Talent extravaganza!

Shankar Mahadevan  

This year there was a strange scent at Saarang. It didn't have the acidic punch of noxious chemical fumes that mark the chemistry labs nor the waxy tones of burning midnight oil. The distinctive odour was neither from the abundant fresh grass in the campus nor from the assorted food stalls that dotted the grounds. Shorter hemlines, racier lines, a healthy dose of irreverence, democracy with professors sportingly taking the backseat and giving the students a free reign resulted in the festival being steeped in the perfume of freedom.

Smells like team spirit

One team, one aim was the philosophy of the organising team of Saarang, popularly and rightly known as the Core. Right from a regularly updated blog, to a state-of-the-art website with the schedule made available as a downloadable excel file there was nothing the organisers hadn't thought of. This much efficiency in spite of their challenging academic schedule is just depressing for mere mortals.

Take for example, Rinju, a core member in organising and co-ordinating lectures delivered by the likes of Arun Shourie and Kamal Haasan. She has a GPA of 9.2, is disarmingly pretty and instantly likeable. Some students have all the luck.

I took solace in the fact that I could enjoy the festival without the hassle of having to organise it and planned to attend all the events, many of which were taking place simultaneously hence warranting my bid for a time machine on eBay.

A fine balance

The festival was kick started by the deceptively named Classical Nights. Dr. Balamuralikrishna enthralled the carnatic enthusiasts in the audience with his trademark panache. A muffler-clad third-grader was gravely keeping ‘thalam' like his life depended upon it. However for somebody like me who can't tell a Sa apart from Pa, the main attraction for the evening was the performance by the Daksha Seth company, more popularly known as “The one with Isha Sharvani'”. The dance troupe performed an original composition on the life of snakes and Isha regaled the crowd with her twisted antics with the rope. There were other dancers as well, who must have been equally good, but my eyes were on the mesmerising Sharvani who sat from ropes, touched her nose with her toe and effortlessly performed other such impossible feats.

Stars unplugged

It was rise and shine way too early the next morning for Kamal Haasan and Gautham Menon's lecture. The security was air-tight and the queue was filled with sleep-deprived students who had been waiting since 6:15 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m. lecture. Two thousand people were sent home without a glimpse of the ‘Ulaga Nayagan' and I was thanking my lucky stars that I got to hear the spontaneous talk he delivered. At the outset, Mr. Haasan announced that he was coming from the heart, and not from the head. “Woohoo to you too,” he responded to the frenzied audience who couldn't stop cheering. “I've been here before though not for reasons my parents would have hoped for…” He went on to address questions posted on the website and tickled the crowd with his trademark quips.

Gautham Menon started off saying his mother feels bad when he doesn't mention that he has an engineering background in his interviews. He spoke frankly about why he wanted to become a director, how Tamil cinema has the potential to cater to a global audience and he answered questions from the audience on the front foot.

Good vibrations

Walking around the grounds, I found a sudden increase in the beauty and sex-appeal quotient when compared to the years past. Beautiful boho-girls in flared skirts and thong slippers, boys with very becoming stubbles and casual cut-offs thronged the events giving me a complex. Musicians with their guitar cases, artists with their brushes in the air, dancers in their glittery costumes were all wandering about adding a new dimension to the already cosmopolitan atmosphere.

There was a sand-sculpture workshop where participants made impossibly concrete and detailed structures out of loose sand. The chocolate-making workshop was limited to participants being allowed to melt, mould and freeze chocolate. Dreams on Canvas was a low-key exhibition of diverse paintings and sketches on any and every theme under the sun. It was a visual treat and even I, with my restricted ability to draw a cat, can say the paintings were world class.

S. Chidanand's painting of a docked boat and Kalyani's realistic droplets on autumn leaves deserve a special mention. Animals and emotions dominated the face painting competition and the card making contest had flowers and more flowers. Lakme's enhancing studio where students were given free makeovers was an instant hit and equally successful was the socially responsible iVolunteer stall which had over 300 people signing up to contribute to society in one way or the other.

So you think you can dance…

Choreonite showcased elastic individuals with an inherent sense of rhythm and two right feet. They crumped, they tapped, they swirled, they did some faux ballet moves, they salsa-ed and invented some new dance styles. CET who took home the prize in the themed segment knocked the socks off the audience with dance depiction of stories from Indian mythology with the use of glow in the dark props.

Easy like Sunday morning

Sunday morning had me scrambling out of bed for Arun Shourie's lecture. He had the uphill task of pleasing a groggy audience on a Sunday morning but he had come prepared and delivered a power-packed speech on ‘Youth and Governance'. He articulated his advice in precise points and moved certain weaker members of the audience, namely yours truly, to tears. In my defence, it was probably the unearthly hour that did me in.

Sultans of Swing

My facebook feed was flooded with status updates requesting for passes to the Shankar Ehsaan Loy concert. Passes had been sold out in record time and the OAT was teeming with over 10,000 people. Winners of Taarang (the light music contest) ‘Maya' opened the show with ‘Zynx', the second-place winners, who garnered the audience's cheers for their near-perfect rendition of Rahman's ‘Mayya Mayya'.

When Shankar Ehsaan and Loy took the stage, the crowd went crazy and enthusiastic maamis in the VIP arena cheered as well. Before long, the trio had the spectators on their feet with infectious numbers like ‘Pretty Woman' and ‘Mast Kalandar'. The cellphones obligatorily went up in the air for ‘Kal Ho Na Ho' and a surprise package was served when singer Karthik who was present in the audience was called upon to participate in the mass-hysteria-creating ‘Rock on' songs. The band has always been secular in nature and they signed off with “Hum Hai Hindustani” and left the audience asking for more.

Till Death metal do us part

Skid-row who were slated to perform cancelled at the crucial last minute and the organising team shuffled a few balls in the air and decided to replace them with Hurricane Bells, who were already going to perform at a smaller venue at the festival.

Hurricane Bells have contributed to the OST of “New Moon”, part of the “Twilight Saga” that is worshipped by teens all over. But the headbangers who'd paid good paper to hear the clank of metal went “Twi-what??” However, when Hammerfall took centre stage hell broke loose and all was well in the heavy metal world once again. Heaven can wait indeed.

Shilpa is a V Year student of M.Sc. Electronic Media at Anna University.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 12:15:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Talent-extravaganza/article16811622.ece

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