Poetry, prose, theatre, art and books have been both the mirror and the lamp to Coimbatore From intimate gatherings of friends, the literary activities have grown over the years and today the city boasts of programmes that have become annual events.
In the 1950s, MetroPlus Coimbatore had another five decades to be birthed. But the city then was home to women such as Dhinoo Hataria and Shashi Ghulati who initiated its theatre and literature scene with their Coimbatore Book Club Theatre Group. When the supplement was born, they made it to the headlines often enough with the plays they staged and the book readings and discussions they conducted.
The other name to reckon with was Rajeev Kamineni with his Oxford Bookstore on Trichy Road. Book lovers in the city remember the cozy nook as home to author meets, book launches and most importantly, a place to cuddle up with a good book undisturbed. The Oxford Bookstore was also the founding place of the Coimbatore Quizzing Circle, the forerunner in quizzing in the city even today. Those were also the days of the Humour Society’s revival, headed by G. Lakshmipathi and Mohan Sankar. With annual Laughathons, they brought enough entertainment into Coimbatore to tickle its funny bone. In time, the Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society too began its theatre workshops, short plays, story-telling sessions, public-speaking forums and poetry readings. They even brought London’s West End performers to Coimbatore’s stage.
These efforts however, came to a head with The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest which debuted in the city in 2010. Evam’s Five Point Someone, Rage Production’s One by One, Rajat Kapur’s Hamlet - The Clown Prince, and Ms Meena were that year’s setlist. 2011 upped the drama with Akvarious Productions’ The Interview, The Madras Players’ Doubt, The Company Theatre’s The Blue Mug and Girish Karnad’s Wedding Album. 2012 saw Rajat Kapur return with the astounding Nothing Like Lear, alongside Bombay Talkies, An evening with Anton Chekhov and Baghdad Wedding.
The fest certified Coimbatore as a city with a discerning and learned audience, peppered with literary stalwarts of its own. In Tamil, there have been Sahitya Akademi Awardees such as, Nanjil Nadan (author of six novels, a hundred-odd short stories and two poetry collections) and poet Sirpi Balasubramaniam (author of 85 books, including translations, poems and anthologies). Both have shared their career trajectories within these pages; as has Tamil poet Sella Ganapathy, poet and children’s author for over 50 years. Organisations of literary enthusiasts such as Aruvi have furthered the cause. In English, Coimbatore has produced published authors such as Shobana Kumar and poet Srividya Sivakumar.
Coimbatore’s access to literature has also improved with organisations such as Just Books, Booklover’s Program for Schools and I Love Readin’ Library coming to the city. For children, BUZZ, the children’s book and theatre club, conducted by online lending library Long Long Ago in collaboration with Helen O’Grady International Drama Academy, has broadened horizons.
As its literature and theatre repertoire grew, Coimbatore also saw a growth in artists, art connoisseurs and art galleries. While Kasthuri Srinivasan Art Gallery has brought under the limelight local talent for 25 years, the more recent Contemplate Art Gallery has brought in art from around the country. Special mention must also be made of the Chitrakala Academy which gathers at Sri Baldevdas Kikani Vidya Mandir School every Sunday to teach young children art.