I attended Margazhiyil Makkalisai, day before yesterday (26.12.21), The fact that I’m penning down a blog so soon, after the experience itself says how much it has impacted me and I definitely don’t want to present a diluted version of the experience because as days roll by I might miss writing about the true essence of the event. I am writing this more for myself, to read and reminisce later. But I am also writing about this so soon, so you can attend the rest of the event ! The event goes on until 31st Dec 21 in various locations of Chennai. The ticket cost is just 200 INR Click here to read the schedule and book tickets for further events directly NOW !
I attended the 3rd day of the event, each and every day has a different theme, and Day 3 was Oppari. Oppari – is one of the funeral procedures, its been performed over hundreds and hundreds of years across Tamilnadu, where the performers, usually who belong to the same locality, sing in praise of the person who had passed away. They lament and sing to the music of “Parai” an ancient tamil skin instrument, (Thol isai karuvi) which is said to be predecessor of Mirudhangam and many others. The intensity of the words sung, along with the vibrations produced from Parai is said to transport us mentally to another level, allowing us to grieve and express our feelings for the person who is no more.
I watched a recent Tamil movie – Sethum Aayiram Pon on Netflix, which beautifully showcased about this Oppari culture. In the event, where the OG Oppari artists performed, there was absolute spell of great vibes all around !
What Awestruck me is that unlike other artforms which can be practised and rehearsed anytime, Oppari is sung only during deaths, so transfer of knowledge (across generations and others) also happens only during the event, It has been considered to be a disgrace or said to bring bad luck when sung otherwise. Just wondering how much of “Kelvi gnanam” (Auditory memory and wisdom) it would take to have kept this wonderful artform alive for all these years. Oppari is said to be usually sung only by the Oppressed communities, and in those years as education was considered to be only for the “Privileged”. “We would have lost many creations as it weren’t documented, and what we heard (audiences) that day were one of the finest collection of Oppari in its purest form” says JK from JK parai isai kuzhu. This man JK had so much to offer and everything he said with so much pride in his eyes added more value to the show. He told us the history behind different types of Parai, The names of different Parai instruments and so much more – it felt like he must just conduct lectures and seminars about Parai isai, its significance in Tamil tradition and the stories of artists behind it, to transfer the immense knowledge he has.
He said Parai would be performed in over 50+ events in those days, and now neither we have have such events nor parai is being used. When talking about the importance of using Parai in deaths, JK said “The sound, and vibrations from the instrument doesn’t allow house flies to enter the Ezhavu veedu and there by acting as a natural preserving method”.
Location and Stage
Oppari event was held in IIT – M Research wing Auditorium. I loved the minimal yet meaningful stage decor. One side of the stage had half a picture of Mirudhangam and other side had Parai, which I think tried to signify Parai = Mirudhangam. We all know how popular the cultural event “Saarang” at IIT – M is, probably one of the country’s best ! Host said that none of the events at Saarang supported our cultural art forms. May this “Margazhiyil Makkalisai – Oppari at IIT” be a beautiful start to this revolutionary change !
The Artists – The Stars
The show began with “Parai Isai gosham” where an entire team of artists performed, it had set the mood right for the evening and then the host says – beginning with our signature parai isai to denote “Engal isaiyum mangala isaye” . Followed by the performances of a group of thathas from Thiruvannamalai – who sang Oppari and then told us a story of Harichandran. The show took a gracious turn with Munaivar Bhuvaneswari ammal who has a doctorate degree where she studied the similarities between Thaalattu (Lullaby) and Oppari.
As I went on thinking, that no new gen people have come forward to learning this artform, Thamizhini a young performer’s Thalattu for kids, came as a ray of hope. Her voice so unique and she had a very profound “Utcharippu” which added beauty to her performance.
Then came the real star of the show – Muththammal, she not only set the stage on fire, she set the seats on fire, Audiences were filled in the aisle, dancing, waving and rejoicing ! She staying true to her name threw gracious flying kisses ! She had us all hooked to her entire performance !
“ஒப்பாரி பாக்கியம் அம்மாள் யேலாலம்மடி யேலோ
அவர் ஒப்பில்லாத நட்சத்திரம் யேலாலம்மடி யேலோ” our hearts melted a little, for the song, for the artist and story behind how this song reached him !!
Date and Significance
I loved how the host Thamizh Praba added really relevant information to the event. He himself was such a resourceful person, full of energy. The event date was 26th Dec which happened to be the birth anniversary of Mao Zedong – A revolutionary communist from China. Tamizh prabha quoted one of his quotes “Art is for the people” i.e., Kalai makkalukaanadhu and brimmed in pride saying, None of the events celebrating his birthday across the world would have done more justice to this quote than “Margazhiyil Makkalisai” and as an audience who witnessed the sheer brilliance I just cant agree more.
He then quoted it was also birth anniversary of Annai Meenambal Shivaraj – who translated the speeches of BR Ambedkar in Tamil during his visits to Tamilnadu, who had also immensely worked for the rights and progression of Women.
The Chief guests
Sean Roldan, Pa Ranjith, Thozhar Selva were there. Selva said he was really privileged to be part of this revolutionary and historic event. Of all these years its so astonishing and shocking that only now these Art forms gets a stage to perform ! So hard to believe yet undeniably true ! Sean Roldan said Margazhi has never looked this colourful for him, all these years that he has been in Chennai. And ofcourse Last but not the least Pa Ranjith said “Lets write our own histories, our art forms, our stars ! Lets not wait for somebody else to write about our locals, This might inspire for so many more such artists to get on stage and keep the Artform alive !”
This, really moved me to write this piece ! Hope I made some justice to your time !
Phrases like “தமிழ் வாழ்க தமிழ் வளர்க” let them not only live in the form of Hashtags ! Lets start supporting local artists, put money in their pockets, give them more power, praise them, and most importantly introduce them to our kids ! I sincerely wish that this revolutionary event goes global and gets appreciated by millions and millions of people and Let Margazhiyil Makkalisai become “Varudamellam Makkalisai” . I wrote “#MargazhiyilMakkalisai – A treat to all senses” as the title of this blog because honestly, we didn’t even feel hungry the whole time! No questions asked it was an amazing treat to eyes and ears, It was soul stirring and hard hitting at the same time ! More power to Ranjith.Pa, Neelam Culturals, Yaazhi Films for organising such events which leaves a profound impact on the audiences ! Sincerely hoping to see more of such events in future ! Jai Bhim !
Lets connect on Instagram at @yummyfantasies . In case of any Karuthu or Ezhuthu pizhai mannikkavum ! Wrote a blog after, literally 2 years ! Now this itself feels like a kutty achievement for me. Do show your support by sharing this blog to friends and family by clicking on the buttons below ! Do Initiate conversations over comments, would love to read what this meant to you ! Thanks a ton for sticking till the end ! Loads of love ~ Vaishnavi S