All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up, said Pablo Picasso.

And Svanubhava, an art festival, is all about addressing this setback. By exposing children to various art forms and enabling them to imbibe the nuances of a performance, a sensitivity to art is instilled in them, which may lay the foundation for a deeper delving into them.

T.M. Krishna, the driving force behind Svanubhava (which means “self-experience”), says, “We are trying to create an interest among youngsters in the performing arts forms. Unfortunately, in academic institutions most performances are besieged by the ‘keep it light’ policy, he says wryly. “At an art school, the intensity, the depth, the aesthetics of an art form is depicted far more effectively.”

Fifth edition

Svanubhava is a cultural movement by the students of the performing arts and aims to inspire, learn and share this richness with one and all. The 5th edition of the festival held last week in Chennai, had an array of programmes including kutcheris to therukoothu. “This year we are showcasing about seven art forms,” says Chandrasekara Sharma, who handled logistics.

The core team had worked tirelessly to actively involve students from various city schools and colleges.

“As it was a working day, getting students to attend was a bit of a challenge, ” says Vidya Raghavan, who handled all interactions with academic institutions. “We met the principals of nearly 45 city schools with a letter inviting them to send their students for the event. ”

It is not just attendance that is sought from these schools but direct involvement. “Selected schools make a presentation about the art forms prior to the event. A prize has been offered for the best ones,” continued Vidya. “Students, therefore do some background research before attending the programme.”

The team even reached out to institutions that cater to the needs of special children. “The mementos that were given to the speakers have been made by these children. In fact, some of these children even came forward and presented the mementos to the speakers,” said Vikram Raghavan, who heads Team Svanubhava.

Mutual learning

“Svanubhava is a platform to meet youngsters from various disciplinary. Apart from schools students, architecture students, theatre clubs and journalism students took part,” said Anirudh Athreya who handled the logistics for the programme.

“We are basically reaching out to two distinct sets of people. Some know nothing at all about the art forms and we want to introduce them to it. There are others, who are well versed in one distinct art form but end up living in a bubble completely cut off from other forms,” pointed out Vikram. There were lecture demonstrations, theatre presentations, personality talks, dance performances and art forms from Manipur, Kerala and Orissa.

“This year in fact we had introduced a few special such as glove puppetry and Manipuri dance,” added Emmanuelle Martin, another member of the team.

Global patronage

Going by the response of the audience these additions had been greatly appreciated. “It was really nice. I really enjoyed myself”, said Twisha, a student of Hari Shree Vidyalayam. “I loved the Manipuri Dance,” added her friend Mananeswari. “It was so colourful.”

While the performances unfolded enrapturing its young audience in Chennai, web casts were also taking place, ensuring that the various art forms were given a global patronage.

“We have already got responses from Tokyo, Chicago, London and Australia, so far.” said Vikram. “Svanabhuva is no longer just a festival, it has become a movement.”

(Preeti Zachariah is a Sub-editor, The Hindu In School)