Published: 30th January 2020
Instigates political, cultural and social disharmony: Why Kalakshetra cancelled T M Krishna's book launch
The Carnatic musician's latest book Sebastian & Sons was supposed to be launched at the Kalakshetra foundation on February 2 - but will now be done at ACJ instead
Performing arts academy Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai on Thursday, withdrew the permission to hold the launch of Carnatic musician T M Krishna's new book Sebastian & Sons. The institute had sent a letter to the publisher Westland Publications, three days before the scheduled launch. The launch will now happen at the Asian College of Journalism's ACJ Hall on February 2.
The letter sent by the institute's director Revathi Ramachandran says that Kalakshetra is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture and cannot entertain any event that may "instigate political, cultural and social disharmony." On January 30, The Hindu had published an excerpt from Krishna's book, that discusses issues of casteism associated with Carnatic music. It talks about Mrudangam artist Palakkad Mani Iyer's dilemma about using an instrument that is made of a dead cow's skin and the myth of Hindus not eating beef.
The piece also finds a mention in the letter. "The piece contains certain statements relating to the book which touch controversial issues and certainly have a lot of political overtones," it reads. It also says that the hire charges have been remitted back to the publisher's account.
Despite being an acclaimed classical singer, Krishna was always quite vocal about issues including casteism, rising intolerance and freedom of speech. Unsurprisingly, in many occasions, his concerts have run into choppy in waters over his off stage comments. Case in point, in 2018 alone, two of his concerts were called off by the organisers, with the Airports Authority of India being one of them.
The Kalakshetra Foundation was set up to preserve traditional values in Indian Arts and Crafts in 1936 by theosophist and dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale. It has taught thousands of dancers and artists over the years. It boasts of alumni like dancer Leela Samson, freedom fighter Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and the dancer couple, the Dhananjayans. For years, it has frequently hosted multiple cultural events, exhibitions and book launches. In fact, Krishna's book A Southern Music was released in the same auditorium by the institute's then-director Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Krishna was unavailable for a comment on the issue. His office had informed us that he was busy at a concert. However, he tweeted informing the change of venue to ACJ and said, "Everyone is welcome."