A few months ago, when the dates of ‘Saarang 2012' were rescheduled to ensure that students did not spend excessive time in preparing for it, and had adequate time for their placements and examinations, the response from students was quite mixed.

Most had complained on their online forums and newsletters that “it would only reduce the quality of the fest as students would have less time to prepare for it.” But as the curtains came down on the event on Sunday, many of the volunteers at IIT-Madras and most importantly the visiting students were happy to note that most of such doubts had been misplaced. “The best part of Saarang is its variety. Everybody you know and you want to know in the student community was here. It is a great place to have fun, learn,” says N. D. Deepak of NIT Tiruchi.

The last and perhaps most colourful day of the cultural fest saw not just students from different colleges, but also families of faculty members and students having a great time on the campus. Lively folk music enthralled visitors on the street, while bands spanning the whole spectrum of genres received enthusiastic responses from fans. ‘Street Dance' seemed to be the flavour of the day as many clogged, rigged and rocked the floor with unique shuffle dancing. “Nothing of this happens on the streets here, but it is fun to watch,” S. Sidharatha, a student, noted wryly.

Providing the much needed local content were theatre artists studying in different colleges of Chennai. “We mostly try to present issues of caste and class in our plays. This time we are trying to show how these aspects affect people with disability more,” said M. Mughilan from D.G. Vaishnav College. “Considering that we have students from across the country and very few from the State, it is difficult for local performers to gain acceptance,” said Mayank Chowdhary of IIT- Madras.

The highlight of this year's fest was the fact that winners of all events in music, dance, photography and others were granted admission to academies for short-term courses. Even the winners in literary events have been given an opportunity to publish in online publishing forums. “We realised the winners should be given something that is long term, apart from the prize money,” says Sushmita Nannuru, a student managing the public relations of the event.

With nearly 800 volunteers and organisers, the fest indeed is one of the largest in the country, and one of the most popular too. “There is at least some importance given to classical arts here, but the fest is entirely driven by B.Tech students. Participation from the M.Tech and research students is minimal,” says Varun Jain, a research fellow at IIT-M. The fest, with a budget outlay of Rs.1.6 crore this year, with a 30 per cent increase in sponsorship from last year's, has only got bigger, attracting nearly 6,000 visitors.

“We get big performers to pull more crowd and they take a bigger chunk of the money. But we do generate a lot through ticket sales,” says Sushmita. While most colleges in and around the city have at the most 10 sponsoring companies, IIT-M this year has managed to rope in nearly 40 sponsors and partners, including some start-ups too. “The start-ups feel this is the best part to publicise themselves. We even have a magazine that is only launching next month, sponsoring us,” she adds.

There was also a profoundly human and humorous face to the festival that usually emerged on the midnight of each of the event days. From estimating how much you need to scream to be part of ‘the cool crowd' that ‘enjoys' a certain Western band to mocking at their own teasers and sponsor ads that disturbed the performance of dancers in an event, a group of students brought out newsletters showing the ‘good and bad' of the event. “There are funny things that happen every day. This is just a lighter take on the event, because at the end of the day, it is all about the awesome amount of fun we have during these five days.” says Sarthak, who handles it.

Keywords: Saarang 2012

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