The year’s Margazhi festival has wound down. Another December Season come and gone, the month-long hustle and bustle has given way to quietude. And the action was not all in the heart of Chennai city. Annanagar, rightly named Metrozone, being a town of its own with sprawling lawns and winding pathways that feed into a commodious amphitheatre, was the venue for artistes, both seasoned and novice, early this month.
For residents like Nilah Deepak Rajendran, a Kuchipudi dancer and Metrozone resident herself, it is the perfect way to celebrate Margazhi. “My classmates and I, disciples of Kalaimamani Madhavapeddi Murthy, do get the opportunity to perform in the sabhas but to perform here, in our pwn neighbourhood is something special,” they say. While last year Murthy was one of the performers, this year saw Nilah take centre-stage alongside Sanhita basu Ghose, Odissi dancer and founder of the Konarak Odissi Dance & Art Academy, Palavakkam.
Alternating between styles, the dancers present Siva Tandavam. The ambience, according to them, is a welcome change from the air-conditioned sabha halls. Of course, an outdoor arena poses its own challenges. “When we dance to recorded music amidst an energetic audience, it is easy to get distracted,” admits Nilah. “But that is where discipline comes in,” smiles Sanhita.
The sentiment is a shared one. As the festival progresses, young talent in the form of Carnatic vocalists Bharathi Kamakoti and Srividya Vadlamani take the stage, ably accompanied by violinist Parur M.K. Ananthalakshmi and Nikshith Puttur on the mridangam. They present — with manodharma — time-tested pieces, including Dikshitar’s ‘Maha Ganapathim.’
“Many of us may not understand every technical detail, but we love music, which this festival brings, sparing us the nightmare of negotiating Chennai traffic,” says Metrozone resident R. Vijayalakshmi.
The artistic delights vie for attention bondas, keera vadais and podi dosas provided by Grand Sweets. The festival is supported by sponsors such as the Mohan Diabetes Foundation and Village Milk to create a holistic Margazhi. Although hosted on weekday evenings, the circular arena remains packed with residents, unwinding from long working days.
The festival draws to a close with its grand finale — a duet by the esteemed Ballesh Brothers. Father Pt. S. Ballesh and son Krishna Ballesh are no strangers to Chennai. They delight the audience with a vocal presentation of Yaman Kalyan¸ proceeding to fill air with strains of Poorva Kalyan on the shehnai. “In an environment like this, we rely on the reaction of the audience,” observes S. Ballesh as son Krishna nods in agreement. “The raised stage is a huge asset — it allows the music to travel into the crowd,” he adds.
The crowd rises to its feet as they conclude with a ‘Vaishnav Jan To,’ intertwined with portions of S. Ballesh’s shehnai aalaap from the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Swades . The presence of a sizeable audience despite the chilly evening breeze sure would motivate the cultural committee of the Metrozone to make it even bigger next year.