Tuesday, 31 January 2017

'Thamizhanda' gets 100% placement in Madras Institute of Technology

I should say that the conclusion of the pro-Jallikattu protests carried out by the youth of the State has not only ended up with the lifting of the ban on the sport but also seems to have opened the space for a wide range of Tamil patriotism. Be it the negligence of multinational brands and boycott of many anti-agriculture products like bottled carbonated beverages, the idea of Tamil patriotism has started to spread as a forest fire which I have been witnessing in a number of instances in the past couple of weeks.

One of the latest instances is the complete changeover in the theme and progress of Madras Institute of Technology's (MIT's) annual inter-collegiate cultural festival, MITAFEST (23 February to 26 February 2017), from a totally western theme to a raw Tamil theme.

The theme of the 45th edition of MITAFEST till last fortnight was 'Halloween'. But not any more. It is now changed to 'Thamizhanda'.

Recently I got a chance to interact with V Manoj Kumar, chairman, Team Athenaeum, the organising team of the event. It was through one of their seniors and an alumnus of MIT, Suresh via my close acquaintance Ayyanar Elumalai who shared his contact with me. The complete conversation with Manoj and Suresh was like a trust booster that Tamil culture is all set to get its new version of existence.

Digital banner with the new theme 'Thamizhanda' being placed inside MIT campus at Chrompet

Manoj says, "Every year, we select a theme for our four-day inter and intra collegiate cultural festival MITAFEST. Usually, it would be themes like Halloween, Retro and anything that is a globalised idea. But, this time, we planned to pioneer and set a benchmark by taking up the idea of 'Thamizhanda' to show the world what Tamil culture is all about."

The shift is not only with the theme but the team has given a top-down changeover.

"The events that are to be held during the fest will be of Tamil flavour. As many as 25 Tamil sporting and gaming events would be reproduced as they were played. This includes uriyadi, vazhukku maram, pallanguzhi, kannamoochi, kabaddi and more. We also have a total of 12 cultural events that include puliyattam, silambattam, mayilattam, oyilattam, karakattam, paraiyattam and other traditional art forms," Manoj added.

Even the informal stage events consist of events like 'Vaarthai Vilayaattu', 'Tamilodu Vilayaduvom' and others. Similarly, the other exhibitory events go down to the core of Tamil culture and struggles. They are organising a farmer workshop at the fest in which experts and experienced farmers who practice traditional and organic farming would address the audience and throw light on the present situation of agriculture and farmers in the State.

The Choreo and DJ nights also will have Tamil flavour in which they are planning to play 18 varieties of 'Nattupura Isai' that are sung and played across the State. On the whole, the entire college campus will look like a village on those four days of the cultural festival.

Since they are going the whole hog into Tamil culture, it didn't seem right to go for MNC sponsorship. My jaw went down in shocking surprise when Manoj said, "Earlier, when the theme was Halloween, we were holding negotiations with a leading multinational cola manufacturing company as the title sponsor for the event. But, now we have returned the Rs 3 lakh sponsor amount and cancelled the agreement,". Food stalls of such companies would also be vacated from the food court; instead, the organisers have planned to put up stalls of tender coconut, ice apple (nungu), jigartanda and traditional Tamil food and beverages.

More than this, the organisers have also disposed all those pamphlets and banners that were printed with the logos of MNC sponsors and are printing new ones after the cancellation of the bond.

Asked how will they be able manage the shortage of funds, as they have refused a big sponsor, the organisers said, "On coming to know our take on Tamil culture, our seniors and alumni have come forward to help us. We are also negotiating with some leading Tamil brands in the State to be our title sponsors," Manoj said.

With a total estimate of Rs 12 lakh, the organisers have raised about Rs 8.5 lakh and are running short of Rs 3.5 lakh for now. They hope that someone will support them on seeing their new theme.

-Santhosh Mathevan
Chennai, January 31, 2017.

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