Monday, July 25, 2011

Patti Vadai Kakka Nari - 24/-7/11

So it’s officially the end of the first week of Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011. And what a brilliant ride it’s been so far we’ve loved every moment of it – the chaos, the confusion, the tension, the arguments, you name it. And yet, crazy bunch that we are, we keep coming back for more. You, of course, do know why we keep coming back for more. We keep coming back because we see how much fun the children are having. And nothing compares to the sense of fulfillment that we feel each day, when these children go back to their respective homes, after a day spent learning some aspect about the art. They love it. We love them. We love it. Ergo, we would do every single thing for them again.

This evening at Art Arattai Aarpattam saw the staging of the well-loved tale from the Panchatantra, Paati, Vada, Kaka, Nari with a slight twist in the tale. Well, maybe a little more than a slight twist. Moving away from the popular version, the play had the entire kingdom of the jungle gearing up for a walkathon for the ultimate prize – paati sutta vada. Paati, who ran the factory, is famous for her mouth-watering paruppu vadas, which gained rapid popularity once she set up the manufacturing unit in memoriam of Jack, her true love who sank on the fateful Titanic and whose last wish (which remained unfulfilled) was to eat paati’s paruppu vada. The rest, as they say, is history. Or her-story, as you may want to call it.

So once the lion king announces the grand prize for the winner of the 50-km walkathon, several things happen simultaneously – the crows decide to steal the vada, the cunning foxes do too, a duck promises his young son that he will win the vada for him, the hares and the turtles debate whether speed will emerge the winner or will it be wisdom that will save the day. The chosen crow does steal the vada, which is an elaborate preparation (as you are likely to think, from the way that the paati’s monkeys make the batter and paati herself fries it). The rest of the play deals with how there is an animal-hunt launched by the king for the vada while the crow suffers pangs of guilt for easily doing away with a prize that so many animals are working hard to win. He has a change of heart and returns the vada to the cops and then we watch the exciting 50-km marathon as all the animals vie with each other to win the ultimate prize. Needless to say, it was wisdom that ruled the race.

What made the show special is that it was staged by children from the Government homes that NalandaWay works with across the state. They had worked hard to learn their lines, they had rehearsed hard and they were all set to have a rocking evening. Thanks to them, so did we. Because the performances were absolutely amazing – right from the lovable lion to the paati who still croons My Heart Will Go On to photographs of Leonardo di Caprio, from the wise turtles to the spirited hares, from the law-keeping roosters and hens to the conscience-stricken crow. Every child who played a role in the drama today played it to perfection. And they had so much fun along the way that the audience couldn’t but get caught up in all the fun!

An interesting insight that came up through the journey to this evening’s show is the emergence of natural leaders – four of the older boys who were part of the cast were also co-directors of the play. This is one of the most inherent qualities of theatre. It helps us see who are those that can lead others and this quality, is vital for us as we work with children from lesser-privileged backgrounds. Because these youngsters, who have the ability to lead others, help us work with the younger ones, who tend to trust them more naturally. Like we said earlier, the arts are an incredible journey of self-discovery, enabling to find within ourselves, strengths and qualities that we aren’t aware of. And it is our endeavor at NalandaWay to leverage the power of the arts to help rehabilitate these children into mainstream society and help them find avenues that help them create their own identities.
The next week promises to be equally full of action, as we continue the film screenings and also get into the contests – music, theatre and debate. If you haven’t made it to the fest yet, here is your chance to come and cheer the kids on as they participate in these exciting contests that we’ve lined up for them.

Sing Along with Krishna Iyer and Jeeva - 23/07/11

Saturday evening at Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011 was one of the most-awaited events of the festival – the sing-along session with Krishna Iyer and Jeeva, two of Chennai’s best story-tellers.

