This year's edition of the festival spread out beyond the realm of classical arts to involve folk arts, drama and cinema, guaranteeing the participants a wholesome experience
Having heard about Svanubhava, the festival of performing arts, right from 2008 I decided that this year I would make it a point to attend it. The energy, passion and involvement of the artists, volunteers and students was unbelievable. Every performance was interactive making it extremely engaging.
This year the festival was conducted not only at art institutions but also in public schools. So we had five venues in six days. Every day, the festival started with a presentation by students: of Kalakshretra, Harishree Vidyalayam, Padma Seshadri Vidya Mandir, Music Academy, The Government Music College and Vidya Mandir.
The first big concert was by Thrissur Ramachandran, full of vigour and energy. This was followed by an exquisite dance recital by Alarmelvalli and Madhvi Mudgal (Bharatanatyam and Oddisi). The way they answered numerous questions from students was graceful and down to earth. An engaging chat between P. Unnikrishnan and Karthik Kumar gave us an idea of an artist's life. Finally octogenarian genius T.K. Murthy on the mridangam gave a rhythmic finale to day one.
The first concert on day two was A.K.C Natarajan on the clarinet. Not only did we hear old world Carnatic music but also about his fight to make a mark with a new instrument. A Kattai Koothu presented by V.R.Devika opened our eyes to the art forms we ignore. The afternoon sessions had a presentation on Ragam, Thalam, Pallavi by Chitravina N. Ravikiran followed by a humorous yet serious talk on humour in Tamil Cinema by Crazy Mohan and ARS.
The next day the festival moved to Harishri Vidyalayam. The first performance was by a 15-member panchavadyam group from Kerala. Only the elephants were missing. Again their interaction taught us about the instruments, their context and history. Everyone was looking forward to the conversation between singer S.P. Balasubramaian and Rajiv Menon, who blew us away with their views on music in Tamil cinema, which SPB illustrated by rendering popular songs.
From Mandaiveli we moved to Padma Seshadri, K.K.Nagar. Four musicians who are considered tomorrow's stars — Nisha Rajagopal, Amritha Murali, Balamuralikrishna and Prasanna Venkatrama — presented a concert conceived and directed by R.Vedavalli. A short play by Koothupattarai was followed by an engaging and interesting talk on upapakkavadyam in Carnatic music by S.Karthik, B.S. Purushotham and Rajasekhar.
At the Music Academy, we enjoyed the luxury of an air-conditioned hall and lovely seats. N. Rajam and her family treated us to a concert of perfection and elegance. Malavika Sarukai's dance recital was a visual treat of energy and class. She also answered some serious questions with great élan. Following his flute recital, Shashank explained some unique techniques he has evolved. The last event was a retrospective on T. Vishwanathan by his students Sriram Parasuram and Anuradha Sriram. I learnt something new about a great artist I had not known about.
The last day began with Hyderabad Brothers who had the audience swaying to their music. A musical duet between S. Sowmya and Nithyashri Mahadevan followed with each trying to do their best without overshadowing the other. It was also touching to watch the mutual respect between the two artists. An intense debate on gender on music and dance was next. Finally the day ended with namasankeertan by Thukaram Ganapathy Maharaj who stole our hearts with bhakti-filled music.
Finally the event was web streamed live on the Internet thanks to www.purplestream.in People from over 37 countries like Finland, Japan New Zealand and United States watched the proceedings live. This is a major step in popularising Indian arts in other parts of the world. We were also privileged to have well known people like former Governor of West Bengal Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami interacting with us. I am now waiting for Svanubhava 2011.