THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Dedicating nearly eight to 10 years to a chosen art form in Kerala Kalamandalam is what earns a person the privilege to prefix the name of the prestigious institution to one’s name.
Now, with the mushrooming of ‘’art-appreciation centres’’ of Kalamandalam in different parts of the state, the stage is set for people who undergo a year’s certificate course also to flaunt the prestigious title - a practice fiercely resented by artists and cultural activists.
It was in May this year that the Thrissur-based deemed university began the process of setting up such centres in five locations in the state.
Though initially conceived as sub-centres in partnership with local cultural organisations, the centres were soon re-christened as ‘’art-appreciation centres’’ run directly by the University.
According to sources, the move was aimed at avoiding possible action for violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) norms which state that an institution deemed to be University should not enter into any franchise agreement either overtly or covertly with any other organisation for establishing and running off-campus centres.
Incidentally, the Thiruvananthapuram centre is being formally inaugurated with much fanfare on Tuesday, three months after it began functioning.
Against a monthly fees of ` 750 per person, these cen tres offer one-year ‘’art-appreciation course’’ to persons above the age of 12 years in disciplines such as classical music, kathakali and kathakali chenda. The certificates are issued by Kalamandalam.
Noted artists have dubbed this move as ‘’retail sale of art for commercial gain.’’ Noted Kathakali exponent Kalamandalam Gopi was among the artists who openly expressed his resentment over the move.
“As far as Kathakali is concerned, opening such centres offering short-term courses will only serve to spoil the art form,’’ Gopi, who is also a emeritus professor of the university, told ‘Express’.
According to a member of the Kalamandalam academic council who preferred anonymity, the move to open such centres was not even discussed with the council members.
The academic community as well as alumni, including Kalamandalam Sreedevi, have voiced their apprehension over the ‘Kalamandalam’ title being misused by people who pursue short-term courses in such centres.
“The dubious credentials of organisations with which the University closely partnered to set up these centres also need to be thoroughly examined,’’ said N R Gramaprakashan, former Registrar of Kerala Kalamandalam. The former university official has written to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani seeking her intervention in the issue.
No Violation: VC
According to Kalamandalam Vice-Chancellor P N Suresh, such centres were not ‘’university sub-centres’’ in the technical sense and hence do not amount to violation of UGC norms.
“Setting up of these art appreciation centres is only a prelude to the setting up of sub-centres after proper UGC approval,’’ he said.
The Vice-Chancellor claimed that only ‘’art appreciation certificates’’ were issued by the university and that it did not need the Academic Council’s ratification.
Asked about the misuse of the Kalamandalam title, Suresh said that it was a wrong practice which was widely prevalent.
“There are cases where even dropouts from Kalamandalam are misusing the title. Such apprehensions should not be stumbling blocks to the University’s moves to expand its operations and provide future job opportunities to its students,’’ he said.