Chennai Mathematical Institute

CMI Arts Initiative

Events and talks, 2023

The Fragments We Hold: A Songwriter's Notes on Process

Akhila Ramnarayan

April 18, 2023, 18:30–19:30, online (Watch)

Is what makes a poem a poem also what makes a song a song? How does appreciating poetry and curiosity about the workings of poetic imagination help a songwriter hone her craft? And how might a window into song writing inflect a poets approach to the writing process? As someone who has loved both literature and music since she was a child, Akhila Ramnarayan identifies affinities and fruitful dissonances between these two worlds from her own lived and felt experience. The talk will trace the creative trajectory of a single song, an experiment in ekphrasis (turning visual into verbal, image into word) from her forthcoming EP with musical collaborator Doug Carraway.

About the speaker:
Dr Akhila Ramnarayan is a scholar, theatre actor, and indie musician. A professor of literature at Sai University, she currently also serves as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. She completed her PhD in postcolonial studies from the Ohio State University in 2006, soon after which she began working in theatre and music as a performing artist in addition to her academic pursuits. In her work as both researcher and practitioner, she is fascinated by the interplay of genres and forms across cultures and time periods.

Sustaining a Flourishing Writing Practice

Anne Tannam

March 23, 2023, 16:00–17:00, online (Watch)

Believing in yourself as a writer can be hard, and sustaining a regular writing practice can be even harder. As writers, what should we focus on to stay energised and focused on our art and craft? In this session we focus on seven key factors needed to help us stay happily committed to our practice, despite the ebb and flow of a writing life.

  1. Know what's important to you as a writer
  2. Value your own work
  3. Design tailored writing practices
  4. Practice resilience
  5. Keep motivated
  6. Stay accountable to yourself & the work
  7. Know when to ask for help and from whom

About the speaker:
Anne Tannam is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) who helps writers to design and sustain flourishing writing practices. For more on Anne's coaching, visit

Anne has published three poetry collections, the latest ‘Twenty-six Letters of a New Alphabet' was published with Salmon Poetry in July 2021. For more on Anne's poetry, visit

A Workshop on Photography

Rathika Ramasamy

March 11, 2023, 10:00–13:00

The workshop will be an introduction to wildlife/nature photography and will cover among other topics the relationship between human and wildlife, the importance of wildlife/bird life in our neighbourhood, a discussion on habitats, bird identification, field knowledge and birding hotspots in Chennai. Rathika will talk about gear required to watch and photograph, about cameras and lenses and camera settings for nature/wildlife photography. Much of this will be conveyed using her story telling images, and she will share the stories behind those images and the technique used to capture those images.

About the speaker:
Rathika is arguably one of India's foremost wildlife photographers. She is passionate about birds and specializes in bird photography. In documenting birds through her photographs, she has developed a style of technical excellence combined with a captivating story. She has travelled to most of the National parks in India, and national parks in Africa to document indigenous species and wildlife. Her work has been appreciated and featured in several national and international publications as well as exhibitions. She is a member of Nikons Professional Services(NPS). She is a founding member of RR Foundation for Wildlife Conservation(RRFWC). She regularly conducts wildlife photography workshops, holds wildlife conservation and photography talks all over India. She has served on the jury panel of many national and international photography awards and contests, including the National Awards for photography instituted by the Government of India. Year 2017 and 2018. Rathika was cited to be the best known woman photographer across the world on the internet. Rathika has been mentioned in the 10th Standard Science text book of Tamil Nadu Government state syllabus. For her wildlife photography is not only for her a passion, but a powerful medium to connect and conserve nature. Loves to shoot Indian forest, as she believes India has one of the best Fauna & Flora.

Events and talks, 2022

An Apprenticeship to Aliveness

Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma

November 25, 2022, 15:00, online (Watch)

In Association with Center for Creative Writing and Translation, Sai University.

When Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma began studying Tamil more than twenty years ago, he had no idea it would lead to studying the work of the great Tamil poets Avvaiyar and Tiruvalluvar, let alone translating their poetry. But both of these beloved poets have become, through their poems, two of his most important teachers. In this interactive talk and dialogue, Pruiksma explores how he has tried to translate Avvaiyar and Tiruvalluvar in such a way that their work can shine as poetry in English, drawing on the depths of both languages to reveal the interweaving of lyric and philosophical intelligence that these two seminal poets have offered and continue to offer the world.

