Friday, January 05, 2018

Music without mikes

Music students of Dr. Chithra Madhavan performed at the Concert in the Park on Friday, Day Two of the Festival. At Nageswara Rao Park in Luz.

There is something about concerts without mikes and speakers.

And as dozens of people taking their morning walks around the park went about their business, the music floated around.

Food Walks create big buzz, always

Guess which event creates a big buzz at the Fest?
The Food Walks.

Social media folks on the city's local food buzz pages get into a tizzy when such walks are announced.
So Sridhar Venkataraman's two walks - on Friday and Saturday - may well draw lots of foodies who would like to be guided to joints they have not checked out.
And there are many photographers who tag along.

Sridhar says there are always new food joints to explore - so he isn't fazed by repeating the walks in Mylapore.

Wonder if he has a new thattu idli shop on his route this year!

Stage space for teens; choral music

32 children on stage for a choir.

The well known Madras Youth Choir which also trains school children in low profile areas of the city will present students who hail from a school in T. Nagar and one from Mylapore.

In fact, the two groups will meet an hour before their Saturday choir show on the Main Stage and rehearse for some time to get it right.

MYC, founded by the late M B Srinivasan ( a music com poster, director and composer and promoter of choral music) says this is an opportunity for the kids.

The Fest has space for them too.

Its first set of shows every evening present teens in music, dance.

The challenges a street festival host faces!

Hosting a street cultural festival in an Indian city can be a big big challenge. And we have faced it this 2018 festival.

A Sri Ayyappa devotee decided to conduct a puja and a concert in the very space we were to put up our stages and have our main shows on Thursday evening.
The laws of the land are quite contradictory and so you never know if your plans can hold till the last hour.
So we shifted our main shows to the Sri Kapali Temple campus.

And Day One ran very smoothly.
Dancers of Bharatanatyam guru Sreelatha Vinod, presenting 'Sivam' ended just as the last puja for the lord was to take place at about 9 p.m.

And we heaved a sigh of relief!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Grab some souvenirs

We always create simple, small souvenirs. Stuff visitors to the Festival can buy and take home for keep-sake. Or gift to friends.

There are two cotton bags that we will offer on sale at the 2018 edition of the Fest.
One repeats the design of 2017 - a bright earthy kolam. Printed on a cotton backpack - this was a big hit with young people last year.
Another cotton bag - a shopping bag - will carry an Indian ink illustration of South Mada Street in the Sri Kapali Temple zone of the city.

These bags and  a few other souvenirs - key chains, fridge magnets, framed Mylapore illustrations and coffee dabara sets - will be on sale at the Information Tent on Sannidhi Street on all four evenings.
Grab one.

Tell us also what you thought about whats on offer.

Space for classical dancers

One of the first set of artistes we chose to star at this year's fest were the Bharatanatyam group of guru Sreelatha Vinod.

Sreelatha was trained under the famed V P Dhananjayan and Shantha Dhananjayan and runs her own dance academy in Velachery, a residential hub for IT professionals in Chennai.

Our ongoing conversations with this dancer has often touched on an issue that always bothers classical dancers - finding avenues to dance freely since the sabha space is often restrictive and limiting.

As curators of a street fest, we have always got positive feedback from people who have sat through dance productions held in the open air at the Main Stage in Sannishi Street Square.
And almost all dancers have said that they too enjoy this informal open-to-sky stage setting.

One where the ordinary person who does not step into sabha halls can enjoy dance.

Volunteers; we could do with many young people!

This Fest depends on volunteers. There is a charm in running such events with the aid of the young and the old.
It provides for Mylaporeans to lend a hand to things they love and wish to support.

We do get a dozen volunteers.
But we wish we had some more hands - tough, young and with oodles of energy.

Because there is much field work that needs to be done.

The 2018 Festival comes early

The festival is early this year.
Because we try and avoid holding the Festival closer to the Pongal festival - for logistical reasons.

And so the Fest of 2018 is from January 4 to 7.
This scheduling challenges us, builds pressures too - since the team behind the Fest is really small.
Just four.

Thankfully, a small team from Sundaram Finance, our sponsors also lends a hand where it can.

This challenge is not new - for we have as a rule decided to keep the core team small always. 

Hiccups do confront us - after all this is a street festival, a fest held in open spaces that people use. And in our circumstances, much unlike in the West these are not reserved open public spaces for cultural acts.

