Where art unites...

At one of the previous editions of the vizha   | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

A group consisting of musicians, artistes, academicians, environmental activists and fishermen, has gathered at the Ellaiamman temple at Urur Olcott Kuppam. Cultural differences seem to melt away as the group chats about Kuchipudi, Carnatic music, Parai attam and Silambattam. Singer T.M. Krishna and environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman brief them about the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha. Saravanan, a native of the Urur Kuppam village and general secretary of a fisheries cooperative, urges the women to mobilise people for the festival. “This festival has given us dignity.

Before this, people only knew about the history of Besant Nagar. Our history dates back to the days before the founding of the Theosophical Society.

This will be a platform for us to present our culture and tradition.” This sends a ripple of excitement through the group. This year, the festival features new venues and programmes, but the enthusiasm and energy remain the same.

T.M. Krishna

“Why do we associate only some spaces with art and culture? And why are art forms and people caught in socio-cultural traps? Can we breathe freely without being burdened by these conditions? We raised these issues through the festival. This was the initial spirit with which the festival began in the first year. The second year, there was a deeper engagement with the fisher folk and the cross-section of Chennai’s people. Last year was also the year of the floods. Several volunteers and artistes responded to the context so well. We also honoured the youth of the city, fisher folk and conservancy workers who were involved in the rescue and restoration work.

T. M. Krishna

T. M. Krishna  


The Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha is an event where all art forms, be it so-called classical or folk, are represented on one platform. On the last day of the festival, everyone joins in to dance, without thinking about caste or class. Those last four minutes of the festival capture the spirit that drives us all.”

Nityanand Jayaraman

Nityanand Jayaraman

Nityanand Jayaraman   | Photo Credit: S.S.KUMAR


The city’s fishing villages need to tell their own story. The story of Chennai is not the story of Besant Nagar and Mylapore alone. It is also about Urur-Olcott Kuppam and Nochikuppam. Being neglected by history has repercussions on the present. Fishing villages are under-served by the local body despite their vintage. Newer, better-off localities are better served. The vizha is as much about equalising spaces as it is about equalising arts. Actually, it is about equalising spaces using arts, and vice versa. This year, Urur-Olcott Kuppam and Thiruvalluvar Nagar will also be converted into exhibition spaces of living histories — of how life was before and after Besant Nagar.

January 15, Thiruvalluvar Nagar, 6 p.m.

This year, Thiruvalluvar Nagar Residents Welfare Association has joined hands with the vizha and will organise a Mohiniattam performance by Madhumathi and Swarna, and a performance by CinC, a light music band. Monali Bala, one of the singers, says the audience can expect old and new Tamil film songs of different film composers. “But it will not be presented in the way they were originally composed. We will improvise and add a slightly different colour to these compositions.”

January 21 and 22, Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore, 6 p.m.

The highlight of this year’s vizha is to take the non-classical art forms to spaces that are not associated with them. Marana Gana Viji, the most sought-after funeral singer in the city, will perform on January 21. His music will reflect on death, spirituality and the ephemerality of life. It will be followed by a silambattam presentation by Power Pandian Aasan’s team, whose name is synonymous with martial arts and cine-stunt training in South India.

Where art unites...

On January 22, Jogappas, a transgender music troupe from Karnataka, will perform devotional music. The day concludes with Parai aattam by Friends Kalai Kuzhu.

January 28, Urur-Olcott Kuppam beach and village cleaning, 6.30 a.m.

The organisers need as many people as they can get. They will be given materials. It is open to all. According to one of the organisers, “All they {volunteers} have to do is bring themselves for a couple of hours.”

January 29, Besant Nagar Beach, 5.30 p.m.

T.M. Krishna performs.

February 4, SPACES, Photography exhibition, 4 p.m.

Where art unites...

The vizha has been conducting outreach events, and the photography workshop is one of them. Photographer Ram Keshav will guidethe children to come up with their own photo stories, which will be presented as part of the exhibition. On the same day, there will be a performance by the Chennai Corporation Band at 5.30 p.m. at Besant Nagar Beach.

February 10, Urur-Olcott Kuppam Ellaiamman temple, from 5.30 p.m.

Where art unites...

Groove to the pulsating Pancha Vadyam procession, a percussion ensemble performance by the girls of Avvai Home School. “Normally, women are not expected to play these instruments. We are breaking the pattern here with that,” says musician Sangeetha Sivakumar. It will be followed by a Carnatic music performance by Bharat Sundar, Vignesh Ishwar, Vidya Kalyanaraman and Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, accompanied by B.S. Purushottam, K.V. Gopalakrishnan, N. Guruprasad, Chandrashekara Sharma and Praveen Kumar. The day closes with short plays by Shraddha Theatre troupe.

February 11, Urur-Olcott Kuppam Ellaiamman temple, from 5.30 p.m.

Do you know that the fishing community has their own intrinsic music and dance? According to Saravanan, “There is art even in the way they cast the nets.” So, gear up for a nadaswaram procession, featuring songs of the fisher folk, by the Urur Olcott Fisher troupe. Seeing the popularity of classical dance performances in the last editions of the vizha, the organisers have decided to rope in Jaykishore Mosalikanti and her group to present a Kuchipudi performance. The day will end with the rock show by popular Tamil rock band Kurangan.

Living museum and art and craft installations

Another highlight of this year’s festival is the living museum concept, where people will get a feel of Urur-Olcott village’s history, culture and art forms. Multimedia installations, demonstrations, exhibits, sketches and photographs will bring alive these untold tales.

Where art unites...

The backdrop of the venue will also be decorated with art and craft items made by students from Classes VIII to XII of Olcott school. They have worked with recycled and eco-friendly products such as clay, newspaper, jute and rope.

Music performances

January 25, 5 p.m. Music performance at Chennai Railway Station in partnership with Southern Railways.

Where art unites...

February 2, 6 p.m. Music performance on an MTC bus in partnership with MTC.

The idea is to present music in spaces symbolic of day-to-day life. It will be presented as a musical relay, where one musician will alight at a bus stop after his or her performance and another will hop on to the bus. The idea is to get the musician out of his or her comfort zone, says musician Sangeetha Sivakumar. “As a society, we exist in our comfort zones. We are isolated in our own bubble. This will be both physically and artistically challenging.”

(Venue and route to be finalised.)

Visit the Facebook page of Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha — celebrating oneness for more updates. Contribute your bit to the public-funded initiative via fundraiser/ururkuppamvizha

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 2:37:44 PM |

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