A few years ago, when we planned a series on George Town for this supplement, we ended up finding a dozen lovely stories in just one afternoon of walking its streets. North Chennai is a treasure trove. Not because it is exotic, but merely because it is less-explored. Most of us in the city rarely step beyond Beach Station. Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha, presented by a team of like-minded volunteers, invites us into North Chennai. It will hopefully create a space for its people and its culture in our hearts. The festival is an extension of the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha.
Says vocalist TM Krishna, one of the volunteers: “The intention and spirit of the Chennai Kali Theru Vizha is equalising spaces, cultures, communities and the arts. This vizha is born out of our learnings from the past four years. We hope to trigger conversations and a change in conditioned mind-sets.” He adds: “A cultural dialogue between South and North Chennai is essential.” This will be done by showcasing cultural events at both these neighbourhoods, throughout this month until February 10. The festival has an interesting mix of gaana , percussion, paraiattam , Bharatanatyam, Tamil folk dance, oppaari , and a street play. Sid Sriram will be jamming in Korukkupet, while Krishna and Sangeetha Sivakumar will perform a Carnatic music concert at Ennore.
The reason the team chose to move to North Chennai, is because the area, “is a cultural melting pot,” according to volunteer and environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman. “The Anglo-Indians, Muslims, Marwaris, and Tamils from other regions have been living in remarkable harmony.” However, he feels that the region “generally has a very bad rap.” He observes: “I’ve been working with people in Ennore with regard to the Ennore creek; people there are fighting courageous battles lawfully.”
Both Krishna and Nityanand attribute Tamil cinema to have depicted North Chennai in a negative light. “North Chennai has been stereotyped as a place of murder, drugs and infested with goondas. The reality is very different and there is a need to change such fixed, judgemental, negative notions and this is only possible if people and cultures move,” feels Krishna.
A highlight of the festival, explains Nityanand, is a conversation with achievers of North Chennai along with director Pa Ranjith. He doesn’t want to reveal anything about the speakers though. “They can be regular people,” he hints. “Just because they are achievers, it doesn’t mean that that will have to have made their first million or won a gold medal,” he adds. “He can, for instance, be a kabaddi teacher who’s inspiring youth in his locality.”
Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha is on till February 10 at various locations in North and South Chennai. For details, visit https://www.facebook.com/ chennaikalaitheruvizha
Events to look out for:
North Chennai in Mylapore
Villupattu by Ennore Children; Gaana by Vyasarpadi Muniammal; Tamil Sufi songs of Kunankudi Mastan Sahib by Thiru Kumari Aboobacker, presented by Kombai Anwar; fusion dance by Flying Bees Dance Troupe.
January 19, 6.15 pm onwards, Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore
Bharatanatyam by Chathrulakshana School of Fine Arts; The story of Korukkupet by the youth of Arunodhaya; Shadow puppetry by B Muthuchandran and group; Gaana and dance performance by Dancing Dolls.
February 1, 6.30 pm onwards, Driver Colony, JJ Nagar, Korukkupet