Every year, we therefore gird ourselves to also tackle issues that crop us - a religious event in the space for Main Stage Events. A street dug up by the civic agency - where a crafts sale has been planned.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Fest runs on volunteers!

Our colleague Bama who works at Mylapore Times chose to put together the Festival volunteers - some 15 of them, this year and you will see them wearing the yellow MF cap at the venues.
There are senior women, college students and others who make this group. This Festival runs on volunteers and that makes it kind of special. It doe snot run on an events management company or a whole time team of a dozen people. Even the people who lead Walks and host some events cme forward to do so because they are passionate about their interests.

Subramania Bharathi's Bharatham; a production evolves

We have followed the dance productions of Bharatanatyam dance guru Sasirekha Rammohan since she is based in the Mylapore area and the recitals are held at local sabha halls.
We first sat through her 'Bharathi kanda Bharatham' production at the Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Manram campus in Chennai some six months ago. The music, scored by Rajkumar Bharathi, his great grandson was 'live' at that premiere.

Sasirekha then chose to tighten the production and record the music in a studio. This did the smart magic. The p[roduction value improved. And this showed at the Festival's evening show in Sannidhi Street. People sat through it as late as 9.45 pm - when the curtains where drawn on Day One at Fest 2016.

Old photos of Mylapore; Mani's contribution

Parantharami Mani works for the Central Government. For the ESIC. His day job keeps his busy. But every day, he delved into the World Wide Web to locate all sorts of old photos of Madras that is Chennai. And posts them online.
So we worked with him this Festival to locate and print 20 great and rare visuals of Mylapore.
You can enjoy these photo prints at the base of the chariot of Sri Kapali Temple. Photographer R Saravanan did the hard work and got up this show.
At the end of Day One evening, at least 2000 people would have seen this exhibition.

Thanks Mani. We admire your passion and commitment!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Mike-less concerts; the park has revived

The 'mike-less' concerts in Nageswara Rao Park were first curated for the Festival. They featured very young artistes and the soft music upped the quiet ambience at this popular park.
Sundaram Finance picked up the thread and has continued for many years the 'mike-less' concerts ( so there are no speaker systems too!) and soon may well make known a Indian Guiness Record of this concept.
But the deluge of December 2015 also sank the park - over time many shrubs died and some areas were clogged with muck and waste. It has taken some time for the park to liven up and hopefully, it will look fresh and green in the weeks that follow.

The Chess Square area where the morning kutcheris are held - Jan 7 to 10, starts 7 a.m. - is neat and clean. Hoepfully, many walkers and fitness enthusiasts will stop by to listen to the music.
- Photo is of the concert area in the park, shot a few days ago.


Here are our picks for the annual Sundaram Finance MYLAPORE FESTIVAL 2016. The cultural and heritage fest is on from January 7 to 10 in spaces outside Sri Kapali Temple and at Nageswara Rao Park. And it is open to all.

    Head to Nageswara Rao Park in Luz by 7 a.m. Go on your walk, do your twists then stop by at the Chess Square and listen to teenagers at the Carnatic music concert. Mikes and speakers are not used. Soothing experience for your mornings. Four in a row.

There are 5 Walks; two are for foodies - by foodie Sridhar! Celebrated writer and historian Ram Venky, as we know him has a huge treasure of less-known info on Mylapore and its stalwarts. How did Nageswara Rao Park change from a large pond? What did men fighting for free India plot in Luz? Which films burnt the box-office at Kamadhenu Theatre? How was Sri Kapali Temple tank built?
Ram Venky offers to take you on his Walk on Sunday morn.
If you love shooting pictures, join the Chennai PhotoWalkers.
And if you study architecture, design or cultural geography, don't miss out Anisha and Tahaer's Walk.

Prove it at the two traditional games contests being hosted. There is one in Pallankuzhi too. For adults and for children. Each year, some 100-plus people pit themselves in animated play. Weekend contests at Lady Sivaswamy Girls School. 

The Festival has some nice surprises for kids. Chess contest. Craft workshops in the park. Clicking photos with a professional. Pedalling on your cycle to gets a close look at old Mylapore in the margazhi mist!

This weekend event draws people from across the city. They turn North Mada Street's east end into a carpet of puli-kolams. And the fantastic wins prizes and certificates. Spread the word about this contest among people who stun us with their kolams at your doorstep.

