Staff Reporter

Thappattam artistes hail Chennai Sangamam as a noble initiative

CHENNAI: This group has visited Chennai earlier. They were recently here for a recording session with A.R. Rahman (for the Rajinikanth-starrer `Shivaji'). But for Thappattam artistes from Reddippalayam (Thanjavur district), last week's performance at Nageshwar Rao Park was special.

"It is nice to have people from different walks gather at a park to watch us perform. After all, their appreciation and applause is what keeps us going." As a performer at `Chennai Sangamam', the cultural fiesta that concluded on Monday, M.M. Madhiazhagan of the Thanjai Veerasozha Thappatta Kalaikkuzhu hailed the initiative as noble.

Not many artistes take up folk arts as a full-time profession these days, as they find other jobs paying better. "Our families have been involved in these arts for several generations," he said. So they train their children, fearing that the family art may perish.

Chendamelam artiste C.V. Saju holds a masters' degree in Criminology. Others in his group have completed Class Ten. "We always find time to perform for special occasions like these." When his troupe from Kalingarajapuram (Kanyakumari district) performed on stage, the atmosphere was electrifying.

Magamani from a village in Tiruchi carries load for daily wages. A `Sakkai kuchi attam' artist for two decades, he said he managed to get leave every time there was temple festival or a show.

However, 77-year-old Krishnarayar from Vadugappatti (Madurai), who has been in the profession since 1953, said, "There is nothing that gives me more joy than the tinkling of my anklets." He has trained in several dances including Mayilattam, Oyilaattam and Poi Kal Kudirai. With his nearly six kilogram-paraphernalia (blue-green wooden frame depicting a peacock, feathers and the anklets that alone weighed one kilogram), the veteran put up an energetic performance at Natesan Park. "Mayilattam is similar to Bhratanatyam. Very graceful," he said, as he passionately described the art form that gave him his bread and butter for over five decades.

But none of his three sons pursue the art. "Oh, they found jobs and one is into agriculture. I don't believe in forcing them. As long as I'm healthy and alive, I will dance!"

The passion reflects in their art. And no wonder Besant Nagar resident Himabindu was awe-struck when she witnessed a folk performance at the Elliots Beach on Monday. "My 8-year-old son was so fascinated that he kept asking me more about the dance," she said.