The three-day Gramiya Manam celebrated most things rural

In the sweltering heat, seven people sit inside a blue plastic tent, watching MGR battle the baddies in Adimai Pen. This is Saravana Talkies, set up on VOC grounds as part of the three-day Gramiya Manam.

Palaniappan, who operates the projector, says he plays three movies on loop — Adimai Penn, Kanni Thaai and Thanipiravi. Among the audience in the room smelling of stale smoke is V.S. Selvaraj from a village near Gobichettipalayam. “This is how I used to watch movies as a child,” he smiles.

It is memories such as this that the event, organised by the Department of Art and Culture, Tamil Nadu, and Kadhir College of Engineering, sought to recreate.

The jow mittai man, the bioscope man, the photo studio where one can get clicked with pictures of Kamal and Rajini... nostalgia ruled the show. And people thronged the event by the hundreds, despite the Sun raining down on a unusually hot Sunday morning.

One side of the grounds saw a cookery competition in progress, featuring traditional food. Numerous other stalls sold everything from onion powder to jams and devotional cassettes. There were some exceptions — stalls selling millets and another that sold artefacts made from banana fibre. The Crafts Council of Tamil Nadu had some interesting knick-knacks too.

Back on stage, karagattam dancers set the mood with their synchronised movement and the melam players were on song. But, all waited for the dhavani competition to start. Was it going to be a show that traced the evolution of the half-sari from a humble georgette/cotton dhavani to today’s embellished silk and tissue wonders? It turned out to be yet another fashion show, with predictable questions and answers. The saddest fall: the comperes telling an eager, booing audience not to get disappointed that a dhavani-clad child came on stage first, but to wait for the kumaris who would follow!