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February 26, 2007 / zanzi

The OAT

Category: Festivals, events & customs
Siddharth Sareen – 1

Housed in the forest reserve campus of IIT Madras, the Open Air Theatre (OAT) has a history spanning four decades. With a seating capacity of over 7,000, this amphi-theatre has played host to almost every major performance troupe around. With the addition of a permanent screen in the mid-90’s and unrivalled sound effects, it is a venue to die for – performer’s paradise and a treat for the audience, with open skies and a tree-line setting off the stage.

The OAT sees action every weekend, courtesy the Film Club (membership is mandatory). The trend has been to screen recent Hollywood releases, but of late, every other Saturday night regional cinema or Bollywood productions are on display. Old-timers reminisce about earlier times when a screen would be especially put up for these shows. There is no other setting quite like the OAT, with its charming projection house and quaint quadruple entry gates.

Annually, it is the venue for the Gerhard Fisher and Kokillah Rajaiah (GF&KR) national invitation basketball tournament. This eagerly awaited, intensely fought two-day battle takes place mainly among the city colleges, since “nobody else shows up” (says the IIT-M Sports Secretary known only as ‘Jat’), but it gets national status nonetheless!

But the time when OAT lights up and really sizzles is in late January every year, around the time of the college culfest. It then witnesses an eclectic mix of bands, from classical through light to western music artists ranging from local favourites to international acts. These shows attract crowds from all over the country and OAT looks spectacular, lit up by the light of thousands of cell phones which are waved by young people grooving to the music and dance.

Though other performances do happen throughout the year, the ones at Saarang, [website http://www.saarang.org] renamed from Mardi Gras, take the cake. In 2007, it’s been Junkyard Groove, Merzhin and Mynta who have delivered unforgettable acts so far. The road ahead is open, the trees are swaying and the moon shining bright on OAT as it looks towards its next big event. Will you be there?

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