Festival has become an annual event of Chennai. The dates are fixed
- first to seventh of December. This is the eighth year of this festival.
The organizers – Anita Ratnam and Ranvir Shah began this festival,
as they wanted to create a forum where artists from the fields of
dance, drama, music and other art forms could showcase their experimental
works. Chennai is noted for its partiality towards classical art
forms and the organizers of The Other Festival wanted to make a dent in
this attitude of Chennai art connoisseurs and create an alternate
platform for experimental works. Right now there are very few venues
and occasions in the whole of India for the exhi bition of modern
or experimental performance works and hence the importance of The
Other Festival in Chennai. The timing also was fixed in such a way
so that this festival would precede the usual classical music and
dance season in Chennai, which used to begin on 15 December. Artists
from India as well as abroad have been taking part in this festival.
Many well known artists have premiered their works in The Other Festival.
Famous among them are Ramli Ibrahim, Veenapani Chawla, Maya Rao,
Astad Deboo, Arjun Raina, Jaimini Pathak, Nissar & Amal Allana,
who have been guests of The Other Festival more than once.
year's festival highlighted certain trends and brought to the fore
how fragile forums for experimental work have become. First of all,
the fact that the classical music and dance season has been preponed
to begin on the same day as The Other Festival is a significant pointer.
This could hurt the audience participation for the Other Festival.
But, Anita chooses to look on this as a favourable event. In her
opinion, it is an endorsement or reiteration from the organizers
of the classical season that The Other Festival has over the years
become a fair contender and competitor for them. However, in reality,
as the dates clash, the tendency of people may be to go to the known
and more established festival events and thus The Other Festival
may loose out on audience participation. Secondly, the quality of
the Other Festival Programmes has also dwindled giving rise to the
criticism that the organizers have become complacent and indifferent.
The need for The Other Festival to re-evaluate their aims and objective
s and get a better exposure to world-class experimental programmes
has been discussed. An audience survey reflecting the growth, market
penetration and credibility also may help to assess the popularity
of the festival with the audience.
significant change is in the sponsorship accorded to The Other Festival.
The Park Hotel, one of the main sponsors during the last few years
continue to offer their support this year too. But Hong Kong Shanghai
Bank (HSBC), Sify and a few others have dropped out giving the reason
that they do not get enough publicity from the event. Others have
stepped in like Mehta Jewellers, Amara Home Furnishings etc, but
they are not the heavyweights that the earlier ones are. The organizers
of &nb sp;The Other Festival have to sit up and seriously assess as
to why this has happened. Is this a reference to the dwindling in
audience participation for various events? Without the required finance,
The Other Festival or any other such event cannot survive or invite
quality performers to participate.
On the plus
side, one of the good things that has happened to the festival is
that they have once again come back to Museum Theatre from where
they used to originally conduct the festival. The Museum Theatre
is ideal for this or any such festival because of its central location,
the car parking facilities, the stage and acoustics, the intimate
atmosphere it brings in on account of the semicircular seating etc.
The hospitality to the arti sts is still very good and the ticket
rates are reasonable and affordable. The support given by cultural
organisations such as The Alliance Francaise, the Max Mueller Bhavan
and the British Council to The Other Festival continues. In fact,
this year the foreign performers have been brought in mainly through
the support of these and similar organizations. It is indeed good
to have the support of these cultural organisations, but the question
remains, why haven't some of the Indian cultural organisations come
forward offering their help to this significant event? Is it on account
of the lack of enthusiasm of the organisers, or is it because of
the bureaucracies that surround these cultural organisations? The
persistence and loyalty of the organizers to this event is evident
from the fact that both of them were present throughout the programmes
and took the trouble to encourage the artists immensely . The Other
Festival involves student organisations to help them with transport
arrangements for the artists, ushering and ticket management. This
continues though it is a new student organisation that they used
this year. The unusual heavy rains that lashed out during the festival
time marred the programmes to some extent. Audience could not reach
the venue on time. The space in front of the first row of seats for
the audience was often flooded. Some of the shows could not start
on time on account of inevitable delays. One of the programmes had
to be changed at the last minute on account of the illness of the
main performer. But, The Other Festival chugs along and did have
one or two good programmes.
years, the import ance given to dance and theatre has evened out.
This year there were four dance events and an equal number of theatre
events. Music events have dwindled to two. The theatre events were
all from national groups while two of the dance events were from
abroad. One of the musical events was also from an international
artist. One can safely assume that in the area of theatre the shift
from the international to the
groups has taken place. Also, this year, two of the local artists
have been given a chance and prominently featured in The Other Festival.
These are indications of the fact that there is more experimentation
in India in the field of theatre than in the field of dance and even
music. This is indeed heartening for the theatre movement.
quality of some of the programmes of the experimental variety prompts
this critic to ask two questions, how experimental are these experimentations
and do these experimentations reflect the innovation, rigour and
quality consciousness that all experiments should have. One cannot
be too critical of experiments for an experiment by its very nature
is always work-in-progress and therefore has an unfinished quality
about it. If one starts to question the lack of perfection in these
productions, the experimenter may get disappointed and disillusioned
and give up the experiment altogether. The fact remains that even
now, the corporate funding is given more towards the established
and popular works. So, if the experiment does not get the support
of the audience or the discerning critic, the sponsor also may back
out from his sponsorship. Taking into consideration all these facto rs,
I have to state that the quality of some of the theatre productions
were below par.
part of this article will be carried in e-STQ next week.
Sankaranarayanan is a theatre critic and commentator and can be contacted