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Who next? Or what next?
Kalakshetra crisis: Blown out of proportion
- V.P. Dhananjayan, Chennai

July 20, 2012

Reproduced below is my article dated May 22, 2012 that I sent to Times of India and later to the Chairman of Kalakshetra and Govt of India Cultural Ministry. I am glad that they have reappointed Janardanan (retd principal) now to help in reviving some of the old productions.

To: The Editor in Chief
Times of India
Delhi / Chennai / Mumbai

Dear Sir,

Forwarded herewith is an article on the current subject, which is self-explanatory. This is prepared exclusively for the Times of India publication and I hope you will accept it and publish this in the all India edition of your esteemed newspaper.

KALAKSHETRA CRISIS: Blown out of proportion

‘Who is next’ is the question asked by everyone now. The cry for and against is slowly dying since the human memory is short. Tracing back the circumstances and traversing down memory lane on the issue of a true successor to Rukmini Devi ended up in the hurried appointment of Ms. Leela Samson six years ago. She was quite reluctant to take the mettle then, since she had issues with the institution earlier and walked out of the campus never to return.

Yes, I did play a king maker’s role at that time emphasizing the importance of a true Kalakshetrian ascending the throne. There were rumors that a non-Kalakshetrian was being appointed immediately after Sri S. Rajaram who was nearing 80 years and wanted to be relieved. I had discussions and correspondence with Hon. Chairman R. Venkatraman (former Rashtrapathi) and impressed upon him the importance of a person of Kalakshetra lineage only to occupy the director’s post. I also suggested posts of Artistic Director and an Administrative Director. I had given optional names of those who could fit into the role. Although my name has been popping up since the Government takeover in 1988 (if I remember correct), I have deliberately opted out due to several personal and other reasons. I have felt the pulse of my colleagues there who would not welcome the prodigal son to return after almost 30 years, while they have been serving the institution with utmost sincerity and love for the alma mater. RV-ji told me a search committee has been constituted and soon a decision would be taken on the issue of appointing a suitable candidate with Kalakshetra background or moorings. Finally, when Leela Samson was persuaded to step in with strong requests from all quarters, she obliged to the pressures. Immediately, RV-ji called from Delhi and asked me, “Are you happy now?” I did thank him and said, “Yes, Maama.”

Now that the seat has fallen vacant unceremoniously and abruptly, it has come back to square one! “Who is next” is the lingering thought and enquiries going around. It seems a futile effort by several admirers of Leela Samson expressing their genuine interest in the institution and its functioning well. No one seems to have gone deeper into the circumstances leading to the present crisis. After Leela took over, a few of the senior artistes who were the pillars of the institution continuing the legacy of Rukmini Devi and her immediate lineage, left the institution under the pretext of bettering their individual future. Some were unceremoniously asked to leave the campus. Probably pride and prejudice did not allow Leela to include any of us old alumnus in the Kalakshetra governing body and also Leela did not try to groom a probable inheritor of yet another of Kalakshetra lineage. All these led to the present situation blown out of proportion by the media clout.

Government has its own agenda drawn by people who do not understand art and artistes’ sensibilities. In the process, all sorts of nepotism, favoritism and political clout etc. will operate within. Luckily, the present Chairman, Sri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, has a long association with Kalakshetra from his grandfather C. Rajagopalachari’s time. Let us hope he will take a judicious stand and advice the Government not to hurry and precipitate the matter and thus ruin the smooth running of the institution in the absence of an Artistic Director. The dedicated band of teachers and staff will continue to hold day-to-day affairs uninterrupted. Mr. Karun Menon, the officiating Director, with his artistic inclinations and background will fill the bill until another senior Kalakshetra alumnus is appointed as Artistic Director and Mr. Menon as the Administrative Director.

If suggestions are called for, I can make a constructive one. Taking into consideration the on going good functioning of Kalakshetra, Prof. A. Janardanan (Retd Principal and a long time alumnus and part and parcel of the institution for more than 4 decades) could be reappointed as Professor Emeritus with charge as Artistic Director, if the age is an impediment in directly recruiting him as the Artistic Director. Barring some of us who left the institution earlier, he is the only senior member associated with the building up Kalakshetra along with Rukmini Devi and Sankara Menon. This could also be an ad hoc arrangement (if the Government rules cannot be bent) until Janardanan grooms a good successor to train students in the dance drama tradition of Kalakshetra. P.T. Narendran, Sheejit Krishna, Ganga Thampi, Jyolsna Menon, Shijith Nambiar and his wife Parvathi (and maybe few other seniors who left the institution, but invited as guest artistes) next in line to Janardanan could be reinstated giving them due recognition for their meritorious service. By doing so, the Government of India (the concerned ministry) will be doing great justice to the one and only institution of its kind in the whole country.

(This article dated May 22, 2012 was written exclusively for The Times of India by Naatyaachaarya VP Dhananjayan, Founder & President, Bharatakalanjali, Chennai.)

Press Reports
It’s final: HC says Samson cannot continue

Centre mulls all legal options on Kalakshetra
Why appoint new director at Kalakshetra?

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