HLF 2017 Art

Silambam: Grace with tenacity

Aishwarya Manivannan with other Silambam students  

In August 2016, to coincide with National Handloom Day, Aishwarya Manivannan uploaded a video of her doing Silambam, draped in a sari. The video was an eye opener for many, even those in Tamil Nadu, the home state of this ancient martial art. Through graceful movements, Aishwarya showed that Silambam is much more than a martial art practised for self defence. It also dispelled notions that Silambam is for men.

“I learnt Silambam from Power Pandian Aasan’s academy. All three of Power Pandian’s daughters practice Silambam. At the academy, both men and women are put through the same grind. Gender doesn’t come in the way of this beautiful art form, which is commonly looked upon as a tool of aggression,” she says.

At Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF), Aishwarya will host a stage talk followed by a demonstration with Power Pandian Aasan’s team. She will also conduct a workshop on the basics of Silambam. “To begin with, the talk will map the history of Silambam,” says Aishwarya.

She teaches interior design and architecture at Loyola College, Chennai, and conducts workshops in various universities where she interlinks art, design and Silambam. “I feel Silambam improves creativity,” she says.

Aishwarya Manivannan

Aishwarya Manivannan  

Aishwarya began learning Silambam when her Bharatanatyam teacher felt it will help enhance her dance practice. She gave it a try and was hooked. Many ask her why she traded a more feminine art of dance for Silambam. “The more I learnt Silambam, the more I was drawn to it. In the past too, many women learnt the martial art but didn’t perform in public domain. The most popular recall of Silambam, to many, is Kamal Haasan demonstrating it in the song Saanthu pottu in Thevar Magan,” she says. Tamil cinema has played a role in keeping the art form alive in popular culture. “One of my master’s master taught MGR, who showcased Silambam in all its earnestness in his films,” she says.

Today, Aishwarya and fellow Silambam practitioners at Power Pandian Aasan’s academy have national and international titles to their credit. “We owe it to our master who motivates us and doesn’t spare us because we are women,” she laughs.

At the HLF workshop, participants can learn basics of Silambam and the weapons used. “We use various weapons — kambu (bamboo stick), spear-headed staff, vaal veechu (throw of a sword), maan kombu (deer head), sedi kuchi (short, slimmer bamboo sticks wielded in pairs) and surul vaal (metal disc),” she says. This use of weapons has also been instrumental in moulding opinion that Silambam is a masculine activity, which Aishwarya strongly disagrees.

On January 27 and 28, Aishwarya and team will also have five-minute Silambam performances at different locations during HLF.

The following workshops will also be held at HLF 2017

* Artist Katharina Kakar’s workshop ‘Walk Like a Girl’ will focus on confidence through self expression, accepting diversity, think beyond gender stereotypes and the representation of women in our current visual culture.

* Workshop on graphic novels by Jaideep Undurti and Harshomohan Chatterjee.

* ‘Physicality of theatre’, a workshop by Shudrka will demonstrate how physical exercises help in exploring a situation or a character in a play. A stage talk inspired by the writings of Jerzy Grotowski, Jean Genet and Oliver Sacks, will be followed by a demonstration of a Tamil short story.

* A theatre workshop by Vaishali Bhisht on improvising performance.

* Avish Juluri on unlearning what we know of art and take a fresh approach to painting and colours.

* Kanishka Dasgupta on the art of doodling with objects, shadows, shapes to tell a story.

* Children’s Fine Art Gallery, a Daira initiative, will give students an introduction to one contemporary Indian artist followed by an exercise based on the artist’s paintings.

* Deepa Kiran on the art of storytelling, its impact and possibilities for adults and children.

* Dipankar Mukherjee will hold a session titled Readomania on creative writing.

* Photographer Kuber Shah on shooting and editing photographs and videos for Instagram.

* Neha Parikh, an artist from J.J School of Art, Mumbai, will conduct workshops on cartoons and Warli painting.

(For details of more workshops and to register, check hydlitfest.org. HLF 2017 will be held from January 27 to 29 at Hyderabad Public School.)

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 12:12:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/Silambam-Grace-with-tenacity/article17088058.ece

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