The speakers on the road blared out music and the traffic near the Kathivakkam Municipality Office slowed to a crawl. Drivers and passengers alike could be seen gaping at the performers even as the crowd thronged the venue of Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha.
According to TM Krishna, a volunteer with the Theru Vizha, the event and performances were selected with the community’s assistance. “What we are trying to achieve with the event at Korukapet yesterday and today’s event is to create an equal level for local performers and those who haven’t performed here before. The performances are happening at the roadside, which is where political meetings usually take place. This opens up the space for artists and audiences,” he said.
Enmore is best known for its parai aatam performances and their silambaatam performances. To this effect, the Friends Gramiya Kalai Kuzhu, a local group focused on promoting traditional art forms, performed both art forms at the event.
“We love these traditional art forms. They feed us and clothe us. These are traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, and so, they must be preserved. People must know more about them,” said D Gunasekar, a member of the troupe.
According to A Durai, a silambaatam teacher from the locality, many from the cinema world or martial arts enthusiasts from across the world have visited him to learn more about the fighting style. The 67-year-old has coached over 5,000 students over the last fifty years.
This, according to Krishna, is the purpose of the event. “We want to bring more attention to the area of Enmore, which is currently facing ecological issues. This attention will bring the area into the forefront, as well as its people and art,” he said.
Performances such as Tamil Roch by the Madrascals, Kuchipudi by Jaikishore Mosalikanti, as well as Tamil Sufi Music by Isaiaruvi Kumari Aboobacker — who, according to Krishna, was in high demand in Ennore, which has a large Muslim population — were also held.