About the speaker:
Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma is an author, translator, teacher, and performer. His translation of the classical Tamil masterpiece on ethics, power, and love, *The Kural: Tiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural*, was recently published by Beacon Press. Other books include *The Safety of Edges* (poems), *Give, Eat, and Live: Poems of Avvaiyar* (translated from the Tamil) and *Body and Earth* (with the artist C.F. John). He speaks and performs widely, teaches for the Cozy Grammar series of online video courses, and has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, 4Culture, Artist Trust, and the U. S. Fulbright Program.

An Illustrated Talk on Appreciating Indian Sculpture

Dr Chithra Madhavan

November 5, 2022, 10:30 am–1:00 pm

India has a long evolution of sculpture be it in stone, metal, wood, ivory or any other material. The stone carvings found on the walls and pillars of temples are not there merely for a decorative purpose, though they do lend a lot of splendour to the structures they are in. They have been placed or carved in situ, in particular places in temples as per the traditions of the Agama Sastras. They have also been made according to the details in ancient Silpa texts prescribed for sculpting such images. People ingrained in these scriptures will well understand their form and meaning and therefore their appreciation will be automatic.

However, the casual visitor to a temple studded with carvings, or to museums where artefacts have been housed may possibly not know how to understand or appreciate a particular sculpture. The beauty of the carving will be all too palpable, but to go beyond that may be somewhat of a challenge. This is where the need to be trained to appreciate, arises. It is mandatory to know many, or at least some of the more important episodes, mentioned in Indias ancient literature or else the background story to a particular sculpture will be totally lost.

This lecture, accompanied with many visuals, is designed to help the participant appreciate the nuances of the art of ancient and medieval India.

About the speaker:
Chithra Madhavan has a Ph.D. in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Mysore. Chithra has authored nine books - History and Culture of Tamil Nadu (in two volumes), Vishnu Temples of South India (in five volumes) and Sanskrit Education and Literature in Ancient and Medieval Tamil Nadu An Epigraphical Study and Temples of Kanchipuram. She has written the text for a coffee-table book Snapshots Of A Bygone Era- A Century of Images which contains about a 100 photographs of monuments of India. She has also co-edited a book South India Heritage which contains 500 articles on various aspects of South Indias heritage and culture and has edited a book on sculpture for Kalakshetra Foundation which contains twenty articles on iconography by well-known authors on this subject. She is also the editor of three books on the Ranganatha Swami temple, Srirangam, the Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram and the temples in Srivilliputtur.

Events and talks, 2021

During the pandemic, the CMI Arts Initiative conducted a series of online talks and readings by writers. Details of the talks are given below.


Talk details

  • Wednesday, 17 November, 2021, 18:30 IST
    Krupa Ge, Discussion on "What We Know About Her"

    Chennai-based writer Krupa Ge will talk about her debut novel "What We Know About Her", longlisted for the JCB literary prize, 2021.

    What We Know About Her (Synopsis)

    Yamuna is adrift. A long-term relationship has come to an end. Her mother and she are at loggerheads about their ancestral home in Chingleput, which she loves and lives in. Even her PhD on early twentieth-century music in Tamil Nadu seems to be going nowhere — until it leads her to an unexpected puzzle from the past.

    During her research, she comes to be fascinated by her enigmatic grandaunt, Lalitha, who rose to prominence as a Carnatic musician at a time when thirteen-year-old brides were the norm. And then she chances upon a letter written by her own grandmother to her grandfather that opens up another window into Lalitha's life. She wants to know more. Only, the more questions she asks, the closer her family draws its secrets. No one will talk to her about this long-dead ancestor's life or death.

    What lies beneath the stories they are willing to tell? Beyond the letters that Yamuna manages to purloin from her beloved grandfather's papers when she visits him in Banaras? What did this family do to Lalitha? Krupa Ge's debut novel is an absorbing tale of an angsty young woman who must unravel the secrets of her family before she can untangle her own life.

    About the speaker:
    Krupa Ge is a writer from Madras. She is the author of a novel, What We Know About Her (Context, 2021) and a narrative non-fiction book, Rivers Remember (Context, 2019). Her reportage and cultural writings have appeared in The Hindu, Firstpost and The New Indian Express, among other Indian and international publications over the last 13 years.

