Chennai is steamy, suffocating. Travel to the deep South in October and you experience the reluctant rains. Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala is wet, huddled and yet celebrating. The annual Soorya Festival, privately run but amply supported by private and state organisations, runs for 51 days from 21st September to November 11th - cinema, drama, literature, classical music and dance.

Nataraja Krishnamoorthy popularly known as Soorya Krishnamoorthy is the founder of Soory Stage and Film Society. Soorya has completed 25 years, promoting art and culture. Though the focus is on Kerala’s creative community, many from Chennai are starred here. Vocalist Bombay Jayashri gets a full house (despite the rain) as we arrive. Her elaborate alapana of todi swirls into eternity. Colleges in the city host workshops. Konjam celebration, konjam education!

Soorya has ideas aplenty- so works of artists at the Artist’s Village was showcased from 21 to 30 September at Tagore Theatre. These artists were from West Bengal (Patta Painting), Assam (Sattra Painting), Kerala (Mural Painting). About 40 painters participated.

Our guru, Chitra Visweswaran, presents the dance-drama ‘Panchali’. Her Highness, the maharani of Travancore, is the chief guest. Everything goes off well and the next day’s newspapers give us good reviews.
Soorya festival was grouped into Film festival, Music and Dance Festival, Theatre Festival, Talk Festival, Ramayanam Festival, video festival and Parampara.

Under the dance festival apart from our group, Maya Rao and group from Bangalore, Odissi and Manipuri Jugalbandhi by Aloka Kanungo group and Kalavati Devi group, Modern Dance by Daksha Seth group, Bharatanatyam Duet by Vineeth and Lakshmi Gopal Swamy, Bharthanrithyam byPadma Subrahmanyam and Aahuti, a 10 minutes production directed by Devissaro, were featured. Music concerts featured Yesudas, Nithyasree, violin duet by Lalitha and Nandini, guitar-sitar duet by Kamala Shankar, Rajiv Janardhanan and Hindustani vocal by Upendra Bhatt.

We take the train to Thrissur, six hours through a verdant countryside. In addition, we chug beside the backwaters. The town of Catholics and jewellery shops hosts the Thalam Festival. Supported by Soorya, Thalam, a local trust that is one year old, plays a great host.

Venues include Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy, Regional Theatre and Harisri Vidyanidhi and Punkunnam.
Nalini Chandran, chairman of the Thalam cultural trust, a very enthusiastic person has arranged the show in such a way that the audience gets an opportunity at all shows to listen to artistes as two local personalities quiz us. They also distribute suggestion forms to the audience to get their feed back about the show. The informals after the show are novel - an idea Chennai can borrow!

The hospitality and the pow-wow sessions do wonders for artistes. Our final stop is Palakkad, three hours by car. The Swaralaya Dance and Music Fest was held from Oct.1 to 10 at the Rappadi Open-air auditorium, Fort Maidan. It was conducted in association with Soorya.

The atmosphere is informal and breezy. On stage, though the dancers have to tolerate insects that fly endlessly.
On the day of inauguration, Arunarekha performed Kuchipudi.

The ten day programmes included carnatic vocal concert by Thrissur. V.Ramachandran, Sudha Raghunathan, master Balamuralikrishna and Malladi Brothers, Ganamela by P.Jayachandran, S.Janaki, ghazals and bhajans by Jitish and party.

Mohiniattam by Kalamandalam Kshemavathi, Desi and Margi by Kapila and group and Bharatanatyam by Charulatha Jayaraman were the other performances.

Rasikas attend in large numbers, to some it could be a turnout for a football match. From Kerala’s Gana mela and Kathak to Carnatic kutcheris and dance-dramas, this is truly a cultural feast.

Rasikas stay until the curtain call and the hosts keep to time and expect artistes to be professional too.

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