SAFDAR HASHMI KALAI KUZHU: 25 Years on Stage in Pondicherry
ONE stage, two mikes, three instruments, four voices and thousands of the audience --- this was the scene on the Beach Road near Gandhi statue in Pondicherry on January 1, 2014. The members of the troupe were filled with energy during the whole day of the programme. The songs which they sang were thought provoking and graphically described the social evils such as poverty, untouchability and inequality etc. The programme lasted for 12 hours; it continued from 9 a m to 9 p m. This was the fourth successive and successful, 12 hour programme by the team. The Safdar Hashmi Kalai Kuzhu of Pondicherry deserves credit for such programmes. (Kalai Kuzhu means a cultural troupe.) This cultural troupe has now completed 25 years of its life. It has been staging approximately 1000 events every year, and has so far travelled more than 15 lakh kilometres and contacted nearly four crore people. The programme on January 1, 2014 was another addition to its creditable role in service to the working people. Anbumani, the convenor of the team, recalls the day of naming of his troupe. It was a team of a few amateur performers like one singer, one thavil player and a woman singer who were on the job of performing for election campaigns in Pondicherry in the name of Semmalar Kalai Kuzhu. However, at the suggestion of T Murugan, former secretary of the CPI(M)’s Pondicherry state committee and a veteran leader, the Semmalar Kalai Kuzhu was rechristened as the Safdar Hashmi Kalai Kuzhu after the assassination of the legendary communist playwright, Comrade Safdar Hashmi, in early 1989. Jeeva, a CPI(M) worker, was then the convenor. In the later years Anbumani took up the charge and inducted a few more permanent artists, including a woman singer, to the team. All of them are CPI(M) members and are functioning as a unit in Pondicherry. The team has travelled to most of the districts in Tamilnadu and Pondicherry --- campaigning for the party during the elections as well as in connection with conferences and public meetings etc, creating awareness among the people. It was in 2009 that the idea of conducting a 12 hour programme struck the unit and, from then onwards, it has been continued every year on January 1, commemorating the death anniversary of Safdar Hashmi. It was a big venture for the full-timers who planned and executed such a grand programme in 2010 for the first time. But now it has become an expectation of the people of Pondicherry. This year the troupe celebrated its silver jubilee with a regular programme and in the evening the CPI(M)’s Tamilnadu state secretary G Ramakrishnan released a souvenir. A CD collection of songs was also released. Uma, the only female artist in the troupe, remembers the days of her programme in certain remote villages with no proper toilet and bathroom facilities. She has been in this team since1994. Selvam, Vinayagam and Amaranthar, the other members of the troupe, are united with dedication on all occasions. All the members take pride in being the full-timers of the CPI(M) party and do their valuable and vibrant job in organising the common people for the struggle for socialism.