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With talks, walks, food festivals and contests, we tell you how to kick into celebratory mode and make the best of Madras Week

There may be no blowing out of candles, but Chennai is celebrating its 376th birthday in style. This year, Madras Week, the eight-day celebration (from August 16 – 23) incorporates a bit of the old and the new. So while we revisit Mint Street (for its food), Fort St George (for its colonial history) and gaze at trees (as part of Nizhal’s Landmark Tree Series), there will also be a talk on apps for the city, a stand-up show and even a chance to learn some Chettinad dishes. History buffs can look forward to a walk through Madras High Court and pick up the English translation of Ashokamitran’s Chennai City: A Kaleidoscope. Here is our pick of things to do in the coming days.

At British Council,  participate in a knowledge treasure hunt on August 20, tweet on ‘Madras to me is…’ with the hashtag #UKMadrasWeek (August 14-19) to win a Kindle, and get a chance to interview cricketer K Srikkanth. Details: britishcouncil.in

Story in the weave
For many, it took a film like Badmash Comapany to introduce them to a material that has been around for centuries, Bleeding Madras. And textile expert Sabitha Ramakrishna would rather not let Bollywood impart history lessons. At her talk, Bleeding Madras – The Mystery Textile, she will trace its history from the late 18th century to the 20th century. “Back then the yarn was treated with natural dyes, like indigo and turmeric, which bled when the material was washed. But it bled so evenly that with every wash, it looked completely new,” she explains. But it’s the stories attached to it that promises to capture your attention. Did you know that there is a line of thought that says weavers created the checks after the Scots visited India, inspired by their kilts? Or that the plaid was once exported to Nigeria, where the Kalabari tribe used it as a totemic item (presented at weddings and childbirth)? “In fact, the more material you had then, the wealthier you were though to be,” laughs Ramakrishna. Learn more about the weave on August 23, at 6.30 pm, at Gallery Sri Parvati. Details: 24353341

The Chettinad masterclass
Yes, there are plenty of food walks happening, but this one is a boon for us lazybones who’d rather sit down to a meal. The Marina is curating Chettinad thalis, as part of their Chettinad Food Festival. “We have brought down masterchef Karuppiah and his staff from The Bangala (the heritage home) for the festival,” says Sivakami Subbiah, an expert on the food cooked in Chettiar homes, adding, “The menu will change every day and will feature traditional foods cooked during festivals and weddings—like kavuni arisi and mutton kola urundai.” Subbiah will also be conducting a demonstration. “I will teach four dishes per day, including paal paniyaram, masala cheeyam and sora puttu,” she says. Participants will also get to take home recipe booklets. At The Marina, on August 15-16 and 22-23, from 10.30 am to 12 pm.
Details: 42035265

Then and now
Nestled amidst the big shops in Mylapore is Dabba Chetty Kadai, a symbol of the Madras that was. Selling herbal remedies, it is one of the few places in the city that still follows traditional practices. “I will share insights on old Ayurveda practices, my experience when I took over the shop and the changes I have seen,” says owner K Badrinath, adding that though the shop has retailed many products in its 130-year history, for the last 40 years “we have been selling only herbal products.” Badrinath will also discuss his best-selling medicines, like Deepavali marundu (for indigestion) and pillai petha marundu (ideal for women after child birth). At the Gallery Sri Parvati, on August 22, at 6.30 pm. Details: 24353341

History in Mylapore
Just a day before Madras Week officially starts, historian V Sriram takes us on a walk down history. And we assure you, this one will be an eye-opener. Tracing the role our city played in the freedom movement, there will be plenty of stories and fact sharing. Like the one behind Vishwakamal Apartments,  on the RK Mutt Road. “The house of diwan Bahadur Raghunatha Rao stood there earlier. It was there that two years before the Congress Party was started, 17 men met and resolved to start the party. This marks the beginning of the Congress and, therefore, in many ways, it marks the beginning of the freedom struggle,” he says. Another quick tidbit is about Krishnaswamy Avenue, which is named after V Krishnaswamy Iyer, a Madras High Court judge, who first published the songs of nationalist poet Subramania Bharati, thus popularising his works. “This is the first time I’m doing this walk (from 6-8 am) and it seemed appropriate for Independence Day. I would have made it longer, but I fear people would faint on me,” he signs off.  Rs 500 (inclusive of breakfast). Details: editor@madrasmusings.com

Destination T Nagar
We complain about the crowds, but if there is shopping to be done, we make a beeline for T Nagar. Not many of us, however, know all its ins and outs. So Sreemathy Mohan, a textile enthusiast, is giving us a tour of the places to go, to pick up the best textiles at an affordable price. “The area consists of so many good stores, from Nalli, which has the best tissue blouses, to Apco, where you can find beautiful Pochampally ikat saris,” says Mohan, who will be weaving her way from established outlets like Co-Optex to lesser-known shops. “I will be giving an insider’s insight into what is available,” she shares, adding that though online shopping is convenient, the touch and feel of the material is important, too. The walk will be flagged off by Venkatesan IAS and participants can also grab a bite at Adyar Anandha Bhavan. Rs 350. From 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm, on August 22. Register ateditor@madrasmusings.com

