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KALAKSHETRA KALA-MITY


June 10, 2021



How does an institution survive if the onslaught of indifference and negligence continue to shadow it? For 85 years, Kalakshetra has survived the various vagaries of politics and changing Government priorities. Now a national institution of eminence, this Chennai based Bharatanatyam academy is welcoming a new governing board WITH NO BHARATANATYAM DANCER ON THE LIST. How does such a blunder happen? What is the excuse for this glaring oversight?

How does the government's culture wing make these ad hoc decisions about a national institution of eminence known predominantly for BHARATANATYAM without including a name that is either from the Alumni or another eminent artiste from the same discipline? How many of the newly appointed members even know how to read a government document? How many actually know the historic relevance of KALAKSHETRA and its enormous impact on the cultural personality of modern India? How can they contribute and guide the director to implement her vision? Why this blatant indifference to such a historic institution with a global influence in standards and style?

The new governing board is made up of
3 Carnatic musicians
1 Odissi dancer
2 Kuchupidi artistes
1 Puppeteer
1 Folk Singer
1 Hindustani musician
1 Kathakali artiste and advocate
1 Sanskrit scholar
1 Architect

The Academic council is made up of
1 Bharatanatyam teacher (student of the Narasimhacharis)
I Kathak scholar
I Music scholar

To add to this irony, one of the nominated board members PASUMARTHY KESAVA PRASAD has recently passed away due to Covid complications. This creates a vacancy on the board which I hope the new chairman Mr. S RAMADORAI, formerly from TCS (Tata Consultancy Services which sponsors the New York Marathon) will take note and rectify immediately. Mr. Ramadorai's position of eminence in the corridors of Prime Minister Modi's inner circle, and his experience in international corporate affairs should augur well for KALAKSHETRA. He alone can ensure that the replacement is an appropriate choice. KALAKSHETRA needs an alumni member or at least a Bharatanatyam dancer of eminence in Chennai to fill this vacancy. Is there no single name in the international galaxy of star artistes that have emerged from under the banyan tree to take their place on the board? Really? Nobody?
- Dr. Anita Ratnam (June 1, 2021)

Kalakshetra's newly appointed governing body
I wholeheartedly endorse the views expressed by Dr. Anita Ratnam and add that the Ministry of Culture who makes the decision should apply some rationale in constituting a governing body of a nationally important institution like Kalakshetra. While a person of Dr.Ramadurai's calibre is chairing the Board, the board members should also measure up to his seniority and status to have dignity and decorum to such august governing Board members.

For the kind attention of Kalakshetra Chairman, Director and others interested in the institution. See the list published in Narthaki Online by Dr. Anita Ratnam. These members may be good in their respective fields and probably they will perform in the Kalakshetra theatre. But please note that none of them will be in a position to help the institution with artistic contribution and enhance the funding position or generate funds for the institution. At least a few philanthropists and heads of charitable funding bodies and heads of commercial houses who have interest in art & culture should be included in the Board. My humble suggestion...
- V.P. Dhananjayan (June 5, 2021)

Strangers living in our house
It is a sad day when a short-sighted government puts its hand into both the administrative and artistic running of the institution that has brought India's great pride to the forefront for all the world to see and respect. Many very talented artists, products of Rukmini Devi's direct influence are ready to give themselves to the task of continuing a dream that continues to blossom. What is the point of ignoring these great artists in favor of artists however accomplished and famous, who know nothing of the vision we all shared?

I was fortunate to attend a small private school still administered by the original founders. They shared a vision, and in turn, shared it with us through their loving teaching. Then my family moved to India, and I extended my interest in theatre by studying classical dance. This was in the early 1960s, so I was able to observe the Indian dance world as an almost adult from then until the present.

Through my husband, KP Kunhiraman, a senior artist of Kalakshetra, and through his father K Ambu Panikkar, I have been an indirect and direct observer of almost the entire history of Kalakshetra. In our years there, we also had the great advantage of being guided by the founders, whose sincere dedication to Indian culture was part of the lesson.

I continue a relationship with all the living teachers and colleagues, younger generation of artists coming from Kalakshetra, and have been pleased to see that any of them who wanted to make art their profession, have succeeded, and are known throughout the dance world.

Bharatanatyam is the main product, and it is plain to see that Kalakshetra's influence on the whole world of Bharatanatyam, the study of theory, the attention to total perfection of movements within the style, are now in the hands of many performers who continue a dream and a vision of one person, Rukmini Devi. In every regard, I have seen the world of Bharatanatyam grow and expand; in recognition and popularity, staging, costuming, technical polish, meaningful content. Let us not allow the source to be destroyed through careless manipulation.
- Katherine Kunhiraman (June 8, 2021)

Dark times for Kalakshetra
The announcement regarding the new Board of Kalakshetra is disappointing. None of the names ring a bell for extensive service to dance, especially Bharatanatyam. None of the names ring a bell for their connection to Rukmini Devi, Bharatanatyam, and all that this grand old institution stands for. As an institution of national importance, Kalakshetra enjoys a unique status of hoary tradition, and repository of cherished values of our art. Kalakshetra has set the trend during the renaissance of our arts after Independence and is the torch bearer of all our rich cultural inheritance. It continues to be nurtured by stalwarts who are trying to preserve the identity and values initiated by Rukmini Devi.

We strongly recommend a revision of the names suggested for the Board by the authorities. Kalakshetra Alumni, stalwarts of Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam must be included in the list.
- Indumati Raman (June 8, 2021)


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