The response that we’ve received over the last couple of days for the show, in terms of ticket sales, has been very heartening. And the pace rapidly picked up at the venue as people arrived in full anticipation of a fun-filled evening. In fact, the excitement in the air was almost tangible as we watched the children walking into Museum Theatre, holding their parents’ hands or in many cases, their friends’ hands. We love the way a 5-or-so-year old girl leaned across and whispered to her friend “So you and I sit together and your mother and my mother will sit together”. How can this not bring back memories from our own childhood, where we’ve said or done similar things?

Today’s event saw participation from a slightly different set of children – in that we had little ones ranging right from 2 years of age upto about 10, while our other sessions have had slightly older children. Krishna Iyer, Jeeva and the gang got the kids right into the groove with the very first number – the traditional version of the ABCD rhyme, followed by a faster, peppier version which gradually led to other well-known rhymes, including Hickory Dickory Dock, Mary had a little lamb, etc. The ‘cooler’, ‘trendier’ version of Five Little Monkeys had even the adults tapping their feet in time with the beat, even as the little ones crooned in chorus No more monkeys jumping on the bed. The Riddles and Rhymes session which came next was also thoroughly enjoyed by the children and this was clear in the glee with which they answered every riddle that was posed to them and the lusty voices in which they sang We solved a riddle. The fish-ie dance, which was, in fact, performed not once, but twice, was also thoroughly enjoyed by the children.

Parents joined the fun with the tiny tots as the team onstage had them all putting their right hands in, then out, and doing the hokey pokey and turning themselves around…watching a child having fun with his or her parent has got to be one of those things that brings such unadulterated joy to the watcher – and that’s what we saw this evening. And what fun it was to watch the kids as they went on a lion hunt with Krishna Iyer and crossed a tree, a bridge and a river, the brave little souls - till they came to the dark cave with the big, scary lion…and how they ran back after that! We don’t blame you if you think this to be literal  for those of us who were there, it did seem pretty real!

Isn’t what we saw today the true point of education? Having fun along the way? This is something we at NalandaWay feel very strongly about. Children need to have fun as they learn – and learn some of the more important aspects of life. Like confidence, motivation, decision-making, etc,. And the arts can really help them pick up these life skills in a much more seamless way. Simply because the arts are a process of self-discovery.

Some memories that will probably stay with us for a long time – the image of a father twirling his little boy around and the boy twirling the father around in turn, a sweet little girl who just kept jumping up and down keeping the beat with just about every song that was being sung, another father holding his little princess in his arms and happily jigging away without a care in the world. Mastercard sure said it when they used the line There are some things in life money can’t buy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Malavika Sarukkai - 22/07/11

Today has been yet another eventful day at Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011, as we come close to the end of the first week of the festival. And it gives us great pleasure to say that all our sessions have been very well-attended and indeed, seen such lovely, enthusiastic participation – it only reinstates our philosophy that the arts can play an incomparable role when it comes to working with children.

Take for instance, the rain-clap that Anil Srinivasan takes the children through. For those of you who haven’t seen this (meaning, you need to come to the festival NOW!), this is a simple exercise where Anil has the children tapping, first, one finger of the right hand against the left palm, then two fingers, then three, four and five fingers in succession. The resulting noise sounds exactly like the pitter-patter of the raindrops against the window. And every child who has seen and been a part of this simple exercise loves it – maybe for the simplicity of it, the beauty of it, the fact that all of them clapping so enthusiastically, sounds like thunderous applause – you can pick your reason. For us, the rain-clap is a simple bonding action that has, in the last five days, brought so many of us together, and put smiles on so many little faces. And I believe that every child will carry this back as one of the many fond memories of Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011.

Today’s lecture demonstration saw Padmashri Malavika Sarukkai, one of the India’s leading exponent of the classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, interacting with the children. Truth to be told, we have no idea how those 90 minutes passed us by. What struck most of us in the audience is the impeccable dignity and grace that Ms. Sarukkai carries herself with. The session started with an excerpt from Vahini, a documentary made by Ms. Sarukkai, with the chosen excerpt focusing on the Mallari, the piece that is traditionally played during deeparadhanai at temple processions. This was followed by an incredibly dynamic session where Ms. Sarukkai demonstrated how various deities are depicted in the art form and went on the demonstrate how different elements are depicted. The way she artistically demonstrated something and came back to get the children guessing about what it was really got the children on their toes and indeed, it was a very happy hour and a half. Having taken the children through the concept of abhinaya, Ms. Sarukkai then performed a korvai from a thillana, where she etched beautiful designs in the air – with the circles, straight lines and diagonal lines. The audience was enthralled. Completely.