Laughter & the city
This is a shout out to how popular stand-up is in the city. “The organisers said they acknowledge our craft as an artiste’s hard work, much like art, dance and music,” smiles Rabhinder Kannan, a member of Evam Standup Tamasha. In their Madras Week debut, comedians S Arvind (SA) and Aswin Rao will take the stage, with an opening act by a newcomer (currently Bhargav is in the running for the spot). And it’ a no-brainer that the jokes will be on the city. “They will talk about the funny things associated with Chennai/Madras and about growing up here. The content will be very relatable, in total sync with the week,” he adds. On Ausut 21, at Phoenix MarketCity, from 7 pm (by invite only). Details: 30083008

In the studio
Prasad Corporation has been an integral part of cinema for close to a century now. Get a ring side view of what it was like at the walk, The City and its Cinema, on August 29. Led by Venkatesh Chakravarthy, regional director of LV Prasad Film, participants will be shown around the Prasad Academy in Saligramam and learn about the history of cinema in Chennai and the complementary relationship between the city and the big screen. “I will share interesting information on how the studio era began in the 30s and the changes it went through, which led to the shutting down of famous studios like Gemini and Vijaya Labs,” he says, revealing a little tidbit: Prasad Corporation helped bring down The Film Foundation’s 4K digital restoration of The Red Shoes. From 9.30 am to 12 pm. Details: rajith.bala@gmail.com

Tune in
In this city of sabhas and concerts, we don’t need to tell you that Carnatic music is at the heart of life. This Madras Week, a talk on Singing in Chennai will shine the spotlight on one of the singers from our galaxy of stars, Sanjay Subrahmanyan. In a conversation with V Sriram, the singer will trace his musical journey—from his days as a student of music to becoming an established vocalist. The conversation will be interspersed with musical performances, too. Subrahmanyan says the interaction will also touch upon “what the city has to offer to aspiring Carnatic musicians, listeners and the classical music lovers.” At The Park Hyatt, on August 20, from 6 pm. Details: 71771234

Shore talk
Most weekends are not complete without a trip to Marina Beach or Elliot’s Beach. But the days of playing in the surf, lounging on the sand and biting into butta (corn) could become a distant memory if we don’t address coastal erosion soon. So, on a serious note, PondyCAN and INTACH are screening Shekar Dattatri’s 14-minute film, India’s Disappearing Beaches – A Wake-up Call. “Before I embarked on this project (four months ago) I was as ignorant as most about the shocking rate of man-made coastal erosion or its exact causes,” says the director, who has strung together a series of impactful photographs to help people understand the issue better. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. At Alliance Francaise, on August 19, from 6.30 pm. Details: 28279803

Siren call
Every year, for almost a decade now, actor Mohan Raman has given a talk on a film personality. This year, his muse is Sowcar Janaki. “She is a versatile personality, who has done a number of great roles. And fortunately, she is still with us so I can call her on stage for a chat,” he smiles. Calling it his take on the actress, he will be using clips from her films to showcase her life and talent. “I’ve structured it around a song from her film Pudhiya Paravai, Paartha njyabakam illayo (Don’t you remember seeing me). So if you recall seeing her, come to find out more,” he says, adding that he will also have some interesting trivia—like how she is a good cook and even ran a restaurant at one point of time. On August 18,
at the Savera hotel, from 6 pm. Details: themadrasday.in

Hop on your cycle for the 75 km Cooum River Heritage Ride and get a chance to look at colonial buildings and trace historical events witnessed on its banks (including great battles). At 5 am on Sunday from CISF Guest House, Port of Madras. Details: 9884023123

Australian professor-turned-writer Brian Stodar set his murder mysteries The Madras Miasma and The Pallampur Predicament, starring Supdt Chris Le Fanu (IPS), in 1920 Madras. S Muthaih will present the books. On August 24, at Vivanta by Taj Connemara, at 6.30 pm. Details: 66000000

App check
“Madras Week is largely seen as something for old foggies. So we introduced a series of entrepreneur talks to involve the youth,” begins Chandu Nair, a city-based angel investor, explaining that this year it’s all about apps. “It will be a discussion with three leading app men from the city—like Dinesh Soundararajan of Contos and Gokul Vishwesharan of NFN. We will try to demystify apps, show you how to make a business out of it and discuss various apps that we can make for the city.” There is also an ‘Apps for Chennai’ contest running. Submit yours and stand to win Rs 1 lakh. Details: appsforchennai.org

Following the river
Today, the Buckingham Canal, a 796-km fresh water navigation canal (from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to Villupuram in Tamil Nadu) is in ruins. But DH Rao, an engineer-turned -researcher, hopes his talk, Revisiting Buckingham Canal, will inspire people to want to revive it. “The original 420-km stretch—from Pedda Ganjam in AP to Marakanam near Pondicherry—actually had its origins in Basin Bridge. I realised that after research at the Tamil Nadu Archives. Also the canal is attributed to Basil Cochrane, but it was a man named JL Hebfke who took up the project,” says Rao, who has travelled the length of the canal as part of his research. Learn more  at the talk at Amethyst, on August 22, at 6 pm. Details: amethystchennai.com

 

Surya Praphulla Kumar and Mayuri J Ravi

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