    She received a Laadli Award for her column on women in cinema, Ms. Representation in The New Indian Express for the year 2017. She was awarded the Jayanthi Residency in 2017, the Toto-Sangam Residency Fellowship in 2016 and was shortlisted for a Toto Prize in Creative Writing. She's currently dabbling in screenwriting.

    What We Know About Her, set in Madras, Chingleput and Benares is Krupa Ge's debut novel. It explores the ideas of inheritance, ambition and violence.

  • Tuesday, 19 October, 2021, 18:30 IST
    Priya Sarukkai, Revisioning Tagore's Gitanjali

    Priya Sarukkai Chabria will speak about her latest work Sing of Life: Revisioning Tagore's Gitanjali. Issues discussed will include the necessity of re-working the classics, ideas about creativity and translation in subcontinental practice and implications of wisdom and bhakti poetics in contemporary times. The significance of eco-poetics amidst climate breakdown and the relevance of Tagore's vision in the Gitanjali will also be investigated.

    About the speaker:
    Priya Sarukkai Chabria is an award-winning poet, translator and writer of nine books of poetry, speculative fiction, literary non-fiction, translation and, as editor, two poetry anthologies. Her books include Andal The Autobiography of a Goddess (translation), Sing of Life Revisioning Tagore's Gitanjali (poetry), Clone (speculative fiction) and Bombay/Mumbai: Immersions (non-fiction). Chabria has studied the Sanskrit rasa theory of aesthetic and Tamil Sangam (2-4BCE) poetics. She is Founding Editor of Poetry at Sangam: Her poems are translated into Indian and European languages.

  • Friday, 3 September, 2021, 16:00-18:00 IST
    Shloka Shankar, Poetry Is Everywhere: An Introduction to Found and Visual Poetry.

    About the workshop:

    Poetry Is Everywhere: An Introduction to Found and Visual Poetry is Shloka's signature workshop created during the pandemic in 2020. It introduces participants to these sometimes overlooked genres of experimental writing.

    What you will learn:

    • What is found poetry?
    • What characterizes a good found poem?
    • Types of found & visual poems
    • How to create poetry out of nothing & everything

    About the resource person:

    Shloka Shankar is a poet, editor, publisher, and self-taught visual artist from Bangalore, India. She enjoys experimenting with Japanese short-forms and myriad found poetry techniques alike. A Best of the Net nominee and award-winning haiku poet, her poems and artwork have appeared in over 200 online and print venues of repute. In addition, she has edited and co-edited six international poetry anthologies since 2016. Shloka is the Founding Editor of the literary & arts journal Sonic Boom and its imprint Yavanika Press. When she isn't poring over manuscripts, you can find her making abstract art, digital collages, or conducting poetry workshops. Website: Instagram: @shloks23

  • Wednesday, 18 August, 2021, 18:30 IST
    Carlos Eduardo de Magalhães, The Art of the Novel

    Carlos Eduardo de Magalhães will speak about what goes into the writing of a novel drawing on his own work, Petrolina, a novel in which changes in the world, and in relationships, come through music.

    About the speaker:

    Based in São Paulo, Carlos Eduardo de Magalhães has been a guest writer at The Ledig House, USA, at Sangam House, India and at the Chennai Mathematics Institute, India. Author of nine novels and two short story books, he has stories published in USA, India, Uruguay and Bulgaria. Since 2008 he has worked as editor.

  • Monday, 12 July, 2021, 18:30 IST
    Arshia Sattar, Translation as an Act of Reading: Valmiki's Ramayana

    What draws writers, scholars and readers to the Ramayana? What philosophical questions does this rich text throw up? How does reading and translating the Ramayana shape one's life and belief systems? Arshia Sattar speaks to K Srilata about her life's work — translating Valmiki's Ramayana and of working within the broad story traditions of the Indian sub-continent.

    About the speaker:
    Arshia Sattar works with myth, epic and the story traditions of the sub-continent, most especially with the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki. Her abridged translation of that text has remained continuously in print since 1996. Her most recent publications include Maryada: Searching for Dharma in the Ramayana (Harper Collins) and The Mahabharata for Children (Juggernaut). She also writes on books and literature for various magazines and publications, in India and abroad.

