When soft strains of music soothe the days, when the sound of chilankas resonate late into the night, we know it is that time of the year.

That time of the year when thousands of young artistes from across the State assemble for one incredible festival. The State School Art Festival, the 53rd edition of which opens at the MSP Parade Ground here on Monday, has no parallel. It is a festival that has survived for half-a-century. And it is getting better, bigger. About 10,000 young artistes, after beating their competitors at the district festivals, are expected for the seven-day festival. They will contest in 232 events, including Vanchippattu, Urdu ghazal and Nangiarkoothu, which are among the disciplines introduced this year.

As many as 17 venues, including MSP Parade Ground, Kottappadi Ground, Municipal Town Hall, St. Gemma’s HSS, GBHSS (Down Hill) and Rose Lounge, will host the festival, which is returning to Malappuram district after eight years (Tirur was the host in 2005).

There were some apprehensions about the conduct of the festival, with the ongoing indefinite strike by government employees affiliated to the Left front, but the organisers are confident that everything will go according to the schedule.

On the eve of the festival, their confidence did not seem misplaced.

There is much to look forward to for the art lovers of Malappuram and the rest of Malabar (people from neighbouring districts and beyond always come for the festival). Dance should be the biggest crowd puller, as it has been for the last three decades. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi, folk and group dances, and Oppana have always been popular.

Wide repertoire

The festival is about much more, though. This is where you get to hear superb singers, instrumental musicians, mimicry artistes, actors and young performers of many other art forms, including less popular ones such as Ottanthullal, Kathaprasangam, and Poorakkali.

And chances are, we will see them on bigger stages years later. Remember, this festival gave us K.J. Yesudas, P. Jayachandran, Chithra, Manju Warrier, Vineeth, G. Venugopal, Sujatha, Kudamaloor Janarddanan, M. Jayachandran, and Neena Prasad. So who would be the stars of this festival? The next seven days and nights will give the answer.

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