Thursday, August 12, 2010

Madras Week: The countdown is over... let the show begin

It’s been quite a hectic week. In the midst of work pressure and deadlines to beat (writing-editing is tough sometimes), there were calls, calls and more calls. Calls from headmasters and principals in schools, PR managers, reporters, gallery owners… and a host of others. All to do with Madras Week, of course. When would the programme sheets be ready? Can we have the address and phone number of the speaker? When do we really start the programme? Will we have enough of a crowd? Do you think newspapers will report the event? Will you be there to help? These were some of questions I fielded, trying to be as helpful as possible. One person seemed to be bowled over by the apparent charm I exuded. “You’ve been a great help…” she said. I smiled as I dabbed a wet tissue on my face.

Well, we (Madras Week coordinators or catalysts) have indeed come a long way from 2004 when it all began. I still remember driving around town with Vincent D’Souza, tying the odd bits when calls would come every ten minutes asking us what Madras Day was all about, whether it was a competition, whether it was a sort of drama, and what people were expected to do. Madras Day was actually Vincent’s ‘brainchild’ – quite a few reporters use that word describing how it all started.

Today, most people I talk to have heard of Madras Day and Madras Week and, what’s more, they are keen to do their bit. Taking the lead here are some schools. Asan Memorial, for instance, has the event chalked out on the calendar and even before you call the principal early June, they are up and ready with a broad programme outline. This year, the Asan Arts and Science College in Pallikaranai is on the list. Lalitha, the assistant principal, called me a number of times as she did Suresh and Prema Kasturi of INTACH. The college was taking part for the first time and she was naturally a bit nervous. A few conversations, and she gained confidence. Her enthusiasm must have rubbed off on her colleagues, for the college is organising three events – an exhibition, a walk near the marsh and a food festival. The Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School in Egmore has come up with an excellent subject: An exhibition on Madras, the Coromandel trading post. So, more power to Suma Padmanabhan (principal of the school) and Lalitha.

Few people have been as sportive as Chitra Ragulan, and understanding as well. Back from the United States, she hardly had time to get things going. Something motivated her nevertheless – the discovery that her great grandfather was closely connected to Robert Chisholm who pioneered the Indo-Saracenic style in Madras (more about this in a later blog). Chitra will host two more exhibitions: one of photographs by Ranjan De, titled Graffiti on the Walls of Madras, and the other of the Anglo-Indian community in Madras. Well done, Chitra.

Gita, supremely talented self-taught artist who now works for DakshinaChitra, has always been very supportive. No sooner did I tell her about Madras Week than she organised a photography exhibition on Madras by three young photographers (Mani Maran, Nataraja Moorthy Kumar and Augustine Derrick) who have just obtained a degree in Fine Arts from the College of Art and Craft, Chennai. The subjects are based on happenings in and around the city. The exhibition at DakshinaChitra will open from 10am to 6pm.

Yifat, who runs Vanilla Children’s Place on Greenways Road (shifted from Mylapore), is always ready to be a part of Madras Week. Vanilla hosted shows the past year and this year they have lined up an interesting set of events – traditional games, art and craft, a talk on wildlife and performance by a mime artiste.

In Anna Nagar, it’s thanks to Ashok Kedia, now managing trustee of the Jaigopal Garodia Group of Schools, and Vijayakumar, principal of the Anna Nagar school, that programmes are being held in that part of town.

In Vadapalani, it’s Krishna Kumar (or KK), general manager at Hotel Green Park, who books the hall for you months ahead of Madras Week, and Binita, Shrimati and Jeeva Raghunath who together produce some absolutely marvellous programmes for children. This year, there’s a craft workshop while Bommi & Friends will take visitors on a tour of the Kodambakkam. The icing on the cake will be back-to-back talks – by V. Sriram (Chennai, the Crazy City) and Chitra Madhavan (Temples along ECR). All this on Madras Day, August 22. Not to be missed for anything.

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