  • Monday, 7 June, 2021, 18:30 IST
    Ranjit Hoskote, Hunchprose: Of Language and Languages
    (Watch Part 1, Part 2, )

    The recording was started late, so the video starts a bit abruptly and misses the speaker introduction. Also, due to power outages, the recording was interrupted during the Q&A session at the end. Hence the recording is in two parts and some portions of the Q&A with Ranjit are missing. Sorry for these technical glitches.

    Ranjit Hoskote will speak about and read from his latest collection of poems Hunchprose. Published by Penguin/ Hamish Hamilton, Hunchprose is Ranjit Hoskote's seventh collection of poetry in 30 years. Douglas Messerli, poet and founder of the Sun and Moon Press, says that this book is "a work of fire and magic… Hunchprose presents a world of absolute fear and wonderment at the very same moment." Poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker writes that, in Hunchprose, "Hoskote takes myths, troubled histories, the sounds of nature, the call of the market, and gathers them all up into one richly resonating space." And Forrest Gander, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, has this to say about it: "Ranjit Hoskote's deeply affecting new book of poems, Hunchprose, chronicles the passions of displaced men and women (and animals) digging through history for their own traces… history remembers what is sung by poets like Hoskote."

    About the speaker:
    Ranjit Hoskote's seven collections of poetry include Vanishing Acts: New & Selected Poems (Penguin, 2006), Central Time (Penguin/ Viking, 2014), Jonahwhale (Penguin/ Hamish Hamilton, 2018; published by Arc in the UK as The Atlas of Lost Beliefs, 2020, a Poetry Society Summer Recommendation) and Hunchprose (Penguin/ Hamish Hamilton, 2021). His translation of a celebrated 14th-century Kashmiri woman saint's poetry has appeared as I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded (Penguin Classics, 2011). He is the editor of Dom Moraes: Selected Poems (Penguin Modern Classics, 2012). Hoskote has received the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award, the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award, and the SH Raza Literature Award. He has been a Fellow of the International Writing Program (IWP), University of Iowa; writer-in-residence at Villa Waldberta, Munich, and the Polish Institute, Berlin; and researcher-in-residence at BAK/ basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. His poems have been translated into German, Hindi, Bangla, Irish, Marathi, Swedish, Spanish, and Arabic.

  • Monday, 12 April, 2021, 21:00 IST
    Ruth Padel, Beethoven: How to Think About the Making of an Artist

    Ruth Padel will read from her new collection Beethoven Variations — Poems on a Life. The poems describe Beethovan's early psychological and emotional shaping, the onset and effects of deafness, his ambivalent relations with his patrons, his failures in love, both with women as well as with Karl, the nephew he adopted as his son.

    About the speaker:
    Ruth Padel is an award-winning British poet with close ties to Greece, classical music and wildlife conservation, author of twelve acclaimed poetry collections and a wildlife novel set in India. Her non-fiction includes a book on tiger conservation and books on ancient Greek drama. She is Professor of Poetry at King's College London and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Awards include First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and her poems have appeared in New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, New Yorker, Times Literary Supplement and Guardian. She grew up playing classical music on viola and piano; the first money she ever earned was 5 pounds for playing viola in Westminster Abbey. She lives in London and is currently writing a book on elephants. Her website is

  • Thursday, 18 March, 2021, 20:00 IST
    Anne Tannam and Fióna Bolger, Summing Up

    Anne Tannam and Fióna Bolger are both poets based in Ireland but with connections to India and Chennai. In their reading they will explore the themes of loss and gain, numbers and accounting, stasis and movement, through their words.

    About the speakers:
    Anne Tannam has published two poetry collections; Take This Life (WordOnTheStreet 2011) and Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor (Salmon Poetry 2017), with a third, Twenty-six Letters of a New Alphabet forthcoming with Salmon later this year. For more information on Anne's poetry, visit

    Fióna has had her poetry published in India, Ireland and the US. Her first collection, a compound of words came out with Yoda Press, Delhi in 2019. Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love Between the Elements was published by Poetry Bus Press in 2013. She works as a creative writing facilitator with workshops in Dublin, Delhi and Chennai, on Zoom! Her website is

  • Thursday, 18 February, 2021, 21:00 IST
    D W Gibson, The Changing Nature of Work, Globalization & Borders in the 21st Century

    At the end of the 20th Century, the spread of democracy and capitalism promised to bring increasing freedom and progress to the globalizing world. How did that turn out? After more than a decade of conducting interviews, DW Gibson will discuss what he has learned about the tensions between globalization and borders, between capitalism and the workers who keep it churning. He will also share brief excerpts from two of his books.

