurai kottai

Sanga pulavargal paadiya paadalgal thaan raja paatai…”

This peppy song with earthy beats has been making the rounds on social networking sites. Karunanidhi has sung this song on Madurai and composed the music, and his friend Ekadashi wrote the lyrics.

Karunanidhi, a school teacher from Checkanoorani, a village near Madurai, says, “I am basically a folk singer and have sung over 50 film songs. In this theme song, we have used traditional instruments like the tabla, tappu and dhol. We wanted it to sound rustic so that even laymen can enjoy the song.” The six-minute song is now being called the anthem for Madurai.

Ekadashi says, “When I was asked to write upon Madurai, I was more than happy. It took me just an hour to complete the song. I have written lyrics for many cinema songs including ‘Otha sollala’ song in the movie Aadukalam that won National Award. Yet, writing a song on my home-town felt more special.” Ekadashi says that he has tried to show Madurai as the ever-living matriarch with her cheerful children, the people. “I see Madurai as my mother. That’s why the opening line personifies River Vaigai as a fairy,” he says.

The theme song of Maa Madurai Potruvom can be downloaded from the Facebook page created for the festival.