6th edition of Pondicherry Heritage Festival to start with Tamil bio-play, Bharathi Yaar

The fete that starts this Saturday (and goes on till February 12), as always, promises a confluence of music, theatre, art, and architecture — all in the backdrop of diverse heritage.

Fathima Ashraf Published :  24th January 2020 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  24th January 2020 06:00 AM
Sixth edition of Pondicherry Heritage Festival to start with Tamil bio-play Bharathi Yaar

A still from the play Bharathi Yaar

Started in 2015 to draw attention to conserve Pondicherry’s architectural legacy, the Pondicherry Heritage Festival (PHF), now in its sixth year, has expanded its scope beyond the city’s built heritage. Led by People for Pondicherry’s Heritage, INTACH and PondyCAN, along with the Puducherry Tourism Department and the French Institute, the emphasis of this year’s edition is on the preservation of Pondicherry’s natural resources, with attention to the spiritual, cultural and social aspects of the region.

The fete that starts this Saturday (and goes on till February 12), as always, promises a confluence of music, theatre, art, and architecture — all in the backdrop of diverse heritage. While the children’s events such as dance, poetry and other performing arts commenced earlier in January, the main body of the festival will kick off with a major theatrical event, Bharathi Yaar.

'Isaikavi' Ramanan as Bahrathiyar

“The emphasis for this year’s festival will be on Pondicherry’s natural heritage, specifically its wetlands and waterbodies. And it’s wonderful to start the festival with the message that is Bharathiyar’s life and his creations. We need to imbibe it because it’s relevant even 100 years later. His poetry covers all aspects of life — especially his messages about the environment and emphasis on women’s rights are so strong that even today, we are far behind his thoughts,” shares Sunaina Mandeen, one of the organisers.
Directed by Chennai-based SB Creations’ BS Raman, the two-hour-long musical will portray key events in the life of poet extraordinaire Subramania Bharati, using theatre, recitation, dance (folk and classical) and videography. Conceived in 2018, the play features dialogues by 'Isaikavi' Ramanan, who also plays the titular role and music by Baradwaj Raman.

A still from the play

“We have done extensive research on all possible literature available on Bharathiyar, including the biographies written by his foster daughter, his wife Chellamal and a multitude of others. All the dialogues are authentic and as reported in his biographies,” says Raman, son of veena artiste and filmmaker S Balachander. Having done over 50 shows across India and abroad, Raman feels it’s a significant milestone for the production to be performing in Pondicherry. “It’s like Bharathiyar is returning to Pondy for the first time after his death. You will live with him through this play. For that we have recreated the time period, the history, background and the people who have lived with him,” says Raman, a full-time lawyer who’s been directing Tamil plays for over six years now.

A still from the play

Featuring incidents from his life, where some of his major creative works came about, and the incidents that prompted him to write, Raman promises an experience where people will get to know the poet as he really was. Set in places such as Kashi where he did his education, Kadayam where he got married, Chennai where he worked as a journalist and Pondicherry where he fled to avoid arrest, the play follows Bharathiyar’s life events in its order.

Having introduced innovative presentation methods such as LED screens for backdrops and intuitive lighting (by B Charles of Chennai Art Theatre), Raman believes that the production is responsible for the rejuvenation of interest in Tamil theatre itself. “It’s not a social drama, political satire, or a farce. It’s a very intense play that will keep everyone enthralled. The costumes and the set design and all done accordingly,” says Raman who adds that there are over 32 members in the cast and crew of this production.

On Saturday, 6 pm at Gandhi Thidal, Puducherry & on Sunday, 6 pm, Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, Auroville.

From an earlier edition of the festival

Do not miss
● Jan 27 - Music by Adishakti at Mantra
● Jan 29 - Odissi by Rekha Tandon at French Institut of Pondicherry
● Feb 1 - Wetlands photo exhibition at the French Institute of Pondicherry
● Feb 2 - Cycle Tour of Pondy’s waterbodies
● Feb 5 - Hindustani Classical sarod recital by Giridhar Murthy

Fathima Ashraf