Wednesday, January 16, 2019


As the curtains came down on the 2019 edition of Mylapore Festival on the eve of Pongal our thoughts were on discussing lessons learnt and plans for 2020.

Our boys quickly filled in the holes that were dug on some streets to erect poles and put up stalls; and we got civic staff to clean up the streets we used so that food and other waste was not left around.

And we will soon put out our call to artistes for 2020. Yes, though we are a very very small team behind the Fest, we work through the year - looking at shows of artistes we wish to invite to our stage and discussing with curators ideas that a street can take.

Can we use space off Sri Vendanta Desikar temple for small, snappy shows? Where can we locate a full Rangoli Contest for 100 participants?

Share your ideas - mail them -

Goodbye. See you in 2010.

Spirit of Mylapore award

Every year, Sundaram Finance, the sole sponsor of the Festival presents the 'Spirit of Mylapore' award to a distinguished person or body of Mylapore. 

This year it was the legendary bowler V V Kumar; a P S School and Vivekananda College player who dominated Indian cricket but sadly was chosen to play only in two Tests.

We lost the first awardee recently - the famed pavement bookseller Azhwar of Luz Church Road - he passed away in late 2018.

Live with the gods

On many occasions, we have to co exist with the temple processions and celebrations. And since we host the main cultural shows in Sannidhi Street, the processions which go out and get back through this zone have to be given preference. And we do that quietly.

It is a bit messy and tough on us but we do make changes.
This year at the finale , we parted the stages to make way for the Vayilar Nayanar procession, twice in under 30 minutes.
It affected the dance drama that was being presented but to our surprise people sat through it till about 10.20 p.m.

As dance guru Sasirekha Raammohan ( whose production was the finale and was affected twice) said later, "We don't find such attention and respect from the audience at sabha halls."

The stage for the young 'uns

Young people also get featured prominently in the cultural events. We particularly made the effort to talk to the faculty at Sri Kanyaka Parameswari College in George Town and Tamil Music College in Esplanade to get their music/dance/arts students to perform on the main stage.

Both teams did an excellent job and went back with warm memories, we were told.

Juniors also find a slot to perform on the main stage - just that we try and get the best talents to rock the Fest.

Hang out for teens

For sometime now, this Festival has been the hangout for many teens. It is not a festival only for seniors and elders. Young people who studied in Mylapore or had their roots here keep a date at this time ; many come here to catch up at their favourite place and indulge in some food and shopping.

Which makes the Festival the event to go to on Pongal eve.

Let's make Fest streets 'one way' please

If there was one common suggestion from guests and visitors to the Fest it was this - ask police to stop traffic in the Festival zone when the festival is on - evenings and night.

It seems to be a reasonable suggestion and we intend to take this to the highest officer in the City Police Traffic department.
The police have understood what the Fest is all about and this year, Mylapore Police sent patrol teams and extra staff to man the streets and push the traffic and make it one way.

Imagine the atmosphere we can create if traffic is diverted off Chenganeer Vinayaka Street on North Mada and TSV Koil Street or Chitrakulam on South Mada Street.
From 4 pm to 9 pm.

Share your ideas too!

Rangolis get lots of attention; new idea

The Rangoli designers have been asking us to host a contest for some years now. We were a bit stubborn - keen to stick to the kolam always. But it made sense to promote creativity of all kinds - this Festival stands for this.

So on January 13 we allowed 30 people to design rangolis on the Pongal theme. And what a show is turned out to be - the carpet of rangolis got bigger attention at the far end of North Mada Street, near the Mangollai junction.

Events around kolam contests; new

We created an event around the kolam contests this year. Thanks to the involvement of Mylapore's community groups.
A smaller group of a local choir and children of a Mandaveli apartment presented choir music and kol-attam as the kolam contest drew to a close on North Mada Street. 

We also used the stage to present certificates to all kolam participants and prizes to the winners on both days.

This year, there was a contest for kids and one on rangolis.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Celebrate S. Rajam

We had a decent audience for Lalitharam's Talk on The Mylapore Man - S. Rajam - multifaceted person - artist, singer, actor, designer and story-teller who lived for some 8 decades on Nadu Street.

The talk was at the hall at Lady Siwswami Ayyar Girls School Friday evening.
A Talk for almost 2 hours; very detailed, big in expanse and deep.

This is Rajam's birth centenary year and his sishyas and fans are planning a big event at Music Academy on Feb.8.

We think a plaque listing Rajam's greatness must come up alongside the wall of his house; one which will enlighten people and celebrate a great man.

Festival Tees selling well

The festival Tees are selling fast at the Info Tent at Sannidhi Street, opposite Rasi store. We have made only 110-plus Tees since we don't like to sun up a stock. So if you wish to buy one do so quick.

The other souvenirs are dabras, illustrations of Sri Kapali Temple of 1902, jute and cotton bags and fridge magnet ( which is also the hot seller).

A big surprise on the Dr Radhakrishnan Salai Walk

Our Walks have got great responses this far.
Foodie Sridhar Venkataraman had some 40 plus people sampling food at the area's hot joints. In that group were a couple of foreigners and a few people who live in the area, visit the temple and big stores but haven't checked out the small snacks joints.

On Saturday morning, Nivedita Louis was wondering why only two people were at the start point - Children's Garden School - for the Dr Radhakrishnan Salai Walk.
But in minutes, the crowd swelled to 25. 