    About the speaker:
    DW Gibson is the author of the award-winning book The Edge Becomes the Center and Not Working. He shared a National Magazine Award in the U.S. for his work on "This Is the Story of One Block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn," for New York Magazine. His work has also appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation and The Caravan.

Past programmes

'Harnessing Creativity' Workshop

Anne Tannam

October 15 and 22, 2016, 10:00 am–5:00 pm

A safe and welcoming space for participants to learn how to harness their creativity and explore how to best manage and enhance their creative writing practices. The workshop will combine a variety of activities, from creative writing exercises, to the art of critique, to identifying goals and designing personalized creative practice maps.

Over the two workshops participants will have the opportunity to

  1. Gain a greater appreciation of their creative writing abilities.
  2. Create a small body of work, singularly and as a group.
  3. Learn about writing, editing and critiquing their own work and the work of others.
  4. Explore best techniques and practices for sustained creativity.
  5. Identify their creative goals and own 'best' creative practice.
  6. Read or perform their work for the group.

Anne Tannam

Anne Tannam is an Irish poet living in Dublin. Her first book of poetry, Take This Life was published in 2011 and her second collection Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry in Spring 2017. Anne has performed her work at spoken word festivals across Ireland. She co-founded the Dublin Writers' Forum; a weekly, per-led support group for Dublin based writers, and is a qualified creative coach.

Anne is involved in the collaborative poetry project All the Worlds Between co-facilitated by K Srilata, which involves poets based mainly in India and Ireland and some in between, playing with issues of identity. An anthology of the work will be published by Yoda Press in 2018.

Poetry Writing Workshop

Sue Butler

October 3 and 10, 2015

Sue Butler will offer a "close-up and personal experience of poetry", She plans to meet participants in small groups and work with them on close readings and analysis of their own poems. During the first session, she will suggest exercises that participants can try before meeting the next weekend.

Sue Butler

Sue Butler is Poetry Editor for Writers' Forum Magazine and Writer in Residence at the internationally renowned Beth Chatto Gardens. Sue has published a number of poetry collections and has run creative writing workshops for the University of Cambridge, Opera North, UK councils and various literary festivals. She works as a commercial copywriter and has written for TV programmes, educational multimedia and the Malaysian Civil Service as well as pharmaceutical and weight-loss companies. Sue's hobbies include gardening and yoga. She currently lives on the East Coast of England, surrounded by salt-marsh.

Mesoamerica Resiste

Tyler Norman

February 17, 2015

Mesoamerica Resiste is a graphic produced by the Beehive Design Collective that was 9 years in the making! This double-sided, folding poster illustrates stories of resistance, resilience, and solidarity from Mexico to Colombia. A map drawn in old colonial style depicts the modern invasion of megaprojects planned for the region and opens to reveal the view from below, where communities are organizing locally and across borders to defend land and traditions, protect cultural and ecological diversity, and build alternative economies.

See the poster in a full-screen flyover, with a narrative tour.

Tyler Norman

Tyler Norman is a member of the Beehive Design Collective. The Beehive Design Collective is a wildly motivated, all-volunteer, activist arts collective dedicated to “cross-pollinating the grassroots” by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images for use as educational and organizing tools. The Collective works as word-to-image translators of complex global stories, shared with them through conversations with affected communities.

Islamic Heritage
of Tamil Nadu

S. Anwar

October 11, 2014


The Islamic heritage of Tamil Nadu can be broadly classified into two distinct categories: The Tamil and the Urdu. The first was born out of the more than 2000 year old trade contacts Tamizhagam had with West Asia, while the latter came through the conquest, almost 1000 years after Islam first appeared in the Tamil country.

