This may well be like the phoenix rising.
A Mylapore icon in the city of Chennai is finally resurrected. It was demolished, buried, shoved into a freezer, forgotten, fought over, replanned and is now coming alive this Sunday.
On July 16 morning, to the strains of the nadaswaram, the chant of religious texts and to the sounds of classical music, the 89-year-old Rasika Ranjani Sabha will open it doors to guests and rasikas. And it will do so with pride because it offers a well-equipped performing arts complex located on Sundareswarar Street, off East Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai.
Senior Mylaporean guests will not be able to linger on that iconic statue of lord Krishna that greeted you in the past, behind the box-office counters. But the sabha team says a new marble statue will be installed in that spot.
The sabha launches a Yuvotsav on July 16 with day-long concerts; this continues on July 21 and 22.
There are three auditoriums here - the main one is a 700-seater and spread across two levels. There is a mechanical lift for seniors in wheel-chairs - to be transported to the main floor, besides the lift.
There are two small auditoriums on the second floor; a 270-seater for concerts, talks and discourses. And a 80-seater which is best suited for social functions and informal events.
All of them are fitted with smart-designed stages, comfortable seating and state-of-the-art audio equipment which promise the best acoustics. Says R. Nagarajan, senior chartered accountant and sabha secretary, "If we hold mike-less concerts in any of our halls they will sound great and can be heard by anybody sitting anywhere in the hall."
The sabha hired an Australian expert to fit the halls here. About Rs.1.5 cores has been spent on the sound and accoustics plans here.The earlier plan to have a art gallery had to be dropped.
Soon, the R R Sabha complex will also have a music listening room where you can put on the ear phones and listen to the music of the masters, which has been digitally restored from spool and tapes.
There is also a small cafeteria counter for now; a bigger one will be in place in the year ahead.
The sabha is headed by Santhakrishnan and has V. V. Sundaram and T. R. Rajagopal as vice-presidents, R. Nagarajan and 'Chella' Vaidyanathan as secretaries besides others.
The re-constructed R. R. Sabha is a Rs.16 crores project, with Rs.2 crores given by donors and Rs.11 crores borrowed from a private bank.
So the sabha team has made plans to raise revenues fast to pay off the big loan.
Says Nagarajan, "Considering the demand for space from cultural bodies and the growing needs of corporates and the fact that we offer the best facilities, we are hopeful of bookings throughout the year."
The sabha is going to skip being part of the famed December Season and instead curate theme festivals round the year. Says Nagarajan,"Our focus is on young talent. And we will have unique, themed music and dance fests."
Work is still going on at this campus where, some eight years ago the JCBs brought down that iconic auditorium where famed actors, musicians and dancers had performed to packed houses.
Controversies dogged the sabha when new plans were drawn. We are told that the idea of a Trust was dropped and there is only one sabha team now that will manage the affairs and that there are no legal cases to address anymore.
Mylapore now gets back its icon; hopefully it will be great place for the performing arts and cultural forms.
MEMBERSHIP OPENS SOON
Yes, R R Sabha is open for membership. The sabha team has to amend its by-laws though. Planned are annual single person membership at Rs.5000 and Rs.3000. Corporate single-person membership is pegged at Rs.1.5 crore, valid for 10 years.
Oldtime members will continue to enjoy the benefits but the drive is to enroll a large, new community now. Bookings of the halls here is also open.