This town will wake up on Monday with sleepy, dreamy eyes.
Sleepy because it did not sleep for the last one week; dreamy because it watched an astonishing array of art forms on those six nights, and seven days, the memories of which would linger for a long, long time.
The people of Malappuram could take pride in making the 53rd State School Art Festival, which concluded here on Sunday, arguably the most-watched festival, beating the 2011 record of Kozhikode.
According to a police estimate, about 50,000 people watched the Oppana competition at the MSP Parade Ground on day three of the festival.
Indeed, Malappuram loves its Oppana, Mappilapattu and Kolkali. But Thiruvathirakali, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali too were performed before packed houses, thus breaking one of the many myths about Malappuram.
Some classical dance fans had come from Kozhikode, convinced that they would not have difficulty in finding seats. How wrong they were. Men and women, young and old, all were glued to their seats at the MSP Parade Ground and the Kottappadi Ground late into the night to watch young dancers perform, as they did on Saturday to watch the spectacularly costumed Group Dancers.
Was this the biggest event in the history of Malappuram? It probably was, since there were more than 11,000 participants, 232 events, and around 20,000 lunched every day at the massive dining hall and hundreds of thousands watched. It was very well organised and policed.
This was a festival Malappuram took to its heart. You knew it from the beginning, after watching the cultural procession, which heralded the festival, a week ago. Nearly four lakh people watched the road show.
The town’s enthusiasm did not diminish as the festival gathered momentum. People from distant parts of Malappuram district, and beyond, came to watch young artistes in action.
Like V. Rajasree, a native of Malappuram who now lives in Kozhikode, who was there on most days of the festival. “I was just one of the many to return to our hometown to watch the festival,” she said. “At the main venue I met a family who flew down from Mumbai to see the dance competitions.”
They would not have been disappointed, as there were several talented dancers on stage, especially in the higher secondary school category. There were some very promising singers too.
If Ghazal’s debut was promising, that of Folk Song (Nadan Pattu) was stunning. It is going to be huge in the festivals of the future.
And this festival was also a huge hit on the Net, as more than 10 lakh viewers watched the live streaming provided by IT@School. Yes, there were some inconveniences, as Malappuram had far too few rooms to accommodate the large number of visitors, who had to stay in towns such as Perinthalmanna and Manjeri.
There would be glitches in a festival of this size. But, then, even the full moon has some dark spots.