Tamizhagam was right at the heart of the more than 2000 year old spice trade that connected Asia, Africa and Europe. The trade not only brought goods, but also resulted in exchange of ideas. It was through this trade that Islam came to Tamizhagam in the 7th Century, even as it was blossoming across the sandy deserts of Arabia, and led to the evolution of the Tamil and the Malayali Mapilla Muslim communities. With the patronage of the local rulers like the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas, mosques were built in the architectural traditions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The morning session will also look at the literary contributions, Sufism and other syncretic traditions. This will be accompanied by a screening of the film Yaadhum (Everything).

The afternoon session will look at the other Islamic heritage that came about with the advent of the short lived Madurai Sultanate in the 14th Century, the Deccani Sultans of the 17th Century, the 'Nawabs of Arcot', Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 18th Century. This will be followed by a field trip to Kovalam to see a Tamil Muslim mosque and also experience the Dargha.

S. Anwar

S. Anwar started his career as a freelance Journalist, working with Aside, a Chennai based fortnightly. As an independent researcher Anwar has been focusing on South Indian history, in particular the much misunderstood Muslim history. He is also a contributor to the "Madras Gazetteer Project", which documents the history of Madras that is Chennai from 1600 to 2000 CE.

In an effort to highlight our rich history and diversity, Anwar conducts heritage walks and tours on topics as varied as "In the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier", "Buddha Kanchi and Jaina Kanchi(puram)" and "Walajah Trail — Tracing the history of the Nawabs of Arcot".

As a documentary film maker Anwar focuses on historical subjects. He was commissioned by the Archaeological Survey of India to make a series of short films on the Big Temple at Thanjavur, made in commemoration of the 1000th year celebrations of the famous World Heritage Monument. His latest documentary film Yaadhum explores his Tamil Muslim identity and history. Yaadhum was featured in the prestigious "Hindu Lit for Life Festival, 2014" held at Chennai.

South Indian Temple Architecture

Chithra Madhavan

November 9 and 16, 2013

South Indian Temple Architecture Poster
Click on the poster for an enlarged version to view on screen

or click here for a high-resolution printable version.

The sprawling temple-complexes of South India have been admired the world over for their magnificent architecture and sculptural wealth. However, few know that these huge temples are the result of hundreds of years of architectural development. The earliest temples were structures built of brick or wood, perhaps supported by metal. This was followed by the 'cave-temple' tradition–shrines painstakingly carved by scooping out hard rock. Alongside came the monolithic shrines hewn out of single boulders or a hillside. Subsequently, the structural stone temples came into place. Initially fairly small shrines, they gradually became larger and more ornate with carvings on the walls and pillars. The tall gopurams, which are the most eye-catching feature of South Indian temples, especially in Tamil Nadu, were once very short and insignificant structures. Over time, these became taller and bigger, resulting in the finest ones we now see in temples in Srirangam, Madurai, Srivilliputtur. Mandapas (pillared pavilions), which were once small structures, evolved into huge spaces, consisting sometimes of a 100 monolithic and sometimes a 1000 monolithic pillars.

These lectures will deal with the evolution of temple architecture in South India and will elaborate on the sculptural beauty they are embellished with–in stone, metal, stucco and wood.

Chithra Madhavan

Chithra Madhavan has an M.A. and M.Phil. from the Department of Indian History, University of Madras and a Ph.D. from the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore. She is the recipient of two post-doctoral fellowships from the Department of Culture, Government of India and from the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. She is the author of six books–History and Culture of Tamil Nadu (two volumes), Vishnu Temples of South India (three volumes) and Sanskrit Education and Literature in Ancient and Medieval Tamil Nadu. She has written the text for a coffee-table book Snapshots Of A Bygone Era–A Century of Images. Chithra has co-edited a book South India Heritage–An Introduction containing approximately 500 articles on various aspects of the heritage and culture of South India. She has also compiled a book Kalakshetra Reflections–Sculpture. Chithra is a guest lecturer at Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, and at the Arts Management programme of DakshinaChitra, Chennai.

Film Appreciation

Parvathi Nayar

August 31, September 8 and 14, 2013

Film Appreciation Poster
Click on the poster for an enlarged version to view on screen

or click here for a high-resolution printable version.

This is a course for those who enjoy movies and would like to deepen their appreciation of this medium. The objective is to discuss various aspects of film making, with specific reference to Hollywood cinema, so as to get a better understanding of some of the different genres of filmmaking.

