ARTS and CULTURE

Ever wondered what it would be like to touch the rifle used by former chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Prabhakaran? Or get yourself locked up in one of the oldest prison cells in Tamil Nadu? Or, in the words of Steve Borgia, “to interact with history”? Well, it need not be restricted to just imagination: you can experience this and more right here in Chennai - the Tamil Nadu Police Museum in Egmore. Housed in the 165-year-old former office of the Commissioner of Police, the museum was opened to the public for the first time on…

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For anyone harbouring the cliched idea that all Muslim families make Biryani on festive occasions, the Bohras of Chennai challenge this notion with their famous festival staple, the dal chawal palida. â€śIt is unique to the Bohra community, wherein the dal is layered between rice. Although this is primarily a vegetarian dish, people also add meat to it,” explains Tasneem Akbari-Kutubuddin, a Chennai-based journalist and editor. This is one of the many unique things about the culture and practices of the 10000-strong Bohra community who have made Chennai their home.  For the past three years, Tasneem has been documenting the history…

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Uma Mani, in her 50s, is a Chennai-based self-taught artist. She used to paint tulips and roses until 2010, the year in which she learned about coral reefs in Juan De Nova, a French documentary film, screened by Alliance Française Maldives for Earth Day. Fascinated by the world of corals and underwater life, she decided to paint them. “Until then, I was unaware of the fact that the presence of corals in the ocean is extremely important. It made me realise that they are on the brink of extinction,” shares Mani. Some of the most diverse ecosystems, coral reefs are threatened by…

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In 1997, Stephen Webber, a professor of music production and engineering at the Berklee College of Music, proposed teaching a course in turntablism. What DJs were doing with turntables had opened his eyes to a new musical frontier. But when he proposed teaching the course, Berklee denied. He tried two more times but he was denied on both occasions. Webber explained to the college that turntablism and hip hop was a crucial part of culture. “If we plan to be relevant in academia, we have to address it [hip hop] and learn about it ourselves,” he tried saying. In 2003,…

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On the one hand, it is good news. The Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) is looking at creating a museum at the Kilpauk Water Works. The Police Commissioner’s Office in the city is setting up a museum at its old office in Egmore. The Corporation is debating the possibility of a city museum in Victoria Public Hall. Three great institutions of the city almost simultaneously working on museums for themselves! What more could we ask for? The question is how sustainable will these be in the long run given that they will almost certainly be run by…

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In consolidation of what is an established and flourishing trend in the Chennai art arena, more than 2000 memes were released on social media, to coincide with the recent release of the Vijay-starrer Master. Indeed, the release of any star-studded, big-budget film in Tamil Nadu is now inevitably accompanied by the creation and promotion of hundreds of creative memes. But did you know that the creators of these memes slog at it for at least two months before each release? Memes are hugely popular today and Chennai has pretty much established itself as the meme capital of Tamil Nadu. Evolution…

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“Everything is changing with visual entertainment moving to laptop to cellphone,” says Mayank Shekhar, renowned film critic and columnist. “What used to be a collective experience has become an individual feel, that we earlier associated with books. More in-depth viewing is also happening, like the six-part Suitable Boy series which got a lot of viewership.” The move to web series on OTT platforms has been forced on movie makers as traditional movies and movie watching in theatres being virtually extinct for now. Web series are creating a more involved experience with deeper characterisation and more exploration and experimentation. “Theatres will…

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What is lost in the last nine months is the magic that happens in a live performance.  Within the 15th minute of a play, everybody’s heart is beating at the same pace. How can that ever happen with us beaming ourselves out on telephone screens and computer screens and television screens? Not possible.  Theatre is really the only medium that gives it to you, blood, sweat and tears, there in front of you. Cinema blows up everything a hundred times, television compresses it. Theatre is the only space where you see what is real.  This is the challenge to humanity:…

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It was pouring, as happens in December sometimes in Chennai. But the four musicians getting drenched did not pack up. They played on, completing the two hour video, called “Friends in concert”, which was unlike any classical concert Chennai has ever seen. “Friends in Concert” opened the traditional Margazhi (December) Madras Music season in these extraordinary times in the most extraordinary manner. And musician T M Krishna, as he is wont to do, was breaking all rules of the kutcheri format for Carnatic classical music followed in the hallowed sabhas of Chennai. It was the first time this season that…

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"There is the fear of COVID-19 but you hear the music and you forget the pandemic," says music aficionado Shreeya Jayaraman on her live concert experience this Margazhi. Having attended one of the few live events in the city, a T M Krishna concert in Kilpauk, Shreeya adds that nothing can beat an in-person concert as the fans get to enjoy the full kutcheri experience. When it rained unexpectedly mid-concert, the audience had to be moved indoors. While social distancing norms were still followed indoors, Shreeya chose to remain on the periphery and listen to the rest of the show.…

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