Music, dance, talks, workshops, contests…the annual IIT cultural carnival gets bigger and better. Anusha Parthasarathy on Saarang 2012

The quiet roads of IIT Madras with only sneaker-clad walkers, bird watchers, friendly dogs and families of curious deer will witness a sudden change in the coming week. Confetti, food stalls, rockstars and students will adorn this campus all day and night, culminating in 'Saarang 2012' (January 18 to January 22).

I'm waiting at Gajendra Circle, only to be escorted by a member of the hospitality department to the office of the dean of students, a five-minute walk through tree-lined roads. In the conference room, I'm surrounded by 20-odd members of the core team. “Did you know we're the first ISO 9001:2008 certified cultural event?” asks P. Prashant, cultural secretary, “We were certified last year.”

This year, Saarang has a big plan — to make a change that lasts beyond the five days. “We've partnered with Channel V India to try and give participants something more than just a competition. We hope this will be a launch pad for many aspiring bands. We also have a tie-up with Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music. We've teamed up with The Hindu's NXG for Rockstar, to give winners better opportunities,” he continues, “Apart from this, we are also trying to do something socially relevant. We've joined hands with Akshaya Patra to provide noon meals to children, and with iloveread.in to build libraries for schools. This is actually an event where ten teams have registered to buy books, make manuals and construct a library from scratch in ten schools. We give them all the tools they need and also get them internships with NGOs to train them. They're doing this right now and will bring back their story to Saarang,” he explains.

Fun for all

Then there is ‘The Carnival', which will keep the crowd engaged, making it fun for everyone who wishes to be a part of Saarang. “We have game stalls, street soccer, road shows, juggling, street magic and folk art performances,” says the events department.

The lecture series this year will have 11 lectures including a tie-up with Ink Talks (who are partnered with Ted Talks). Ink Talks are kicking off their college series with Saarang. Says Sushmitha, “Ink Talks features young achievers who've done a lot but aren't out in the open yet. We're also bringing in Anita Ratnam, R. Balki and Resul Pookutty to address participants. There will also be a demonstration by ventriloquist Indushree.”

In order to be more inclusive, the cultural fest has opened its doors to schools. “One major event this year is the Spelling Bee, which will be in association with India Spell Bee where the preliminaries for schools and colleges will be conducted separately but the finals will see them pitted against each other,” says Prashant, while the events team adds, “Some of the other events such as classical dance and music are also open to schools. We think that by doing this, we're making the competition a lot tougher and better.”

There will also be workshops apart from events. “There are workshops on photography and chocolate making and even one on French cuisine this year apart from others,” adds Prashant.

The professional shows, which have been the major attraction in IIT over the years, are back with a gusto. “Traditionally, we have four major shows; a classical night, popular night, rock show and choreo night. This year, the major change is the inclusion of a second popular night — one by Vishal and Shekar and the other by Devi Sri Prasad. Now, there is a mix of Hindi and Tamil performances,” says Sanjeev Rao, who heads the professional shows department.

“The folk infusion night will feature flautist Shashank Subramanyam and the Manganiyars and we're also having performances by Sutra, a dance group who will premiere here.”

Over the last two years, Saarang has collaborated with embassies to bring in skilful but not so well-known artistes. These shows will be held at the student activity centre. “We have three French artists, a band from Thailand (TBone, who will also judge NXG Rockstar) and a few others. These events will precede the main shows so that there is something happening everywhere all the time,” says Sanjeev.

Tickets for Saarang are available at www.ticketgreen.com and select outlets of Landmark, Donut House, Fruit Shop on Greams Road and Pizza Corner.

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