Each day will have two sessions. In the morning session, a film in a particular genre will be screened. The afternoon session will consist of a discussion on the film, led by Parvathi Nayar. During this discussion, aspects of filmmaking such as the nature and history of the specific genre, the director, screenplay, editing, sound etc. will be highlighted.

This will be followed by a few short clips from other films in the same or closely related genres. The participants will then write a short review of the film, eiher individually or in groups, that will be read out and discussed.

The genres to be covered are Science Fiction, Literary Print to Screen and Horror.

Parvathi Nayar

Parvathi Nayar is a Chennai-based artist, journalist and writer. Parvathi's writing includes commentaries and reviews on film, which have appeared in publications in India and abroad, including newspapers such as The Hindu and The Business Times Singapore. In the course of her career she has interviewed filmmakers such as Peter Weir and Baz Luhrmann. She has also presented a TV show on alternate cinema in Singapore.

Aspects of cinema also influence her art, which is a hybrid of draughtsmanship and painting, video and sculpture. She has worked with imagery from films in such series as Forensic Cinema, and also uses moving images to create video art works. She encourages viewers to see in new, and challenging, ways the world they thought they knew. Parvathi did her Masters in Fine Art from Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London, on a Chevening scholarship from the British government.

An Interaction with Bharatanatyam

Priyadarsini Govind

March 2, 9, and 16, 2013

Dance Poster
Click on the poster for an enlarged version to view on screen

or click here for a high-resolution printable version.

An interaction with Bharatanatyam through an exploration of its integral aspects — rhythm, emotions, and expressions. The three-Saturday lecture-series will allow those unfamiliar with this dance form, a peek into how a dancer translates a thought/idea/story/influence around him/her on to stage using these elements and in turn, establishes a communication with her audience, at a very deep, intense and personal level. Through this process of de-mystification, Bharatanatyam will also become very interesting and more importantly, accessible, to one and all.

Priyadarsini Govind

Priyadarsini Govind is one of the foremost Bharatanatyam dancers among the current generation. Trained by two stalwarts, Kalaimamani S.K. Rajarathnam Pillai and Padma Bhushan Smt. Kalanidhi Naryanan, Priyadarsini has imbibed this art form from the best. With her natural aptitude for abhinaya coupled with her passion and dedication to her art, Priyadarsini has become a flag bearer for Smt. Kalanidhi's padam repertoire. Priyadarsini's nritta or pure dance is intense and vigorous. A dancer known for her adherence to tradition, Priyadarsini manages to seamlessly blend new choreography with the traditional, thereby gently redefining the boundaries of Bharatanatyam repertoire.

Priyadarsini gave her maiden performance ('arangetram') in 1974. In her career, spanning two decades, Priyadarsini has performed in prestigious venues all over India and the globe. She has performed in several countries including France, Spain, USA, Japan, Israel, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Norway.

Reading Ramayana in the 21st Century

Arshia Sattar

February 9, 10, 16 and 17, 2013

Ramayana Poster
Click on the poster for an enlarged version to view on screen

or click here for a high-resolution printable version.

Valmiki's Ramayana is, arguably, the oldest, extant version we have the story of Rama: a righteous prince, unfairly exiled into the forest for 14 years, his lovely wife, Sita, abducted by a powerful and charismatic rakshsasa, his alliance with the magical monkeys, his defeat of Ravana and eventually, his suspicions about Sita and her chastity.

Simultaneously an exquisite poem, an epic and a cultural metaphor for India, the story of Rama pervades our imaginations and our artistic expressions. But Valmiki's text remains shrouded, veiled by its classical language, superseded by its local language variants, out of reach for political and social reasons. This course offers an opportunity to consider this magnificent text, the only one where Rama's divinity is ambiguous, if not doubtful. With the possibility of Rama as a flawed human being, rather than being a closed canon, the text opens itself to readings and interpretations for the 21st century individual. Does the text teach us something about ourselves? Is the idea of Rama as the maryada puroshottama relevant at all to us? Can we read the text as an aching story of longing, of love unfulfilled, of destiny destroying the soul of a person?

A close reading of Valmiki's Ramayana in translation will allow us to address these and other existential questions about ourselves as well as about a literary character, political hero and religious paradigm.

Arshia Sattar

Arshia Sattar has a PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, where her teachers were AK Ramanujan and Wendy Doniger. Arshia has worked with Valmiki's text for over 25 years and now teaches classical Indian literatures and narratives in various academic institutions across the country.

