Saarang is the annual cultural festival (
culfest) of IIT Madras, Chennai. One of the biggest culfests in India, it is a five day festival, usually held in the fourth week of January in the plush and green IIT Madras campus. The festival is host to a footfall of about fifty thousand students from various parts of the country and from abroad. Conceived over thirty years ago as Mardi Gras, the IIT Madras culfest has come a long way in terms of participation, organization and the repertoire of events. Students have the opportunity of showcasing their talent in a variety of events ranging from literary events such as speaking events, quizzes and word games to cultural events like dance, music, theater and fine arts. Saarang also hosts professional shows (proshows) with professional artists performing classical, light, rock, jazz and other genres of music in the wide, well-decorated and well-equipped stage of the Open Air Theater (OAT) in the campus. Workshops organized by seasoned artists and professionals in fields like dance, music, fashion, arts etc. also form an integral part of this multi-faceted festival.
Being an engineering and technological institute, a cultural festival is instrumental in exposing the students of IIT Madras to the other creative aspects of student life. IIT Madras has long recognized this fact, and has been hosting an annual cultural festival for the past thirty years. Initially called Mardi Gras, the focus of the festival was to promote interest in cultural and literary activities and to develop the organizing skills of the students. From the very beginning, Mardi Gras was a well-known and looked forward to event in every student’s calendar, and had its share of memorable moments, for instance the Uriah Heep concert.
Year after year, Saarang is scheduled in the fourth week of January as a five day festival, and has traditionally included the
Republic Dayas a part of the festival. Every year, Saarang kicks off with a somber and enchanting classical night, which is then followed by the Choreo night, the Light Music night and the rock concert in some order, all held at the magnificent OAT. On one of the evenings, semi-pro bands which have gone through one gritty round of qualification, fight it out with heart, soul and energetic music on the OAT stage. The light music group competition is also held on the OAT stage. The shows are all planned so as to keep the crowd occupied on all five evenings, and to sustain the vibrant mood of the festival.
The festival area
The major crowd pulling events such as Dramatics, Jest a Minute, AV quiz, etc are held in the Central Lecture Theater of IIT Madras or CLT as it is commonly known. CLT is known for its brilliant acoustics and its good lighting facilities. Events such as the dance workshops which require a larger stage space are held in the Students’ Activities Center (SAC) building. The gigantic arena, the OAT is reserved for huge events like the proshows, the Choreo Nite and the group music finals. And then there is the Bindaas Park, the area outside CLT which is host to the Informalz stage and a whole lot of food stalls and sponsors’ stalls. Fine arts events are conducted in the area opposite Bindaas Park also known as Shanti Kunj. The festival area also includes some other lecture theaters and rooms where a whole bunch of small scale events are held.
Events and Workshops
With more than fifty events, Saarang offers a variety of fare to choose from for both the participants who are out to chill out and those who come for serious competition, in almost any literary or cultural activity. Broadly, they can be classified into the following genres.
The events under this category are elocution, debate, JAM (Just A Minute), and extempore. These events are known for their excellent quality of participation.
"Just A Minute:" It is a test of wit and spontaneity with the participants being given wacky topics to speak on. This event has been a huge crowd puller and the CLT is jam-packed with an audience of roughly 500 students.
"Debate:" Participants indulge in heated discussions on various issues that are relevant to today’s youth.
"Elocution:" Elocution is a test of the oratorical skills of the participants with content, diction, grammar and pronunciation as the criteria for judgment.
"Extempore:" An exciting event that includes various rounds like block and tackle, screen mime and surprise rounds.
These events are conducted in the heart of the festival area, Bindaas Park, CLT and OAT. They are known for the energy and enthusiasm that they generate among the audience and participants.
"Decibels:" It offers a platform for semi-pro bands from different nooks and corners of the country to showcase their musical skills with the prelims being held in Bindaas Park. The finalists get to perform on the OAT stage with a huge, enthusiastic audience.
"Light Music:" Held under two categories – solo and group, this event is a crowd favourite with around 8000 people witnessing the finals of the group event.
"Powerchord:" Catering to college bands, this western music event is conducted in Bindaas Park.
"WM solo:" Students display their skill with instruments and vocals in this event.
"Fusion Music:" As the name suggests, it is a fusion event with participants trying out various combinations of classical, western and light music.
"Acoustyx:" A unique western music event where the participants perform without the use of any electronic instruments.
"Classical music:" With the judges being among the best in the field, this event is extremely competitive.
Theatre events at Saarang bring together the best actors in the region putting up plays of a variety of genres ranging from classics to original scripts.
"Dramatics:" Saarang dramatics sets an extraordinary benchmark for all such events on any cultural calendar. Widely known for its paramount quality of participation, it has traditionally been a tremendous crowd-puller.
"Street Play:" Authentic plays on various socially relevant issues aimed at the common man are presented by college troupes.
"Radio Play:" With the curtains being closed and the lights being turned off, this is a standard radio play event.
