It was a truly remarkable eventful December and close to 2012. After a sedate first couple of weeks, I was a bit late to start on the music season but then it turned out to be a very heavily attended one. At least by my standards. Also conveniently bookend-ed by knowledgeable Chennai crowd everywhere.
The first one was a pre-season Sanjay Subrahmanyam warm up concert at NGS. The highpoint of this one was listening to his version of Pagaivanukkarulvai after being addicted to Rethas-Sandeep version for almost all of 2012. Such resonating lyrics. The first season concert I attended was Kadri Gopalnath at NGS again, after probably more than a decade. Nothing memorable but the Chennai Ambi mamas still found moments to go all Taj Mahal level reactions on it. Apparently Bombay Jayashree isn’t all that cool to like anymore (or cool to hate, what have you) so I promptly sent mom and aunt to this one (The real reason was I had work). They loved it and seemed to have loved Embar Kannan’s violin prowess even more. Can’t complain, really. If you can string together Raaja songs like this, what’s not to like?
Next was Sanjay at Vani Mahal that was topped by Petra tai with a seamless transition to Maname Kanamum. Absolutely divine. That was of course followed by dinner at Gnanambika. Unlike the previous years they still had the full menu post 9 PM. Gnanambika is Gnanambika, I tell you. Since 1984. The stuff at Vani Mahal and NGS were both stellar this time. Guitar Prasanna performed at Mylapore Fine Arts the following weekend and he dedicated an original composition in memory of the victims of the Connecticut shooting that had just happened. Very close to his residence in the US. This was also my first spotting of the cut banian guy this season. He was literally everywhere as Krupa will attest. Now LTP and I can’t wait for the next Hindu Lit Fest to see our man in action. Also spotted a note in MFAC saying “Please avoid towel reservation.” Couldn’t twitpic thanks to the crowd. Knowledgeable crowd indeed. The same crowd turned up in hordes for Sandeep Narayan at NGS Mini Hall. Mahesh and friends were quite shell-shocked at the turn out and it led to my first stage seating based kutcheri. Totally worth it.
So Sthit and I opted for the stage tickets for the customary Ranjini-Gayatri attendance. Sthit spoke to them after the concert, they asked for his name, kulam and gothram and he was floating around at the edge of stratosphere for better part of the evening. Also managed to score music academy tickets this time and attended Abhishek Raghuram and Sanjay’s. The last time there was a kutcheri update here, it had Sanjay singing Vettaveli Thannil and I spotted a pretty young thing on stage. This time Sandeep sang Vettaveli Thannil at KGS and I attended the concert with two PYTs – WhyShoe and the “naa romba artiste” Shreyas, who managed to sketch her way into the hearts of every musician on stage. But I wasn’t there when he got to Vettaveli. I left for the ARR concert.
Jaya TV in their Margazhi Mahotsavam mood or whatever scheduled an ARR concert on Dec 29, 2012 at the Nehru Indoor Stadium. Then they lost that mood, got greedy and switched the venue to YMCA grounds. Dick move no.1. Now Rahman is too big to satisfy every fan with a single evening of concert. It’s simply not happening. Also, Rahman is too big now to hold all-Hindi or all-Tamil concerts. Especially considering the last 5-6 years – even by sheer numbers – when he has been simply too prolific in Hindi. Unimaginable to have concerts without Delhi 6, Rang De Basanti, Jodha Akbar, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (what a fucking underrated minimalist album – the Hindi Alai Payuthey if you’d allow me, sadly not as celebrated), Rockstar among others. Jaya TV made it an all-Tamil concert. Dick move no.2. Put together bad management and the rains, not really an epic concert for an epic personality. Considering how special it could have been with that playlist in an indoor stadium.
There was an India-Pakistan ODI at Chepauk in between all this but then 1. Sachin retired. 2. Bilateral gap filling ODI series aren’t the shit anymore. And then they said it was a day match. No enthu. But it got an integral part of knowledgeable Chennai crowd – Gauks – on TV, giving gyan.
Then Chennai Open happened. Or rather is happening. Only place where you’ll find fans of Janko Tipsarevic, Marin Cilic and Charu Sharma. Pick of the shoutouts last night – “Well done Charu darling!” Having said that, watching yesterday’s Wawrinka vs Stebe match felt like a poor man’s Federer vs Nadal with the left right combination and all the power strokes and gets. But it by no means is a poor tournament. You go to these places not just for tennis but to witness more like minded fans and people as passionate. Steve Tignor wrote about this here, on new age tennis in the world of Internet and all-access fandom.
Is all of this exposure healthy? It has its drawbacks—I don’t really need to know what Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are doing every day. But the upside is greater. It’s hard to think of a sport that’s better suited to the far-flung community that the Internet can build. Internationally, interest in tennis is wide and thin—it’s followed in virtually every country, but it isn’t overwhelmingly popular in any of them. This means that being a tennis lover can get lonely; it can be hard to find a serious fan of the pro game even among your regular playing partners at your club. The web’s message boards, blog commenters, and relentlessly tweeting fans from Serbia to the Philippines let you know that people everywhere are watching.
It’s quite a joy – and sometimes annoying – to witness the enthu school kids. The fifth standard school kid who decided Paes and Roger-Vasselin were no good and decided to support the barely known Ratiwatana (!) brothers instead. The same kid said to his mom,”Adhellam theva illa (that’s not required)” when she hinted at leaving at around 10.00 PM saying there is school the next day. Well done, I say! This is what the tournaments were about – aarva kolaru like this at every corner. Chennai may be only ATP 250 and it may not be half as beautiful as Miami, but Tignor again hits the right notes here:
My favorite part of the Key Biscayne broadcast that I saw didn’t involve any actual tennis. It came in the time between matches on the Grandstand, before del Potro and his opponent that day, Ivo Karlovic, got to the court. The TennisTV cameras didn’t cut to an ad or go to a different court; they just panned around the Grandstand, looking at the fans beginning to gather and chant, looking at the palm trees waving behind the court, looking off in the distance at a sunset over Miami. There was no commentary, so when I did turn the sound on, I could hear other fans chatting idly in the seats nearby. This, as much as seeing Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams play, was what I missed about not going to Miami. This was what a tennis tournament felt like. I was on the Internet far away, but it really did seem like I was there, part of the far-flung tennis world. It’s a good time to be a fan.
As Mahesh would say, Tignor has said it all. It’s a good time to be a fan.
2012 started off with beautiful Sydney, hopeless Test match and more disappointments on the cricket field. Hopefully 2013 makes up for it, starting with Federer in the flesh. Hopefully.