A Walk through Karnatik Music

T.M. Krishna

October 20, 27 and November 3, 2012

Karnatik Music Poster
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This course will introduce participants to aspects central to Karnatik music:

Raga, different types of compositional forms and essential elements of improvisational music. Practiced predominantly in the Southern regions of India, Karnatik music as presented today has a history of about 500 hundred years. The essential elements of the music are Raga (abstract melodic identity), Tala (A structured cyclical rhythmic form) and Sahitya (Lyrics). In the interaction of the three exists the aesthetics of Karnatik music. Karnatik music strikes a fine balance between compositional music (Kalpita Sangita) and improvisation music (Manodharma Sangita). These do not exist independently; in fact each of their existence is dependent on the other.

Karnatik music has over ten different compositional forms and five major improvisational methods used in its presentation. The lyrics used in Karnatik music compositions are written mainly in the languages Samskrtam, Telugu, Tamizh or Kannada. One has to be both a lyricist and a musician to be composer. The improvisational aspects of Karnatik music make the music robust and ever evolving. Every musician adds a new dimension to the Ragas and Talas thereby keeping the music alive. A quality musician must know numerous compositions and at the same time be a creative musician who can expand the horizons of the art form. This form is primarily a vocal music tradition where even instrumentalists try to sound as close to the human voice in their musical expression as possible.

T.M. Krishna

Vidvan T.M. Krishna is at the forefront of classical vocalists in India today and is known in the musical world as a classicist. Having trained under Bhagavatulu Seetarama Sarma, Chengalpet Ranganathan and Semmengudi Srinivasiyer, his tremendous stage presence, his awe inspiring voice, his great scholarship and his ability to transcend cultural borders make him a great representative of Karnatik classical music.

A multi-faceted personality, he contributes to Karnatik music in numerous ways other than performing. He has started and is involved in many organisations whose work spans the whole spectrum of Karnatik music, including research, archiving and documentation, taking Karnatik music to various parts of society and to smaller towns and villages, conducting festivals focused at the youth, and supporting artists from rural South India.

He has lectured in IIM Bangalore, IIT Madras, CII, Harvard University and other prestigious institutions. He has coauthored "Voices within", a book dedicated to some of the greats of Karnatik music, and contributes regularly to various journals and newspapers.

Art Appreciation

Sadanand Menon

September 8, 15 and 22, 2012

Art Appreciation Poster
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In the Indian context, the pursuit of aesthetics was always integral to daily lived life, to our civilizational enterprise over a couple of millennia. Sensuality was something that was experienced daily. Contemporary modernity brought rupture to this universe of holistic concerns. The colonial interregnum brought its own distortions to traditional systems of thought and expression.

Keeping this background in mind, this course on Art Appreciation will focus on the past 150 years of engagement with diverse arts in India. It will concern itself with the range of Visual and Performing arts as well as with the ideas that have shaped India and the world during this period.

Along with shaping the frame for art appreciation, the course will engage with aspects of the reception of arts. It will deal with a range of themes such as audience formation, sabha culture, connoisseurship, scholarship, media interventions etc. The attempt will be to look closely at some of the formative moments of constructions of identity, self-immersion, institution building, empirical transformations and critical engagements.

Sadanand Menon

Sadanand Menon is a nationally reputed "arts editor", popular teacher of "cultural journalism", widely published columnist and photographer, arts curator and prolific speaker at seminars on politics, ecology and the arts.

A former Arts Editor with India's leading financial daily The Economic Times, he is currently Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, as well as at IIT Madras, Chennai. He is on the Executive Board, Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi; on the Apex Advisory Panel, National Museum, Delhi; and is Managing Trustee of the arts foundation, SPACES, Chennai.

The exhibitions he has curated include a major fifty-years retrospective of Dashrath Patel for the National Gallery of Modern Art, in New Delhi and Mumbai. His photographs have been included in anthologies of the best photographic work from India and he was Editorial Advisor, 'Better Photography', Mumbai.

A long-time collaborator with the late dancer/choreographer Chandralekha, he is deeply involved with issues connected with the creation of a contemporary Indian dance and has travelled extensively in India and abroad as the "lights designer" of Chandralekha's performances.