Kalakshetra Alumni Association launched in Chennai

May 21, 2014

Kalakshetra was established by Rukmini Devi Arundale in 1936 "with the sole purpose of resuscitating in modern India recognition of the priceless artistic traditions of our country and of imparting to the young the true spirit of Art, devoid of vulgarity and commercialism." A vital centre of training and performance, the institution has produced and moulded generations of acclaimed artists in a distinctive style. Some of India's most well known and leading artistes are among its alumni, and continue to live their lives governed by the values and ethos ingrained in them by virtue of their years of learning at Kalakshetra. Artists trained here are committed to artistic integrity, excellence and refined aesthetics.

Training at Kalakshetra is more than just passing out as a certified artiste; it is education in “a way of life.” The years spent as young students on the Kalakshetra campus carves, chisels, casts  and creates a unique person out of you right from one’s demeanour, to dress, to life choices. The education received at Kalakshetra goes beyond training in one or more art forms, as learning there is a philosophy of life that nurtures one’s inner strength and bolsters you through life’s challenges.

In the December of 2013, a large section of the alumni came together to form the Kalakshetra Alumni Association (KAA) which is now a Registered Society. It was decided that members of KAA will comprise of all the living graduates (Diploma and Post Graduate Diploma), who have passed out of the erstwhile Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts, now rechristened as the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, as well as any student who has studied for a year or above, but has not graduated at Kalakshetra. 

KAA has been formed with the objectives of forming a seamless, non hierarchical network of all the alumni to sustain the ideals of the institution and its founder Rukmini Devi Arundale in its truest sense and entirety.

• KAA will seek to gather and share best practices of learning, teaching, training and performance of art forms learnt at the above college.

• To provide linkages and network to all Alumni of the institution.

• To promote, influence and support the educational, cultural and social life of Kalakshetra.

• Provide a platform for the alumni to serve Kalakshetra.

• To assist the fresh graduates of the institution with opportunities for performances, further training, allied subject training, opportunities to be part of other ensemble works as well as possible employment opportunities.

• To consolidate and archive the creative output of the Alumni.

• To raise corpus funds to help provide financial and medical assistance to the older and retired staff, who may not be covered under the new Government pay scales.

• To raise corpus funds to create Rukmini Devi Chairs in select universities, or Performing Art Departments, and thereby promote research and writing on all aspects of Kalakshetra.

Slide show

The first meeting of the Kalakshetra Alumni Association was held in Chennai on the 3rd of May, at the sylvan and beautiful Amethyst. It was an extremely emotional moment for most of the alumni present that day. Some were meeting after 3 decades, while others were meeting some of the seniors for the first time, and yet the bond and camaraderie was very obvious. A deep throated and sometimes choked singing of the Kalakshetra prayer Gnyanandmaiyam set the proceedings in motion. “And the decades and years seemed to fall away and we were all transported to morning prayers under the Banyan tree,” they said in unison, sharing the profound impact of their days at Kalakshetra.

The meeting was blessed with the presence of gurus NS Jayalakshmi, CV Chandrasekhar, A Janardhanan and CK Balagopal, who spoke and shared their thoughts and ideas of what they expected KAA to do. Kalakshetra alumni ranging across many batches from the 1940s to 2012, made their way to the meeting, while others who couldn't attend sent in messages and ideas. Besides regular agenda items, it was decided that KAA will work towards the following three objectives over the course of the next one year.

Anita Ratnam tabled the idea of recording the personal memories of senior gurus and artistes who were closely associated with Rukmini Devi. This idea was received with great enthusiasm by the members, who articulated the crying need to archive the precious personal memoirs of the very senior gurus and artistes of Kalakshetra. Ananda Shankar Jayant tabled the suggestion of facilitating the provision for medical care for the staff members of the Kalakshetra faculty who are not covered under the Government of India pension or medical scheme. This suggestion was received with unanimous support, as everyone felt that it was an imperative that needed to be acted upon immediately. Ananda also proposed that a Kalakshetra Alumni Directory be prepared at the earliest. Further, it was agreed that the association would lend support to any member who wishes to undertake personally any project within the aims and objectives of the Association.

As an example, among many ideas, Sudha Steven from New Zealand shared through email that she is interested in strengthening and working with overseas alumni. Similarly, Stella Uppal Subbiah who is a member of the UK chapter of the alumni association has been part of a dialogue on "Kalakshetra aesthetic." She plans to begin engaging with the major stakeholders on this very important topic. Committed to serve their alma mater Kalakshetra, the KAA promises to be a nurturing association.

For all those Kalakshetra Alumni out there, who are yet to send in their coordinates, they may do so at kalakshetralumni@gmail.com sending in name, stream of learning, years at Kalakshetra, address, phone and email, to receive further updates.