Madras, Music Academy, Monty Python 2, Mocha and Midnight

Yesterday, 16th of July, is forever etched in my memory as the day I got so close becoming a zombie.
It all began pretty normally though. Evam were putting on their hugely popular Monthy Python adaptation, their only show, in the Music Academy. And being a fan of Evam’s plays, I went.

Now, a little bit about theatre tradition in Chennai, nee Madras. This is where I am going to get all newspaper-y on you, so bear with me please. It makes it easier to dole out facts in this tone of voice.


The Tamil people have a strong tradition of performing arts. Temples and palaces were centres for dance performances, concerts, recitals and poetry contests. Vaudeville too was very common. Street theatre was a very popular medium of communication in the Tamil country, with both political and religious messages spread through performances on makeshift stages in heavily populated, congested areas.

English language theatre in Chennai can probably be traced to the birth of the Madras Players, who started off reading plays at the British Council.

Cinema changed a lot of it. People now had a huge stage to see their entertainment in, one both visually and experiential richer. And you had superstars and screen goddesses come alive in front of your eyes. The concept of 20 feet cut-outs was born, Rajnikanth flipped his finger, tousled up his hair, twisted his shades into place and people went into orgasmic joy.

As you can imagine, theatre, English Theatre, began dying the death of the ignored. True, there were heroic attempts, with groups like Masquerade, and even Madras Players trying to revive the whole theatre movement.
Meanwhile, koothu-p-pattarai, a local Tamil theatre group was experimenting with many forms and meeting some kind of success there.

It was against this background Evam came in, packaged their shows well, made it appealing to the younger audiences, roped in sponsors, and got the halls packed out.

End of the sermon-y part. Breathe a sigh of relief, breathe in once, breathe out. Cool. Let’s get back to my evening out, yesterday. As I was saying, last evening was the staging of Evam’s take on the British Monty Python sketches. This was staged in the old vanguard of Madras’ stages – the Music Academy/TT Krishnamachari Auditorium.

The play per se was good, some good laughs, some bad ones, some OK ones. The Evam team are pretty good at stage management and packaging their shows, and this play was no exception too… Girls who probably would weigh no more than 20 kilos danced on stage, between scenes, moving props, getting the stage ready for the next sketch. Lighting, music, the packaging was pretty good.
Now, the auditorium, having been built in pre-historic times, was a bit cramped. Seats were narrow, aisles likewise.
In all, 1.5 hours spent well, except for a pretty sore backside.

Well, that takes care of Music Academy and Monty python. On to the next M.
After the play, I met with a friend, Anand, and headed out to Mocha for some coffee and Sandwiches.
Mocha, if you don’t know the place, is this hep coffee-shop that gives you big hookahs and small ones, and if you really insist, coffee. The place is cool, in the sense that if you have the money to burn, you can stretch out on recliners, smoke cigars, cigarettes or hookahs and eat exotic dishes with names like panino, mopino and so on (in essence dry bread stuffed with other dry stuff) till the cows come home. Or Midnight, whichever comes earlier.

A detailed review of Mocha sooner, I promise. I am still to recover from the whole experience of it.

After a Cookie-Crumble, a BMT Panini and an Indian Peaberry (Regular), I set out home, dropping Anand on the way.

There you have it, a typical cool, young, comfortably middle-class guy’s weekend in the fair city of Madras. The result of all the coffee, the bon-homie, the late-night rides across Madras, was that I went home and couldn’t sleep a wink. And had to come to office like a Zombie.

3 Comments so far

  1. Anand (unregistered) on July 17th, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

    Come to think of it, it certainly must have been the coffee… I could not sleep either. Anyway, getting back to the topic, Music Academy is one of the more decent auditoriums in Madras; from an acoustics point-of-view (rather sad, the English language is). There are certainly bigger places, but from what I know, there are no proper large-capacity theatre in Madras that can handle full orchestra music, and drama well. Time to build one eh?

  2. Ravages (unregistered) on July 17th, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

    Anand, I do think there are better audi-s in Madras. Image, Rajaji Hall (behind Kapaleswar koil in Mylapore), Kamarajar hall fare well compared to Music Academy

  3. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on July 17th, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

    Ravages, why no mention of Raja Annamalai Hall, Rani Seethai and Kamaraj Kalai Arangam?

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