Well-appointed halls and auditoriums have transformed Alwarpet into the nerve-centre of arts, says LALITHASAI

If you are a lover of music, dance and drama, you will find yourself heading to Alwarpet almost throughout the year. This neighbourhood has well-appointed halls and auditoriums: Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha, TAG Centre, Tatvaloka and Sivagami Pettachi Auditorium, to name just a few. Even those indifferent to the arts would have heard of Music Academy and Narada Gana Sabha.

Both these sabhas have main auditoriums that can hold over a 1,000 people and are busy round the year. Both also have mini halls that are hired by small-time artistes.

While hundreds of sabhas – many of them found in Mylapore – come alive during the December music season, these two occupy centre stage. One need not enter their auditoriums to find this out. A look at their canteens will do.

Sachu, actor of yesteryears and member-secretary of Iyal, Isai, Nataka Manram, says, “Between tight schedules, I snatch time for a dance programme, a vocal concert or a play at the Narada Gana Sabha, because of its wonderful acoustics. Another factor is the good parking facilities provided at the venue.”

Historian Sriram V. believes the charm goes beyond the tangible. With thousands of kutcheries since the mid-1990s, the Narada Gana Sabha is now imbued with a rare sanctity, one that come only from the arts.

While they draw crowds from around the city, these two hold a greater appeal to the neighbourhood .

“People in the locality enjoy our monthly endowment lectures, vocal concerts and dances,” says Mr. Sampath, secretary, Music Academy.

Narada Gana Sabha attracts people across the city for its harikathas, bhajans, small kutcheries and plays. Then there are programmes that are solely aimed at promoting talent. Says its secretary Krishnaswamy, “In the first week of June, we hold a talent-promotion music fest for youngsters. Similarly, a thematic dance festival during July and August provides a platform for juniors as well as seniors.”

Alwarpet is also promoting art. “We began the city’s first gallery for arts, C.P. Art Centre, in 1978. Art festivals and seminars on contemporary and folk art, traditional arts, pottery, drawing & painting and lec dems were regularly held,” said Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Hon. Director, C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation. To encourage art, the foundation also runs classes for painting, pottery, puppetry, sculpture making and traditional arts. The foundation has done a lot to revive folk arts in schools.

AVM allows craftsmen to exhibit their works at Sankara Hall. Everyone in the city knows he can buy a craft piece typical of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh or any other State of our country from this hall. “What about the mega music CD sale during December? Music and dance CDs by performers big and small are made available here,” says historian V. Sriram.