A People’s Theatre Festival in Chennai
October 12, 2019
The Thennindia Makkal Naadaka Vizha (South Indian People's Theatre Festival) was held at the Madras Kerala Samajam on Poonamallee High Road from October 2 to 6. The festival was organised by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association in collaboration with Madras Kerala Samajam. 34 theatre groups and over 500 theatre personalities from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra and Telangana performed in their languages.
The organisers sought to echo the political, cultural, intellectual and moral ideals of the people of these regions. The festival was also intended to be an instrument of social impact by reflecting the pains and aspirations of the south Indian people along caste, caste, language and gender lines. For the organisers, theatre is a form of “public discourse that lies at the heart of democratic life”. In a statement declaring the need for such a festival, they speak of how theatre enables the public to imagine the impacts of private and political choices. In a bid to keep it a people’s festival, entry was not ticketed, though donor passes were available for those who chose to lend financial support.
The Thennindia Makkal Naadaka Vizha is a biennial event and this was the second edition of the festival. There has been a focus on veedhi naadagam (street theatre) this time. Actor and co-curator of the festival Rohini, sees this as a way to celebrate the theatrical and political distinctness of the south. In an interview given to a news platform, she referred to the results of the General Elections which indicated that the south largely voted differently from the rest of the country. She added that the culture of theatre too was unique to the region.
The Thennindia Nadigar Sangam (The South Indian Artistes Association), the union for film, television, and stage actors in Tamil Nadu, released a statement of praise and well-wishes for the festival on the September 28.
In attendance at the inaugural event were Minister for Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture K Pandiarajan, Karnatik singer and activist TM Krishna, directors Pa Ranjith, Lenin Bharathi, and Raju Murugan, actor Nasser, and poet Devendra Boopathy among many others.
Speaking to the Indian Cultural Forum, TM Krishna emphasised the transformative power of cultural practises on politics. “In today’s environment when asking questions is challenged as being anti-Indian, anti-democracy and anti-government, it is important that we come together to say that democracy is about asking questions of the government and from leaders. If it is not there, our constitution will die and our democracy will die.”
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