Bharathi Thirumagan and team will bring art form Villupattu to Dubai
Bharathi Thirumagan and team will bring art form Villupattu to Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Are you ready to experience an ancient traditional folk song performance from South India? Then you should watch the Villupattu by Bharathi Thirumagan, accompanied by her husband and son, at the India Pavilion Amphitheatre at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 14.

The term Villupattu means storytelling through song, laced with plenty of drama and accompanied by music from a bowstring instrument, which acts more like infotainment in traditional form. The performance in Dubai will centre on the significance of Tamil festivals Bhogi, Pongal, Mattupongal and Kanumpongal, which incidentally are celebrated between January 13 and 16.

“Pongal is not a holiday, but it is a holy day. What is in the holy day will be packaged and presented like a sweet Pongal dish,” said Bharathi, who was first introduced to folklore by her legendary father Padmashri Subbu Arumugam at the age of seven a few decades ago.

“My father’s message was to carry a story and help people evolve into good human beings, and I follow his path. Music will make a person happy, but sowing good thoughts will help the person grow,” said the multitalented artist who can play the musical instruments veena and harmonium, and compose and sing songs.

“Villupattu is an art form, which is used in spreading humanity and carrying messages on important topics to various strata of people across the spectrum,” she added.

The topic of the performance varies according to the need of the hour. The uniqueness about Bharathi’s performance, which stands out from other Villupattu exponents are, is that “it has life in it” as she conceives and writes her own script and songs.

“It could be on creating awareness about blood donation, eye donation, diabetes, cancer, aids and more recently on coronavirus and the importance of vaccination against COVID-19,” Bharathi said.

She will be joined by her husband Dr Thirumagan Srinivasan, who has a Master of Philosophy in Math and is the Principal of Hindustan College of Arts and Science in Chennai, and son Kalaimagan, who has a Master of Philosophy in Music and is pursuing his Doctorate at Madras University.

Talking about her performances, Bharathi says her themes are flexible and altered in such a way that they immediately form a connection with the audience.

“Drama is a key component of Villupattu, hence I have to play all roles during a programme, only then it will have its desired effect. And I mix it with a bit of Tirunelveli brand of comedy mixed with satire, which will not hurt anyone, but will straighten everyone in their thoughts,” she said.

The art of Villupattu gained prominence thanks to actor Kalaivanar NS Krishnan and continued with musician Subbu Arumugam for many years since the 1940s. Thanks to Meenakumari Pathmanathan, Pathmanathan and the Dubai Tamil Ladies Association, fans in Dubai will get the chance to see the third generation from the Arumugam family perform at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Take a bow.


Bharathi Thirumagan narrated the story of an interesting performance done for a single audience member — that was none other than former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

APJ Abdul Kalam. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Subbu Arumugam, a legend in Villupattu, was in New Delhi in 2009 for a performance and planned a 15-minute programme at Kalam’s house. After setting everything up, Kalam came in on the dot to view the performance.

Arumugam, Bharathi, her husband Dr Thirumagan Srinivasan and son Kalaimagan all sat on the floor for the performance, and what happened next left the entire team in awe.

Without any hesitation, Kalam did not sit on the numerous couches that were present, instead he sat on the floor along with them to listen to the performance.

Don’t miss it!

Bharathi Thirumagan and her family will perform at the India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on January 14 from 8pm to 10pm.