After every session, we have an interactive session, where we invite the children to either share their experience from the session or pose any questions that they may have for the artist. Almost every child who spoke today stated that he / she now wanted to explore classical dance more seriously and indeed, why not? They have been inspired by one of the most established artists in the classical dance arena, herself.

One of the most candid moments that we’ve seen this time was when a 4-year old boy walked up to the stage today, took the mic and said “I liked this performance”. Once again, as organizers, instances like this make us sit back and say “Well. So we are doing something right.” Because instances like this prove to us that art has no barriers. One can never be too young or too old to appreciate art. And nowhere has this probably been as relevant as it is in our world today - where children are made to go through so much that is beyond their years, where they are robbed of their very childhood. It is art, and art alone, that gives every such child, an avenue, a means to make more of himself / himself than what his / society dictates that he / she should be.

As move closer to the second week of the festival, we once again thank all our sponsors and patrons for all their support. We hope to see more of you at the venue. And welcome any feedback and suggestions that you may have for us.

Kondattam it is! - 19/07/11

Art Arattai Aarpattam – Aaattam, Paattam, Kondattam it is!

With the fourth edition of Art Arattai Aarpattam officially underway, every day has been an exciting journey for all of us involved. The schedules have been planned with a lot of care and attention to detail, to ensure that all our little participants had a memorable time, irrespective of what they were doing –whether it was watching one of the movies that had been chosen for screening, or going through any of the lecture-demonstrations that are being conducted over the course of the week. And I’m very glad to say that yes, the children are having a fabulous time, this is as we saw the other day, when we screened two films at the Museum Theatre – the first one was Kavi, a short film made by International Justice Mission, one of our key partners for the festival. The film beautifully captures the simple aspiration that Kavi has – to play cricket. Caught in the age-old evil of bonded labour as his father has borrowed Rs. 10000 from a local brick-kiln owner, Kavi is forced to work with his parents everyday, thereby missing out on school, studies, games – in effect, missing out on his childhood. The film deals with how a couple of rescue workers find out about the kiln owner’s operations and how they rescue Kavi from him.

These are the sort of instances that many of us are aware of and don’t do anything about. Or worse, are not even aware of, in the first place. One of the primary objectives of the NalandaWay Foundation is to ensure that every child gets access to what is his or hers by birth – access to childhood. Needless to say, films like Kavi are instrumental in creating amongst children, awareness that they do not have to succumb to such situations and that help is always there. And in turn, create in these children, the ability to realize it when they see something wrong and where possible, do something about it.

The second film that we screened was Fly Away Home, an extremely heart-warming story about little Amy and how she forms a bond with a gander of geese and her efforts to help them fly from the cold Canadian winter to the warmer US. We are very happy to say that the children thoroughly enjoyed the film that offered insights into various aspects of what children go through at that young age – the bereavement of a child losing her mother in a road accident, the difficulty she has in bonding with her father and his girlfriend, the attempts they make to connect with her, the solace she finds in the geese and how their common aim of helping the birds migrate south build a strong bond between the father and the daughter.

The afternoon session saw Mr. Ilango, one of India’s most celebrated artists, conducting a demonstration for the children, which saw enthused and active participation from the children. Having spoken about various aspects that influence his art, Mr. Ilango highlighted the point that to create an artistic impression of a specific object, one needs to become that object itself, to capture its essence. We are very grateful to him for having illustrated this point so beautifully as he created a painting of the jallikattu right before our eyes in a span of just ten minutes.

