If you are anywhere near the Elliots beach, go visit the Chennai Sangamam. Actually, if you are not anywhere near Elliots beach, move your posteriors to somewhere near Elliots beach, and then visit the Chennai Sangamam. It’s only on for 2 more days.
I had a blast today, sampling Virudhunagar kotthu parotta and drinking Jil Jil Jigal Dhanda. But the real fun was when the music started. 2 hours of exhilarating street art, from Silambattam, Therukkoothu, and Singara Melam (Chendai Kottu) and even some Jazz Carnatic electronica from Susheela Raman.
The Therukkoothu from Thiruvannamalai was hilarious and took some earthy digs at contemporary society. It featured Lord Yama, a comical man who is about to be taken by aforementioned for a ride on a buffalo, and strangely enough, Veerapaandiya Kattabomman as well.
Let me present a sample dialogue from that street play.
Comical man: Yama, today somebody knocked on the door and I opened it, only to find a buffalo. A very large buffalo
Yama: Oho. A large buffalo, you say?
Comical man: Yes, and you were sitting on top of it.
Yama: Aha. So I was sitting on top of it
Comical man: Yes, and you told me that you had come to take me.
Yama: Oho. Is that so? And what did you say?
Comical man: I ran to my wife to ask her for help
Yama: Aha. And what did your wife say?
Comical man: She asked me not to disturb her and get lost.
Yama: Oho. So your own wife asked you to get lost. Perhaps you don’t treat her well. What did you then do?
Comical man: I ran to the other folks in the village and asked them to help me.
Yama: Aha. And what did they say?
Comical man: They also took your side. Apparently, you had bought them all "a quarter" sarakku.
Yama: Oho. So the villagers dumped you for a "quarter" sarakku. What has civil society come to. What did you do then?
Comical man: I ran to a "pie-nance" company and asked them for a loan for Rs. 2 lakhs.
Yama: Aha. 2 lakhs, you say? And what did they say.
Comical man: They didn’t ask me any question. They handed me the 2 lakhs, which gave me the comfort that not even you, Yama, can take me away when I haven’t paid the loan back to those guys.
And so on.
The second half of the play featured a dialogue between Yama and Kattabomman and an intervention by a thrisoolam wielding Kali.
All in all, good fun, and importantly, a good eye-opener to rural art forms that are dying out thanks to the onslaught of Tamizh soap serials and 5-movies-a-day TV channels.
I did a cursory search for "Chennai Sangamam" in flickr, and found some excellent photos by B Seshadri and Stalin Ramesh