"Mono-acting:" Individual artists perform an act of their own choice to showcase the best of their abilities.
Quizzes at Saarang have always been the traditional yardsticks for all the quizzes held in the country.
"Main Quiz:" An event widely recognized as the best in the country by quizzing enthusiasts, the prelims are held in CLT and the finals in OAT. Traditionally, it goes on through the night with quizzers racking their brains over an excellent set of handpicked questions.
"India Quiz:" It is a test of Indo-trivia with focus on everything that is Indian.
"BizQuiz:" A crowd favourite, this event tests the participants on their knowledge of corporate trivia.
"Sports and Entertainment Quiz:" A quiz focusing on the popular topics of sports and entertainment.
An integral part of Saarang, they encompass all kinds of dance forms and are immensely popular with the crowd.
"Choreo Nite:" Choreo Nite is held on one of the evenings in the OAT with over 8000 people witnessing it. The most talented dance troupes from various colleges perform with energy, passion and grace.
"Classical Dance:" An event held in the SAC suditorium, it focuses on the depiction of traditional Indian culture.
"Folk Arts:" A tribute to art forms that have been around for centuries, a celebration aimed at strengthening cultural values.
Fine arts features more than 10 events and 500 participants, and thus is the hub of hectic activity at any given moment during the day. Held at the Shantikunj, it comprises a blend of traditional events like sketching and painting and distinctive ones like T-shirt Design, clay modeling and hand painting.
These events present off-the-beat challenges, and are a test of sharpness and skills. The events are held at PhLT, ChLT and CLT. These include the popular wordplay events such as Scrabble, Crossie (a crossword competition) and What’s the good word.
Apart from the aforementioned events there is a plethora of fun events aimed at the general student population visiting the campus. Among these the popular ones are "Informals" (a series of small events with loads of freebies as prizes), "Cluedo" (a unique solve-the-mystery type event), "Pot-pourri", etc. "Ad-zap" is an event where students come up with innovative ideas to market their products. "Pot-Pourri" is a mélange of events like Dumb Charades, Tintoretto and Pictionary. "Antakshari" is also a popular event with entertaining rounds involving the extensive use of audio and visual media. "Creative Writing" tests the creativity and proficiency of students when it comes to writing fiction, fantasy, poetry, ballads, haikus and limericks, etc. "Mr. and Miss. Saarang" is an event that is held on the last day wherein participants try to impress the judges from various glamorous fields with their intellect, talent, wit and humour to get the most coveted individual title during Saarang.
Saarang 2007 will feature some unique events that have never been held before. Among these the following are notable.
"Whose Line Is It Anyway:" A tribute to the ever popular show by the same name, Whose Line... is all set to debut this Saarang to give Improvisational Comedy a whole new meaning altogether.
"Multilingual Laughter Challenge:" Comedians vie for your attention with funny acts and gags in this never-seen-before event A no-holds-barred, the Laughter Challenge has no language bar and no sanity bar either.
"Photography:" Photography, an event for all those who believe that a picture is worth way more than a thousand words, has been introduced in Saarang for the first time this year.
"Short Film Making:" Coming up with imaginative movies having the ability to engage the audience with a compelling story and provoke some form of emotional reaction in them is what this event is all about.
Workshops and lectures
Workshops provide participants the opportunity to savor the flavors of various art forms, without facing the heat of competition. Conducted by eminent professionals, these workshops attract the most adept participants in their relevant fields ranging from dance to music to film-making, as well as those keen to discover new avenues. Workshops are held at various locations around the festive area, including the highly visible CLT area, and may be held in conjugation with a parallel event. There is also a series of lectures delivered by experts in different art forms to help acquaint the students with them.
The professional shows have always been the cynosure of Saarang simply considering the scale and entertainment value. Every year Saarang has a different flavour, and each passing year offers something more, with new events, bigger performances, larger audiences, a more varied crowd and a slightly different look and feel to the events. The OAT is jam-packed with around 8000 people coming in for the concerts every night. Over the past few years Saarang has been host to light music giants Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy, Shaan, Kaykay,
S. P. Balasubramaniam, classical maestros including sarod artists Ayaan and Aman Ali Bangash, violinists Kumaresh and Ganesh, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Yesudas, Ustad Zakir Hussain, international jazz artists Prasanna and Jeff Coffin and bands of the likes of Strings, Euphoria, Moksha, Orange Street and Parikrama. The last couple of years have witnessed the addition of an international flavour with concerts by Led Zepplica from Southern California, Matmatah, a rock band and Duo Bertrand en Cie, a jazz and country music band from France. Saarang (during the Mardi Gras era) was host to the legendary Uriah Heep on one of their rare world tours. A.R.Rahmanhas performed as a kid in the huge OAT arena and drummer Sivamanihas also been a part of Mardi Gras.
* [http://www.saarang.org/ Official website]
* [http://blog.saarang.org/ Official blog]
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