Quack Review talked to Mrs. Aadhira Pandilakshmi, the director of Naveena Koothuppatarai, an artist’s space in Chennai oriented towards performance arts.
If ever the ‘art for art’s sake’ movement emerged in Chennai, Mrs. Aadhira Pandilakshmi, founder and director of Naveena Koothuppatarai and her daughter Sameera would be the pioneers. The mother-daughter duo is oriented around performance arts and it was due to this love for theatre that Naveena Koothupattarai was established in 2014.
“Naveena stands for modernity and koothu means performance” Sameera talks about the significance of the title. “Modern aspects of theatre are incorporated into traditional theatre and we present it to people in a way that they can appreciate it”, asserts Aadhira, a theatre artist herself (trained by Koothu-P-Pattarai for 7 years) and acted in Panchali (2011), Sabadham (2012) etc. She has also essayed pivotal characters in Tamil films such as Moodar Koodam (2013),Kanithan (2016), Paambhu Sattai (2017) etc.
Naveena Koothupattarai was created to be a safe space for artists from all walks of life to perform and create without the fear of being judged. It was an effort to provide a space to artists, not just for performance but for experimentation and honing their skills. With no time limits on rehearsal hours and low maintenance fee obtained from the groups or artists performing, Aadhira and Sameera both hope to elevate the status of theatre in Chennai. “People here don’t look at theatre as theatre; they look at it as a stepping stone to the film industry and I think we need to change the way theatre is looked at. We must appreciate theatre as the art it is” Sameera expresses her discontentment with the current state of theatre in Chennai. She believes that theatre deserves to be enjoyed and performed for the love of the art itself and its beauty lies in its unstructured and dynamic nature.
Collaborated currently with Vaayusastra, a company amalgamating theatre and aeronautics (in children’s spaces) the space is currently being used to conduct training for Thapattam/ Parayattam which is considered to be the mother of all percussion instruments. It also organized the Mayur Banj Chhau workshop by a troupe hailing from Odisha. “Folk arts find their roots in villages. What we are trying to do here is create awareness about them in urban spaces and present them in a certain way that people from all walks of life can participate in these arts” responds Sameera when asked about the importance of conserving folk culture. While they do not aid folk groups financially at this point, they offer the space and networking to whichever group that approaches them. They are striving for the promotion of folk arts as a way of life and livelihood.
Aadhira and Sameera have several plans for the maximum artistic utilization of the space in the near future. They hope to engage short film screenings, guest lectures by directors/ artists, poetry recitals, storytelling sessions, book readings etc. A bibliophile to the core, Sameera believes that “Everything comes from books.” The two are art enthusiasts as well and hope to “visually enhance the space and spark thought or inspire someone to do something artistically” through the creation of mandalas, rangolis or even an aspiring artist using the space as an art gallery. The appreciation of arts ranks the highest in their registers as “they add more depth to the way we lead lives”. On a parting note they invite artists across the world from all walks of life, skilled in any art form to use the space to create art.
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