As Margazhi begins, cultural aficionados tell us about the shows they are not going to miss this season
If you are in Chennai, the month of December means more than just Christmas. It is that time of the year when the city comes alive with concerts, overbooked sabhas, Kanjeevaram saris, sabha food and more. A rasika would know that the mornings are reserved for lecture demonstrations, afternoons for freshers and the evenings for prime-time concerts. We speak to leading performers, critics and cultural heads in the city and ask them what they are looking forward to. There is everything from concerts by favourites like TM Krishna and Sanjay Subrahmanyan to a lecture demonstration on the devdasi system by scholar Davesh Soneji. Read on:
—Mrinalini Sundar & Surya Praphulla Kumar
I want to attend as many concerts as I can—especially those by my friends like Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Vijay Siva, Sudha Ragunathan, Aruna Sairam and Bombay Jayashri. Sometimes I also get inspired by them. When you listen to someone singing a raagam, it can spark off something that you might try singing in your own way, in another concert. It’s a kind of a chain reaction. As for my shows, I’ve signed on quite a few concerts, around 15 in all. I am not planning them out too much. I sometimes go with what I feel like singing on that day and how I connect with the audience. That’s where the
challenge and the excitement is.
Alarmel Valli, dancer
Since I am preparing for my shows, I am not sure how many kutcheris or performances I will be able to catch. But I will make it a point to catch at least one performance by Sanjay Subramaniyam, TM Krishna, Bombay Jayashri, Aruna Sairam and Vijay Shiva. When it comes to dance, I want to see the younger performers. I’m hoping to watch the entire dance festival at the Music Academy because it gives you a wonderful selection of the best—of the older and younger dancers. This January, I will be performing the Ragamalika varnam of the Tanjore quartet, dedicated to my guru Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai’s centenary. Then I will be doing a selection of the padams and javalis that Bombay Jayashri and I had presented at the Bani Festival (dedicated to my music guru Muktamma). I will also be revisiting and reinterpreting some of my favourite Sangam pieces.
Anuradha Sriram, singer
I’m generally busy every December season doing kutcheris. But this season I’ll be free because I have taken a back seat. As for what I’m going to be attending, I’ll be going for lecture demonstrations because they deal with a wide range of subjects. Something on my gurus like T Vishwanathan or the Bani will interest me.
Anil Srinivasan, pianist
It is my favourite part of the year. I am particularly looking forward to listening to my friend Sikkil Gurucharan in his Anil-free kutcheris, my cousin T M Krishna’s latest offerings and, of course, my other collaborator friends’ concerts—U Rajesh, GJR Krishnan, Jayanthi Kumaresh and Unnikrishnan, among others. For the season, I am working on yet another edition of my Festival of Parallels. On December 23, I will have a morning with Devdutt Pattanaik (music and mythology) at Kalakshetra. I will also be playing with GJR Krishnan and Jayanthi Kumaresh at Bharat Kalachar and Brahma Gana Sabha. For the latter, we plan to use the visual imagery of Satyajit’s photographs. I am also doing a tribute to U Shrinivas with his brother Rajesh for the Tchaikovsky Music Forum, which will be very special this year.
Sadanand Menon, art critic
I am looking forward to a lecture demonstration by scholar Davesh Soneji. He has done a lot of research on the devdasi system. I think that will be interesting and I am also looking forward to a performance by Yashoda Thakore. But in general I have a feeling that the events are getting a little repetitive and predictable. I hope that some intelligent festivals will be organised in the future.
For the first time in many years, I am going to leave myself open to what I feel like doing. I want to focus more on music performances and less on dance. I will go to hear Sanjay Subrahmanyan, as he’s a favourite of mine. I will also go for the afternoon performances at the Music Academy and enjoy whoever is there—I am looking forward to the kutcheris by young musicians. In terms of dance, I definitely want to see Vyjayanthimala. I also want to see a couple of the NRI dancers, like Janaki Rangarajan and Sonali Skandan, because a lot of noise is being made about them. I want to see if they show promise. I might even attend one or two dance conferences.
Rathi Jafer ,director, InKo Centre
I’m looking forward to the events at Kalakshetra and DakshinaChitra this year. While I will attend the big concerts by TM Krishna and Aruna Sairam, I will also try to listen to some fresh talent. Whenever I meet artistes like Padma Subrahmanyam or Anil Srinivasan, I ask them for the new names and attend those shows. As of now, I haven’t got any new names but I’ll go for a good mix.
What I really look forward to every Margazhi season is discovering young talent—voices and instrumentalists. While I attend concerts by the tried-and-tested people, like the T M Krishnas and the Sanjay Subrahmanyans, I really enjoy the afternoon concerts. The sabhas may be obscure and shabby, but the performers’ energy is extraordinary. So I plan to go over the schedule and look for names I don’t know. That’s how I first heard Ramakrishnan Murthy, when he was an unknown, and even Bombay Jayashri, manyyears ago in an afternoon concert at the Nungambakam Cultural Association.
World Crafts Council
I plan to attend all the Music Academy performances, especially the evening kutcheris. And if there is anything interesting, the morning shows. I am a fan of Bombay Jayashri and TM Krishna. But I am most looking forward to the dance performances. I make it a point to travel between sabhas to watch all the interesting ones.