How Chennai’s performing arts communities are tiding through lockdown


Regardless of the absence of temple festivals and kutcheris, Chennai’s artiste group fights again with cardboard parais, Zoom classes and on-line festivals

A 3-fold cardboard parai; a Zoom display cut up in 4; concept lessons, and technical glitches — a typical day in folks and theatre artiste Vishwa Bharath’s life now seems like this.

Vishwa, who by his personal admission had by no means experimented with expertise earlier than, took to the medium, albeit hesitantly, in April-Might when he discovered himself with little different alternative.

For this, he requested his college students to repurpose cardboard as parai to apply the people type of paraiattam with. “Like a apply pad,” he clarifies. Muffled beats move as college students attempt totally different rhythm sequences: “It’s in any other case a really loud artwork kind,” he provides.

It was surreal: till March 8, Vishwa was shuttling between rehearsals and common weekend reveals. Come, March 24, shut to a few to 4 lakhs of income vanished into skinny air and weeks of sitting idle adopted.

Now, he spends his days on Zoom.

Festivals go surfing

This isn’t an remoted story. The artiste group, which thrives on stay performances, festivals and temple traditions have taken a extreme hit over these previous few months. Whereas some are attempting to adapt, there are a lot of others, who survive solely with assist from fellow artistes.

Nadaswaram artiste, Mylai Karthikeyan, had a US tour deliberate alongside along with his ensemble, A Carnatic Quartet, for the month of March. “It was purported to be our first tour expertise,” says Karthikeyan who performs nadaswaram for the quartet based by violinist Shreya Devnath. In addition to, it’s within the months from March by way of June that plenty of live shows within the metropolis come their method, Karthikeyan says. “Muhurtham and weddings occur within the month of Aavani. And, within the month of Aadi, plenty of temple-related kutcheris occur.”

Along with all this, within the run as much as Vinayaka Chaturthi, plenty of pujas and temple-related live shows would, in a standard world, hold them busy and employed. However, up to now 2020 has been a lifeless finish. Professionally, enjoying nadaswaram and tavil, are their solely supply of revenue. Therefore with occasions coming to a halt, they had been blindsided.

In a bid to maintain the humanities alive, Karthikeyan organised a Nadaswaram Competition — Nadarchanai — on-line in March, inviting nadaswaram and tavil gamers to take part.

A screenshot from the Nadarchanai series

Every day was characterised by a raga. Artistes would ship movies of themselves enjoying, for which a small remuneration was offered. These movies had been posted on Karthikeyan’s social media handles. “I used to be capable of put it up with the assistance of Carnatic vocalist KN Shashikiran sir. It was vital for us to provide them a remuneration, as a result of there are a lot of individuals in my circle who’re struggling,” he says.

Outfits like GCMA (World Carnatic Musicians’ Affiliation) and particular person patrons are additionally lending assist in no matter method potential, provides Karthekeyan, stating that he hopes to proceed on-line initiatives like this.

The South Indian Stage Dancers’ Affiliation has additionally been actively supporting performers.

Although most of them have been unemployed since March, the affiliation with 500-odd members, has been lively in procuring aid materials for artistes left with no revenue.

This group of dancers who carry out for stage reveals, weddings and at occasions as again up dancers and impersonators in films, are being pressured to search out alternate technique of revenue — Kannan who used to impersonate film stars, now works as an autorickshaw driver.

Nevertheless, their sturdy sense of group, surfaces again and again as they assist individuals (non-members, as nicely) with provides of groceries. “This isn’t the time to see if they’re members or not. Everybody wants assist.There must be no distinction,” says, Okay Balaji, the affiliation’s president.

‘Karagattam’ by J Jayakumar and group

Similiarly, Sumanasa basis, an arts collective, additionally organised a web based performing arts pageant, that includes varieties like kattaikoothu and karagattam and yakshagaana amongst many others which might be exterior the digital financial system, in an effort to monetarily assist performers.

Folks arts is a tough horse to tame within the on-line medium — each kind has a novel fashion of efficiency, says Vishwa. He’s of the opinion that, whereas parai aatam, oyilattam and devarattam are simpler to show on-line, varieties like karagattam, poikal kuthiraai aattam and so forth, require private hands-on coaching and can’t be replicated on-line.

In the end, for an artiste, the stage is a second house. And efficiency is second nature.

“We feed off the vitality from our co-performers and the viewers. There’s a saying in Tamil, ‘Aaduna kaalum, vaasicha kayyum, summa irukaathu,”’ says Vishwa, “Nothing can change that feeling.” That is maybe what they miss probably the most.

That is the third in a seven-part collection on Chennai and its individuals, in lockdown, celebrating 381 years of resilience.


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