Celebrating our city: The best Madras Week events to attend
From Madraspattinam to Madras to Chennai, this city has come a long way, giving us ample reason to get together and celebrate the occasion of its birthday, observed on August 22. Ever since the first year of the festival, which started in 2004, Madras Week (August 20-27) has been about myriad themes – from history, food and architecture to culture and personalities. With events spread across the city this time, here are the ones that made it to our to-do list. Learn the history behind the bridges built during the British era,revisit ancient Shivite and Vishnavite temples, listen to a talk by historian Dr Chitra Madhavan and go around the city clicking pictures for a photography contest. While the bibliophiles can look forward to the launch of Madras On My Mind – A City in Stories by Chitra Viraraghavan and Krishna Devulapalli.
Green fields are here now
Every year, Nizhal, the organisation for conservation of trees, works to spread awareness among people about the need for a green cover. Last December, the city lost thousands of trees and much of its canopy in the aftermath of Cyclone Vardah. “We had done a survey before and after Vardah, and made a database. Copperpod, a commonly found tree in the city with yellow flowers, was the most affected as it could not hold on to the soil,” notes Usha Sreedhar, a Nizhal member. This year, the initiative’s focus is on planting indigenous trees that are more adapted to the weather, thereby contributing to the biodiversity. “It’s a whole cycle, starting from the birds building nests on trees, eating fruit, dropping the seeds as they fly to indirectly planting these trees in forests,” she adds. Usha informs us that most of these trees are on the endangered list. “Instead of planting something that looks good and gets uprooted quickly in a cyclone, it is better to go for native and local trees that take years to grow and have a stronger base,” she concludes. The walks will be conducted at T Nagar, Harrington Road, Anna Nagar and Kotturpuram Parks between 5-6 pm on different dates. Details for registration: firstname.lastname@example.org
Channel your curiosity
Dr Hemachandrao Rao has been studying the Buckingham Canal for five years, with research that dates back to the early 1780s. He speaks in great detail about the initial proposal, the implementation and completion of the water way. In his talk, Dr Rao will offer insights about the people who envisioned this canal between Madras and Ennore. “Firewood and dry fish were important goods that came to Ennore from Madras through bullock-led bandies (carts). At the same time, there used to be a seasonal river that gets water during rains and empties into Cooum River — that was called Elambore or north river,” he explains. The plan became a reality after 20 years in 1802, when the canal’s digging started and went deep down to Ennore, for a distance of 11 miles. It got further extended to a small island covering a distance of four and a half miles, called Pulicat Lake. “Last time when I went to Pulicat, I was lucky enough to find the 25th milestone,” he adds. His 30-minute talk will include period-based information presented by the tenures of former Governors. On August 24. 5 pm at Press Institute of India.
Tribute to the Nawab
The Arcot Nawab Trail, a passage through the bygone Nawab era, is being organised by the filmmaking company Media Kombai, under the guidance of S Anwar, the founder of the organisation, who’s well-versed in Tamil-Islamic Culture. The trail begins at the crack of dawn (6 am) at the former crown seat of the Arcot Nawabs, the Chepauk Palace. On the way to Triplicane, participants will walk through Walajah Road, which bears traces of Arcot architecture, including the Walajah Mosque, a paragon of the Indo-Saracenic style. The walk ends at the Amir Mahal, the current royal residence of the Arcot Nawab’s family. “The trail imparts knowledge about the Arcot Nawabs, who stayed relevant for over a century, through interesting stories about their influx into the city, their glory days and their diminishment due to the East India Company,” says S Anwar, an Islamic history enthusiast who has been conducting such heritage appreciation walks for the past five years. On August 20 & 27. Fee: `300 per person. Breakfast at Adyar Ananda Bhavan. Details: 9444077171
Eat, walk, explore
Starting from the Mehta Bros Mithaiwala and ending at the Saravana Sandwich outlet, food walks are the most sought-after events at Madras Week. It has been five years since Sridhar Venkatraman started organising food walks, and this year, he is planning two walks, one at Sowcarpet and the other one at Mylapore. “It does not make sense to take a large set of people through crowded streets in a bus, so I structured it in such a way that it is within two hours, with limited six or seven stops,” informs Sridhar. Apart from this, he has also held walks at Triplicane, Puraswalkam, West Mambalam, T Nagar and more. Regardless of whether you attend his walk or not, he shares a tentative map with those interested, so that they may embark on explorations by themselves. “The main reason people come is to get familiar with the areas, so I always choose a starting point that is easy to locate. Once they get used to these places, they find their way out by themselves,” laughs Sridhar. For upcoming food events, track the Facebook page, Chennai Food Walks. The walk’s starting point is Ekambareeshwar temple. On August 20. 8 30- 11 am. Details: 9790957208
Madras, then and now
Probus Club will host an event titled, ‘Madras in the eyes of late legendary film & drama director K Balachander and now Chennai, in the eyes of filmmaker and theater director Bombay Chanakya.’ “I was born and brought up in Bombay, but relocated to Chennai in 1989, to pursue my passion for theatre. Incidentally, I had done a play in 2011 called Madras to Chennai to high-light the transformation that the city has undergone,” informs Chanakya. Having worked with the filmmaker, the talk will feature clipping from films and personal experiences.“K Balachander was the first director to shoot a film outside the studio for a movie titled Madras Nalla Madras and compare it to the film May Madham, which talks about the recent Madras in its song Madras ah suthi paaka poren,” he adds. On August 26. At 10 am. At Russian Cultural Center. Open only to members and guests.
