Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cultural Churning

Tiruvannamalai, Oct 1: More than 20,000 people from Tiruvannamalai and its surrounding areas are expected to attend the all-night cultural festival on Sunday night. The festival, which will conclude the 10th state-wide conference of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association (TPWA), has nowadays become a much-awaited event.
An eclectic mixture of speeches, modern plays, folk songs, book release functions and short films, the all-night culturals have captured the hearts and minds of the people of this region.
Two of the architects of the festival – BaVa Chelladurai and Karuna who have been active writers with the TPWA - spoke to *Express* today. Both writers are immensely proud of their achievements in Tiruvannamalai, the influence the cultural night enjoys within the TPWA and the impact it has had on the people. They recalled that the first of the all-night events held in 1985 had attracted just 50 people. The next year, the organisers had miraculously managed to attract 10,000 people.
``We tell the people about issues that affect their lives. We avoid events that trivialise art and are purely commercial in nature. People are aware that this is serious stuff and are attracted to it,’’ Karuna, the treasurer of the reception committee for this year’s conference, said.
The event is funded at the grassroots level. On September 4, about 400 progressive writers met here, divided themselves into small groups, and spread out into the town. Knocking on each door, these groups managed to collect Rs 60,000 this year. Small merchants in the area too contributed, some of them up to Rs 10,000. ``This is not a big industrial area. Getting corporate sponsors is out of question,’’ Karuna said. ``People who contribute know that the money will be put to good use,’’ he added.
``The all-night events used to be conducted on New Year’s Eve. Dalit art forms take precedence over others,’’ BaVa, secretary of the reception committee, said. BaVa’s infectious enthusiasm and boundless energy must have been a driving force behind this conference. Virtually his whole life has been shaped by the cultural nights. He said he had met his wife Shailaja, also a writer who has translated works from Malayalam to Tamil. Years later, he lost his only son during another cultural night.
Also born out of the cultural churning was the concept of *Muttram*. Tamil writers such as Jayakanthan, Sundara Ramaswamy, P. Kandasamy and T. Rajanarayanan are among the past invitees to *Muttram*, where they sit as one with the audience and share their ideas, views and inspirations. Then ``running out of Tamil writers’’, the organisers began inviting writers from outside the state. Noted Malayalam writers K Sachidanandan, Balachandran Chullikadu and K.N. Panniker, and Paul Zacharia have also taken part in this programme.
``Many of these writers have nothing to do with TPWA. However, we are able to persuade them to come and share their ideas,’’ Karuna said.
``The posters and banners that we put up for the events are quite famous. Artists like Trosky Marudu and Aadimoolam have helped us immensely by creatively designing these posters,’’ BaVa said. Karuna himself has designed the posters this year.
Books of writers such as Jayamohan and Konangi have been released during these cultural nights. This year’s cultural night is being presided over by Pralayan, playwright and street theater actor.