The fourth edition of the cultural festival Svanubhava was an opportunity for the students of music and the uninitiated alike to interact with the art and its artists without being obstructed by the boundaries of convention.

Among the many majestic trees that adorn Kalakshetra's quiet, verdant campus, unfolded a cultural movement — Svanubhava. The fourth edition of the festival, a unique event conducted by students of the arts between October 10 and 12, exposed a young, curious audience, also comprising students, to the wonder that is Indian art.

The initiative began with the aim of familiarising youth with, and of instilling in them a love for, the country's incredible range of performing arts. Svanubhava 2011's Chennai edition combined popular classical forms like Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam with lesser-known traditional forms like the trance-inducing Baul Sangeet and the mesmeric Qawwali tradition.

Pot-bellied mirth

Renowned flautist N. Ramani opened the three-day festival, giving the audience one-and-a-half hours worth of music that was rich and soulful. But it was the fest's interactivity and lack of boundaries that defined its true spirit, lending it the added element of mirth.

A school boy, tender in years but astute in his observation, asked the ghatam player whether the sound was the same wherever the pot was struck. As if to chide the audience and fellow artistes for breaking out in peals of laughter, Ghatam exponent Vaidyanathan Suresh good-naturedly demonstrated the answer on his weapon of choice.

A ‘pointed' question

The first day also saw Shivananda Hegde's Yakshagana troupe enact “Vaali Moksham”, an episode from the Ramayana. Hegde, who played Lord Rama, stood ready to field questions from the audience. Answering every question with patience and clarity, he explained how long it took to wear the costumes (a baffling five hours sometimes!) and spoke of the different kinds of resplendent headgear worn.

The festival also provided exposure to art forms one might not have had access to previously. A performance of the Thevaram was followed by a Qawwali concert by the Warsi Brothers. With their rendition of popular songs like Dama Dum Mast Kalandar, the musicians infused energy and enthusiasm in the audience.

Tacit Understanding

Venkatesh Kumar's Hindustani recital on Day 2 left a spellbound audience ruing the fact that the concert had to come to an end. This was followed by a Villupattu performance where, in an extemporaneous outpouring of morals and contemporary wisdom, Subbu Arumugam and his troupe, threw light on current societal phenomena with rolling repartee and tongue-in-cheek humour.

But even such a down-to-earth art form is not without its own tricks of the trade, it would seem. Indeed, Arumugam himself conceded that it was smart of a student to have raised the question as to how the troupe-members synchronised their music and discourse with one another. “It's a tacit understanding born of experience and familiarity with one another,” he said. This understanding also marked the day's concluding programme: a Talavadyam concert by Srimushnam V. Raja Rao, Trichur Narendran and K.V. Prasad, which brought on the dais three stalwarts celebrated in their own right but who had never graced the stage as a trio. A pulsating finish indeed!

The ‘tonic' that was Svanubhava

Svanubhava consciously worked to have purveyors of art forms reach out to the audience and bring the audience closer to the performance dais and effervescent musician T.M. Krishna was just the man to play the affable mediator's role.

When students from the audience were called up to present mementoes, one member suggested the children prostrate themselves before the artiste. This was met with an equally polite “suggestion” that the absence of a physical gesture did not necessarily imply a lack of genuine respect in the child's heart. This kind of friendly open atmosphere provided the attentive, eager-to-learn youngsters the freedom to ask questions without inhibition; their fresh perspectives surprising even connoisseurs and veterans.

Day 3 saw the dancer duo, the Dhananjayans, speak on Indian dance today. The finale was fitting too; the Malladi Brothers' short, riveting concert gave the event the neat finish it deserved.

The highlight of the day, however, came during the concert by T.N. Krishnan and his son, Sriram Krishnan. As the violins of father and son rang out a smooth, booming note that resonated, merging with the tonic drone or the Shadja, the musician stopped mid-korvai to point out that that moment of pristine resonance was the essence of Svanubhava or self-experience, wherein divinity could be experienced.

Mihir and Shreya have just graduated from Asian College of Journalism.

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