LuLu has joined hands with the United Malayalee Association (UMA) to present LuLu Onam 2011 on September 16 at Al Nasr Leisureland’s Ice Rink. Yusuffali M.A. of the Emke Group is seen here with UMA members Image Credit: Supplied

With Onam celebrations in full swing, what is mere ten-day affair in Kerala seems to run for months in the UAE

Onam events will feature several Indian artists from the Malayalam entertainment industry performing in the UAE. These include popular writer and director M.T. Vasudevan Nair along with senior film actors Padma Shri Jayaram and Padma Shri Shobana among a host of other celebrities including popular mimicry artistes and playback singers. There are around 1,000 different Keralite clubs in the country, all of which will be celebrating Onam with a variety of cultural events and feasts. Many events are being held at Dubai’s Al Nasr Leisureland, the most popular venue.

Some associations have had to postpone their Onam plans to later this year or even early next year, mainly because of overbooked venues and the preferred dates of participating stars. If you wish to attend, you need to either contact an association member to arrange for passes or buy tickets.

“Thirty years back it was not really possible to celebrate this state festival in the UAE,” says corporate lawyer K.K. Sarachandra Bose.

“And even now unfortunately there is no group in Dubai who is licensed as an association, they are all registered as community clubs — which is not a bad idea to begin with. But it is far more appropriate and beneficial if we are allowed to register and procure the license of an association in this country where we live. Dubai has a huge community of expatriates from Kerala and they can come together to not just celebrate but offer valuable services to society, only if there is proper licensing in place. We [representatives of the Indian community] are campaigning and fighting for this; and hopefully it will be sanctioned by the UAE government this year.” Bose was the first Keralite expat to start Onam celebrations in the UAE 29 years ago. Back then, the CID arrested him because the event was misleadingly stamped as a Hindu festival.
However today, the scene has changed with Onam being celebrated with all its glory in the UAE.

Plenty of events
Another company, Whiz Media has partnered with AKCAF, an association of 52 college alumni from Kerala to bring in the star-cast of the recent hit flick Seniors — Padma Shri Jayaram, Kunchako Boban, Manoj K. Jayan, Biju Menon, Padma Priya, Ananya and Radha Verma. The two-day event called AKCAF Onavirunnu 2011, will take place on September 16 and 23 respectively. This is not a ticketed event and entry is via invites only. Those interested to attend can contact an alumnus of any college that falls under the AKCAF umbrella. Apart from this, a musical fusion night with Stephen Devasy, Benny Dayal, Job and E lounge team is also planned for at Al Nasr Leisureland. The chief guest on the second day of the celebration, September 23, is the famous writer and director M.T. Vasudevan Nair. For more details visit www.akcaf.com or find them on their Facebook page: AKCAF Onavirunnu 2011.

“I am really happy to join my friends and fans in the country for yet another Onam,” says actor Jayaram, who is also the brand ambassador of Kerala Tourism Board.

Dubai being a superlative city with many of the world’s firsts, the phenomenon seems to have influenced Onam celebrations too. “This year we are going to set a new record — the tallest-ever onathappan (elongated pyramid-like installation symbolic of king Mahabali) in the UAE,” says Sajith Kumar P.K., CEO and Director, JRG International Brokerage DMCC. Last year his company displayed the UAE’s largest-ever pookkalam — a three-metre wide flower mat — at its office in City Tower 1, Shaikh Zayed Road, Dubai.

Onam-special stocks
For flowers and traditional wear from Kerala, one needs to head to any hypermarket that stocks produce from the state — such as LuLu. The retailer will have fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers from the state — flown in specially for the festival. “As this year Onam is on a Friday and after the quiet month of Ramadan, we are expecting it to be really big,” says Nandakumar, Group Communications Manager, Emke Group which operates the LuLu outlets. Onam special kits and offers are available at LuLu’s vegetable counters as well as its apparel sections. “This time the highlight is the latest collection of mundu and veshti (traditional white garmets) from the state,” says Nandakumar.

LuLu has joined hands with the United Malayalee Association (UMA) to present LuLu Onam 2011 on September 16 at Al Nasr Leisureland’s Ice Rink. UMA represents eight different organisations including Dala (Dubai Art Lovers Association) and expects around 5,000 people to participate in its celebrations this year. “The all-day long event is expected to begin with the pookkalam competition in the morning, followed by the sadya in the noon, while cultural programmes are scheduled for the evening,” says C.R.G. Nair, Convener, UMA.

Among the events is Folk-Eve 2011, by Jana Nayana, comprises of folk songs and theatre performances. Jana Nayana is a socially committed folk theatre group established in 1996 under the leadership of advocate Premprasad. For more details call +971 50 6442628 to speak to C.R.G. Nair.

Perunna NSS College Alumni’s UAE Chapter is celebrating Sravanotsavam-2011 on September 23 at Apple International School, Dubai. For more details visit http://nsscollegealumniuae.com

Indian Association Sharjah will be celebrating Onam on October 7, with a day-long cultural event and a grand feast for more than 6,000 people at Indian High School Sharjah. For more details call +971 6 5610845 or visit www.iassharjah.com

India Social and Cultural Centre (ISC) in Abu Dhabi also plans to host their Onam grand feast in early October. Dates are yet to be announced. For more details call +971 2 6730066 or visit www.iscabudhabi.com

Similarly, the Indian Association in Ajman also plans to celebrate Onam in October. “We are looking forward to celebrating it in a big way this time at our new auditorium, which is under construction at the moment. We plan to choose a convenient date around the end of October. We hope the weather will also be a little more pleasant around that time,” says O.Y. Ahamed Khan, President of the Association. For more details call +971 6 7474212.

Krishna Chronicles by Shobana
This Onam, FEKCA, about 20 active alumni associations of Kerala colleges, presents Krishna Chronicles by Padma Shri Shobana on September 16 at the Shaikh Rashid Auditorium, Indian High School, Dubai.

Krishna Chronicles is a narration of the life and times of Lord Krishna, a character from Mahabharata, set to the tunes of various soundtracks and scores from Indian films. It is directed, choreographed and performed by Shobana, who is an acclaimed actor and Bharatanatyam dancer, along with students from Kalarpana, her dance school in Chennai, India.

Talking about what sets her dance apart form scores if other performances about Krishna, Shobana is quoted by Indian media as saying that this dance portrays Krishna, the man and his philosophies, in a way that has never been done before. Performed by 16 participants, the recital has voices by Surya, Konkona Sen, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Prabhu, Anupam Kher, Milind Soman and Radhika. Sound design is by Oscar award winner Rasool Pookutty and art by Rajeevan. FEKCA, one of the largest socio-cultural organisations in UAE, has roped in Sri Perumbadavam Sreedharan, Chairman of Kerala Sahithya Academy, as chief guest for this year’s Onam cultural events. More details can be found at its Facebook page: FEKCA (Federation of Kerala Colleges Alumni), UAE.