The interactive session that followed his demonstration saw many children voicing their opinions and questions, which Mr. Ilango patiently heard out and answered – and to add to the beauty of the moment, two students from Government School, Somamangalam have been offered free coaching courses by Mr. Ilango at his school! The sense of gratification for us, as the organizers, simply can not be put into words. After all, this is what we strive to achieve – to help provide such opportunities for children amongst us, that will help them to create an identity and place for themselves, using art as the medium.

We sincerely believe that the rest of the sessions that we have planned will be equally well-received. And hope that more of you will join us for more aaattam, paattam, kondattam along the way!

Inauguration - 18/07/11

The fourth edition of Nalandaway Foundation’s Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011 is officially underway!

The first event of the much-awaited cultural extravaganza for children was a lecture-demonstration on classical music by well-known singer Bombay Jayashree. The session was attended by more than 200 children from across 6 schools. What made the session so much more interesting is the fact that most of the students who attended the workshop had not undergone any sort of formal training in classical music.

This was followed by the formal inauguration of the event – what promised to be a harmonious evening with the coming together of some of Chennai’s favourite musicians – Anil Srinivasan, Unni Krishnan, Naresh Iyer and Navin Iyer.

The concert was preceded by a short tableau presented by students of the Government’s home, Roypuram, Chennai. The excitement on each child’s face was in plain view as the group created awareness amongst the audiences about the schedule of programs that have been lined up for the next two weeks, including lecture-demonstration on cartooning (is this right?), photography, movie screenings, story-telling sessions and puppet shows. This excitement amongst the participating children, ladies and gentlemen – this is the reason for Art Arattai Aarpattam 2001. This is the reason why we strive so hard, every year, to create an experience that each child cherishes, and brings him and her back to us, the next year.

The concert, to put it in short, was nothing less than a magical journey of beautiful, melodious music, with the artists rendering immortal Bharathiyar favorites like Kakai Siraginile Nandalala, Chinnanjiru Kiliye, Ninne Rathi Endru, amongst others. The pieces left the audience completely spellbound as the strong, soulful voices of Unni Krishnan and Naresh Iyer combined with Anil Srinivasan’s passionate and involved recital on the piano. Our sincere gratitude to Anil Srinivasan and Navin Iyer, who showed us in such an incredibly beautiful way, that music indeed does know no boundaries.

We could not have asked for a more eventful inauguration of Art Arattai Aarpattam 2001. We take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors who have helped get the show underway. We also thank each and everyone who made it a point to be with us this evening and hope that we will see more of you in the days to come.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Presenting - Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011!

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

And isn’t that the holy truth of all our lives! But hey, Here’s a reason for you to cheer up! The fourth edition of NalandaWay’s annual cultural extravaganza, Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011 is back again.

With a whole range of exciting, fun-filled activities - right from children’s film festivals, inter-school competitions, story-telling sessions and skits – being planned for 14 days, there is really only one place you should be…with us!

While our everyday chores often leave us with little time to engage in art and related activities, it has always been one of the best ways to reach out and connect with children. Remember the Jungle Book soundtrack? A child is learning / In a very special way he’s beginning to see all the things in the world today. And that, dear friends, is what art is really about, right? Interpreting what we see in our own,
unique, distinct ways and making meaning out of our experiences – and that is exactly what AAA will work towards. Towards creating a space for children, families and teachers to have new experiences of the arts, to experiment, to challenge, to be inspired and to have fun together.

Art, Arattai, Aarpattam 2011, the Children’s Festival of Dance, Drama, Music and Film, will be inaugurated Monday, July 18, at 6.30 pm, at the Museum Theatre, Egmore. Some of the eminent personalities who will be a part of Art, Arattai, Aarpattam 2011 include Anil Srinivasan, Naresh Iyer and Unni Krishnan, Bombay Jayashri and Padmashri Malavika Sarukkai, amongst others.

For more details about all the exciting events that we’ve planned, call Madhumita @ 8870692733 or log onto our website /aaa2011.