Two great evening-time shows on the Main Stage. One that presents 20 vintage Hindi film songs ( Jan 9, evening). The other which swirls the Thamizh film hits of famed music director M. S. Vishwanathan all around you and your friends. ( Jan 10 evening). Open air. On the weekend.

Mylapore mada veedhis always have something to get your attention and draw you in. This margazhi if you wander around, you will be greeted by the variety of flowers on sale by hawkers, fresh veggies, crafts of Narikkuravas and temple sounds. The Festival adds to the zing. Soak in.

Mylapore magnets. Bet you have always wanted these. They are on sale at the Fest. As are cotton T-shirts, jute bags and cute key-chains and danglers which sport kolams, yalis and pottu-s. These souvenirs also make little gifts. All of them carry a Mylapore theme. Exclusively made for this season.

Detailed info at

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Great souvenir, sells fast!

Now this thing sell like filter coffee!
The coffee dabara ( or its is dawara?) as a souvenir was a great idea and we introduced it some years ago at the Fest. 100 sets vanished midway through Day 3 and we ordered more from our source in China Bazaar in the city. They too sold fast - but without the Festival logo ( there was no time to etch it!).

We have ordered for these brass dabaras all over again and hope they will arrive on time to be sold at the Souvenirs counter ( opp. RASI store).

Challenges of holding a street festival

Holding a street fest challenges you - the civic conditions make you go crazy.
Imagine our team's plight this year - at every corner a civic contractor who was supposed to lay wide pavements and relay the mada streets has dumped and abandoned ( for now ) hundreds of these stones - they make for garbage dumps for people with no civic sense.
We are now employing civic workers to clean up the two main Festival venues. 
At street corners are dusty autos and mini vans which were sunk in the city floods - dumped like waste. We have top clear them too.
And as local resident V P Narasimhan keeps complaining - the nook off the chariot shed is a open air urinal - who is to clean up? We do for the Fest. Its a hard job. 
And yet, we love Sannidhi Street Square - outside the eastern temple gopuram. Great space for open-air recitals of any kind - folk, classical, dance, music . . 

It is a chaotic parking lot. Wish we can create a better space here.

Gracious hosts, this girls school . . .

The Trust and the school heads at Lady Sivaswamy Ayyar Girls School have always been gracious hosts - we turn to them to hire the main hall to host games contests/ workshops.
The old-time flavored hall is just the place for such events. Though it reverberates with chatter and laughs when the contestants go at the pallankuzhi and dayakattam games.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tips for young cyclists keen to explore a bit of Mylapore!

Here are few tips for teenagers who wish to join long-distance cyclist Ramanujar Moulana on the Sunday ( January 10 morning) 'Explore Mylapore on Cycles' tour.
# Bring your own cycles - they can be of any make!
# Please wear a helmet - it is good to own one!
# Carry hydration (water)
# Parents can accompany their kids - ride their own cycles!
# Assemble at start point (Rasi Silks gate) by 6.45am

# For any queries call Ramanujar : 9884023123

The artists who will exhibit small works

This is a small group. And has grown organically in this city.
Chennai Weekend Artists is of a dozen plus active artists who meet every Sunday at a pre decided place to sketch, paint or illustrate.
They have a few favorite hangouts - Semmozhi Poonga and Mylapore - though they have also explored a British era cemetery and Kasimedu fishing harbor.

CWA artists have been invited to put up their art works for an exhibition at the Fest - in the open, alongside the 16-pillared mantap outside Sri Kapali Temple. 
Photo featured here was borrowed from the CWA's FB page; it was shot at the group's recent art meet in Mylapore.

City deluge has not discouraged this dance troupe; it will perform at the Fest

If there is one group which will be at the Fest after a big hit from the deluge that sank our city in early December, it is that of dancer and guru Divya Sena.
Divya has her dance studio in West Mambalam; she was devastated to find mridangams, photo albums, song books, CDs and dance accessories had been damaged or washed away after the floodwaters ran into her academy premises.
This though has not stopped her and her dancers from continuing dance practice and the group has already staged a few dance productions this December Season.

Divya brings her well- executed 'Sri Andal Vaibhavam' to the Fest at the open air Main Stage on January 8 evening. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mylapore specials to take home or gift

Ranjani Chandran is working the extra hours this Christmas hol to make sure the small creative souvenirs she is doing for the Fest get to us on time.

Key chains, danglers and a surprise product will be on sale as Fest Souvenirs.

