Cashing in on weddings

Many people want to hire ‘chenda melam’ groups from Kerala

On a different beat:A ‘chenda melam’ group from Kerala performing at a marriage function in Madurai on Wednesday.— Photo: S. James

On a different beat:A ‘chenda melam’ group from Kerala performing at a marriage function in Madurai on Wednesday.— Photo: S. James

Wedding planners entrusted with the task of making every marriage a memorable event cash in on the opportunity.

The contract comes with many preconditions. B. Senthil Kumar, a wedding planner from Athikulam, says that the minimum budget in Madurai is Rs.10 lakh.

There is no upper limit for the expenditure as families are eager to organise extravagant weddings.

“Weddings are becoming bigger and grander every year. What they expect is grandeur in decoration, lavish food spread and melams,” he explains.

A wedding planner in Madurai provides mehandi, beautician, indoor and outdoor decoration, catering, melams, chariots and decorated cars, music concerts, videographer and photographer.

In most weddings, the families are keen to hire ‘chenda melam’ groups from Kerala, say the planners.

Chenda melam, a traditional musical instrument of Kerala, is becoming an integral part of festivities in Madurai.

“Chenda melam is the most favoured instrument here. We hire troops from Idukki district in Kerala to perform at weddings. Nagaswaram and band troops are still in favour, but chenda melam has become more popular in recent years,” says Mr.Senthil Kumar.

“We hire chenda melam troupes from Palakkad to perform at weddings. During the wedding season, we arrange at least 20 performances in a month,” says V. Backia, an event manager.

Cashing in on the popularity of chenda melam, M. Vel Pandian set up an exclusive firm at Chinna Chokkikulam five years ago to bring performers from Thrissur.

Though he maintains that the soaring popularity of chenda melam here has not affected the business of thavil and nagaswaram players, nagaswaram artistes have a different story to narrate.

Business lost

“In the last three years, chenda melam groups have been dominating us. We have lost business because of them,” rues R. Raja, a nagaswaram vidwan.

Though planners offer both nagaswaram and chenda melam, more people choose only the latter, sidelining Tamil Nadu’s traditional instrument, says Mr.Raja.

“Very few families hire both groups. Our rates have gone down below Rs.10,000 for performing at engagement and wedding ceremonies. Some of our artistes are playing for a meagre amount of Rs.6,000. We are struggling to make ends meet. But we want to keep the tradition alive,” he says.

The Kerala chenda melam groups charge between Rs.20,000 and Rs.25,000 for a performance.


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