The big moment - when the group was invited into Dr Radhakrishnan's sprawling bungalow - Girija - by the former presidents's daughter-in-law, Dr Gopal's wife.
Paintings, books, curious, vintage furniture; the group feasted on the old world charm of a Madras bungalow. 

Walks have to be curated patiently - many hosts don't want people to pester them; or probe. But a Walk leader like Nivedita who do some homework, provide some surprises to the group.

For a No Drive Zone on mada street

The time around, Mylapore Police have doubled up on duty at the Fest. Regulating the traffic heavy streets, especially East Mada is tough though at the Fest the people outnumber the autos and cars.

We have advocated for a No Traffic Zone at least on East Mada Street - not to serve our purpose but to demonstrate how such a regulation can make for a great atmosphere.
Our Smart City execs, our civic officers need to be coaxed much to try such initiatives.

But senior police officers appreciate the Festival effort - we have no problems getting the OK to host it. And this time, GCC's senior zone officer said we don't need a OK to run our Fest since she was aware of what we do. "Just make sure all is well and any mess is cleared," she said.

Its a slow process working with state-dom. But some year soon, we hope the No Drive Zone will become a reality.

Friday, January 11, 2019

First day's experience. A Reporter's Note

Mylapore Times Newspaper trainee reporter Dheepthi J shares her experience on Day One of the Fest.
(Share yours too in the comments section)
Being a newbie to the annual Mylapore Festival, I was very curious to witness the happenings around. It was around 5 p.m. when I entered the festival area. On East Mada Street, beautifully-designed kolam-themed lanterns hung on the roadside welcomed me. They looked appealing in the night when the lights were switched on.

The Food Street on Sundareswarar Street was coming alive. My love for food had brought me here. I stopped by the Brownie stall and ordered one. It was served in a donnai! "Plastics are avoided completely," said the vendor. Everything was served only in paaku mattais and donnais. Even the waste-bin liner was of cloth.

This seems to be the most popular zone. I enjoyed watching the people around. Many teens told me that they look forward to the festival to have a get-together. "This happens only once a year in January. So we plan and enjoy to the maximum level," said Haritha, who was having her favourite pav bhaji. With her were four others, her friends. I shot a snappy video of this group ( you can watch it on the Mylapore Festival FB page)

My next stop was in the temple zone - Kumaraguru Street. It looked like a village bazaar with naked lights hung across hawker stalls in the open. Here, women who are members of Self-Help Groups had a variety of stuff to offer - from cloth bags to fancy jewellery to homemade products.

I turned into Kapaleeswarar East Tank Square Street that borders the temple tank ( there is hardly any water in the tank now(. This is where organic products are on display. The eco corner had medicinal plants, rice varieties, desi cotton, shopper bags made of cloth and more.

I walked into South Mada Street. On the fence of the temple tank, were a series of panels of photos of Mylapore in the 50s and 60s. I saw people excitedly explaining the various photos to their children.

The volunteer here carries a book in which people who possess photos of weddings or social functions shot in Mylapore in the past can jot down their names and Mylapore Times newspaper will make copies of them for the Social History project and also use them for the 2020 Festival exhibition.

The pavement had been turned into a cultural space though the stains of cattle dung and stink of vegetable waste hung in the air.
The evening chaos on the street was a counter-point to the show.
Perhaps, this pavement can now have a cultural life of its own.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Elai Sapaadu?

If you are a music/ dance rasika you must have done the rounds of sabha canteens last December.
Tried the sapaadu too?

At one place it was Rs.300. At another Rs.400.
Wags said the Rs.150 meal at Hotel Maris is still the best in the Mylapore zone; what do you think?

Hosting a sapaadu on a Sunday at a Mylapore house, cooked by the family was a big hit in the years we hosted it for the Festival.
We had to limit the guests because households can manage only that many; and its a challenge in the days of small families.

Would you like us to host at least one sapaadu event this Sunday of the Fest?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Where in Mylapore will you find this?

Where inside Sri Kapali Temple can you find this slab?
What does it show?

Its one of the games our forefathers used to play!

To know more join the Kreeda-curated Walk here on Sunday evening. It is free. Open to adults and children.

See the programme for more details.

Two shows on South Mada Street

So, the street we have looked at and now will pep up is South Mada Street - the gateway to temples, veggie hawkers and small stores.

Two exhibitions are to be mounted on the pavement alongside the temple tank - ojne of photos of Mylapore of the ages gone by. The second is of art, very local in theme.

Stop by to check both shows.

Why do we hold programmes on the streets?

Holding a street based fest isn't easy - though we have been at it for over 17 years!
Streets challenge you.

So our contractor who puts up the street lamps and main stages, calls to say he won't be able to sink the street lamp posts.
We rush to East Mada Street and work out a new plan.

Why do we hold our events - some 30 plus - on the mada streets? Because this is a religio-cultural-social space.
And the arts is integral to it.
Not large businesses which have taken over the streets like Ranganathan Street in T. Nagar.

Our wish - free Sannithi Street square on weekends and hold open air performances!

Welcome to Festival 2019!

Preparations for our Festival begin even as the current one is on. And work goes on through the year.
Mainly, to look at the works of performing artistes and make choices.

Often, we wander into the districts to watch recitals.
For ages, we wanted to watch the leather puppets at play of the Kanyakumari region. We never got to catch up and had to be content with videos.

Now, Muthuchandran and three others will perform on the first two evenings of the Fest.

Must watch.

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!