Ranjani is based in Adyar. 'Craving to Create' is her banner. And she is an online creative entrepreneur.
It is her 'madness for Mylapore' that got her hooked her on to this souvenir proposal.

Featured here is a sampler of what Ranjani has done for you and me.

On sale at the Fest Info counter opposite Rasi Store. 6 to 9.30 pm on all four evenings. 

Food Walks / Now where is Gomathi Saiva Unavagam?

Foodie and Food Walk pioneer Sridhar Venkataraman is very serious about curating Food Walks - he researches well and his recce is done over time. So when the info on a  Walk is out, Sridhar posts a map marking the walk route and the spots where food will be tasted.
The map allows those who cannot join him to DIY alone or in groups!

Sridhar is hosting two Walks this Festival.
On Jan 8 and 9. More info at

Featured here is a picture of Gomathi Saiva Unnavagam - don't ask us for an address. You just have to ask residents of Mandaveli Street for directions.

Tiffin in the evening gets over by 5.30 p.m. Thats why the early start to the Walk, says Sridhar.

Less-known tales of Mylapore. On this Walk.

The Walks were the first set of events that fell into place.
That is because the people who know their patch are ever willing to curate and lead a Walk.

Passionate historian Venkatesh Ramakrishnan ( the author of the book - Gods, Kings & Slaves - Siege of Madurai - who lives in Mylapore was too happy to curate his own tour of Mylapore.

The day his Walk was posted there were dozens of people who promised to be there that Sunday ( Jan 10, 7 am). Start point - main gate of Nageswara Rao Park. Free.

Ramki says he hopes to share lots of less-known tales of the Mylapore he knows.

Alive a tad late! For 2016!!

We are bringing this Blog alive rather late. Just 10 days before the 2016 edition of the Festival takes off.

This edition of the Festival has been scaled down after the deluge that hit this city. We felt it was just not right to make a big song and dance about a street festival - though Mylapore was safe and dry during the deluge days.

So, this year we have the Main Stage performance events on all evenings, the traditional games contests indoors - for adults and for kids - and the popular kolam contests on North Mada Street.

With us, as always is Sundaram Finance, our sole sponsor.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Time to say goodbye.
And look ahead for 2016.

If you do read these notes and feel you have a role to play, ideas to share…..mail us -

To all those who did their bit - artistes, funders, volunteers, state agencies, people, businesses and the rest - we offer our thanks.

Support from state agencies was good

The Fest got a nod from quarters that need not be mentioned here. People who administer the state and acknowledge acts of groups who are serious about doing things in the public space.

It helped when Ramky, the agency which cleans our roads and streets put in extra hands to clear the streets and collect the huge waste the Fest generated.

Local police teams kept an eye on trouble-makers.

The state Tourism Department is being asked to do its bit in highlighting the Fest.

With more of such support, this Fest has more to do. 

Big Sunday rush

The Sunday community at the Fest was by far the biggest we have had at the Fest. Our estimate is that over 20,000 people must have experienced some part of the Fest on this holiday from the Kolam Display end to the Photo Exhibition end in the Chitrakulam area.

Thankfuly, we did not have law and order problems.

Yes, motorists had a tough time on East Mada Street. As evening fell, contractors were putting up a stage, erecting cut outs and hoisting flood - ,lights for a public meeting of the DMK party.

The Fest ended quietly - and we were pleased.

Ideas for 2016!

Even as the Fest ran its course on the final day, Sunday January 11, ideas kept popping up and being shared too. Ideas we could look at for Fest 2016.

V Sriram's Walk on ' Villages of Mylapore' had a corollary - a Walk/s on 'Exploring the Inner Streets of Mylapore'. Add in another - 'Visiting 5 Old Houses of Mylapore'.

A walk down the temple tank street where handworks of women were on display made us toss the idea of inviting south India's less known craftspeople here . For this, we will tie in with the Handicrafts Commission and hope it can host the groups - having teams from outside TN costs a bit and this Fest does not have the capacity to foot a big bill.

The Kolam Contests were managed by two sets of young people - a team of young women who do extra work to earn rupees for the family. And a team of boys who circulate the Mylapore Times newspaper.  Perhaps, we must invite the NCC cadets of Vivekananda College to lend a hand. Traffic  and security management needs a hand.

The huge response to the three Photo Exhibitions make us believe that we will host three more next year - themed ones. They will run into one Chitrakulam street. ( we hope local residents will accept us for four evenings!).