When it comes to keeping the traditions and heritage alive and thriving, perhaps no other Sabha does it as majestically and as subtly as the Mylapore Fine Arts Club. In a day and age, when everything is reproduced for the digital space, this particular Sabha upholds the promise of serving its stakeholders, the community at large, by retaining its charm and simplicity and not uninhibitedly promoting. Most of the concerts are free of charge for the rasikas and those that are paid are simply to restrain the crowd in case of high-in-demand performances.
I recently sat down with a man who exudes the same disposition when it comes to service and amenity. He is the Secretary of the Mylapore Fine Arts club, who views his efforts on the sustenance of the Sabha as a pleasure, “honorary deed.” The responsibilities include shortlisting the artistes to perform, arranging for accompanying instruments in case of vocal and dance concerts, interacting with artistes to finalize concert details, and overseeing the overall functioning of the place, in general.
“I started seeing dramas when I was a child and as mesmerized by the grandeur and magnificence. My father was a member of the Sabha and it seemed natural to me to take the reigns and be involved myself.”
Having interacted with the stalwarts and doyens of both drama and performing arts, he maintains his sense of service and vision by humbly stating that, “the institution is bigger than the individuals.” The Sabha offers a platform for young and aspiring artists to make their debuts into the world of performance. “We hold auditions and competitions to identify and cultivate talent and provide them a chance to venture into performing in the Sabha.” Every year the Sabha receives 500 applicants for the Music festival “Margazhi Kutcheris” and they provide opportunities for as many as possible by conducting 5 kutcheris on each of the 22 days of the festivities.
Apart from the kutcheris, dramas are performed by various troupes around the year. Discourses, Harikata programs, Nama Sankeertanam (repetition of the name of the almighty, by singing the praises in the form of bhajans), Katha Kalakshepam (storytelling of religious events) that are all various methods through which ancient wisdom and learning have been passed on for generations. These too, are presented in the Sabha around the year.
“Youngsters today are no doubt a talented lot. However what I have observed is that they are keen on performing but do not attach value in watching the performances of trained and experienced artistes” is what he laments thoughtfully, looking back at his three decades of experience since 1986, when he became involved in the Sabha. This is a man who clearly knows what he is talking about and hopes others too, get a glimpse of the culture and tradition which the Sabha hopes to preserve in all its vitality for posterity to revel in eternity.
Note: The Mylapore Fine Arts club celebrated its 65th year anniversary. It is a place that is iconic and stands testimony to the fact that art mimics life and life mimics art.