Of a silvern tone
DakshinaChitra is hosting a special screening of a documentary on artists who were all a part of the Madras Art Movement — such as KCS Panicker, Alphonso Arul Doss, P Perumal, Suriyamoorthy and others. The films are selected and presented by documentary filmmaker Gita Hudson. “The motto is to bring the contemporary art scenario of Chennai artists to youngsters who are not aware of their body of works. This is an opportunity for fine art student and art enthusiasts to learn about art in the 1960s,” says Gita. Most of these artists are alumni of the Government Art College and all equally veterans in the art world. “Those were the days when people from villages came all the way and joined art colleges for the mere passion of drawing and not to make money out of it,” she rues. The Government College of Arts and Crafts, which was earlier started as Madras School of Arts, was one of the first to be started by the Britishers. “Last time it was a different bunch of artists and their works featured tribal art, Indian architecture, a water festival and more. So we pick movies from our archive to lend variety,” she offers. From August 12-31. 11 am-1 pm and 3 pm-5 pm. At DakshinaChitra.
A walk for all
For the past two years, the group Explore Differently has been helping the Madras Week organisers make their shows accessible for wheelchair-bound guests. This time, Rajith Nair will host two trips — History of Chennai Museum as well as the Arms and Weapons gallery. “For the second walk, there are steps that lead into the gallery — these are the places where we make ramps to enable easier mobility for wheelchair users,” explains Rajith, pointing out that last year, there were only two inclusive walks at the festival. Ultimately, his aim is to increase inclusivity, and make visitors with physical impairments feel comfortable. “We have about 12 walk requests this time, and we have confirmed about half of them,” informs Rajith. “We are working to integrate the differently abled with the mainstream among the festival crowds,” he adds. The History of Madras Museum Walk is on August 13 & 20. From 10 am-11 am at Government Museum. Details: email@example.com
Compare and contrast
The ninth edition of the Children’s Heritage Walk hopes to instill creative vision and foster ideation among participants. “We believe that visuals through a child’s eye will always be different from that of ours,” offers the event’s organiser, R Revathi. “They come up with new ideas and the best out of them even gets displayed at art galleries,” she adds. As for the walk, “We’ve chosen 4 pm as an ideal time as
the shops are usually closed in the morning,” she explains. “We will be looking at contrasts,” she adds, “as we see both the Metro and the markets on one side, (the idols) Shiva and Vishnu, a fish market as well as sandalwood garlands on the same stretch of road. In fact, Chindadripet was once a handloom place, and was predominantly occupied by weavers,” she adds. August 26, 4 pm at Chindadripet. First 25 registrations only. Details: 9840544629.
Through the lens
To commemorate the tenth year of their Chennai Photowalk Group and the Madras Week celebrations, CPW is conducting a photo exhibition titled Eyes of Madras, themed “Essence of Madras”.Photographs taken by the Chennai Photowalkers will be on display. August 18-20. 11 am-8 pm. At C P Arts Gallery. Detais: facebook.com/groups/chennaiphotowalk/
The Vanishing Heritage Project is an Ashvita Foundation initiative to document the standing heritage structures of Royapettah and Mylapore. This Madras Week, they will present the culmination of Phase 1 of the visual documentation done by their research teams as a step towards protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the city’s heritage. On August 31. 6-8pm. At Ashvita Bistro, Bawa road. Details: 9003365436
Gear up for the 100 km bicycle ride from Santhome to Manimangalam, the point of origin of the River Adyar. The talk will specify various points of the river, followed by an interaction. Adding to this, as a practice begun two years back, the team has been taking a “Swachh Bharat” pledge at the end of the ride. On August 20. 5 am-10 30 am. Details for registration: 9884023123
Roll the dice
If you feel like revisiting your favourite board games, look out for Kreeda’s releases of paramapadham, pallankugzhi, natchathira vilayattu and more. This year, they’re launching a new game called Solar Series with 16 pieces and Memories of Madras, a card game, based on stone carvings and the architecture of Parthasarathy temples. August 19-31. 10 30 am-6 30 pm. At Forum Art Gallery. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org