Kalakshetra rescinds permission for TM Krishna's book launch in Chennai auditorium, cites possibility of instigating 'political, social disharmony'

Sebastian and Sons, TM Krishna's upcoming book, was to be unveiled on 2 February at Kalaksheta's Rukmini Arangam auditorium. Following this development, however, an alternative venue has been found at MS Subbulakshmi Auditorium, Asian College of Journalism, Taramani, Chennai — on the same date and time (6.45 pm).

FP Staff January 30, 2020 20:24:41 IST
Kalakshetra rescinds permission for TM Krishna's book launch in Chennai auditorium, cites possibility of instigating 'political, social disharmony'
  • On 30 January, Kalakshetra Foundation sent out a letter to Krishna's publishers Westland and informed them that they, being an autonomous body under Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, wouldn't "allow any programme that may instigate political, cultural and social disharmony".

  • Sebastian and Sons, Krishna's upcoming book, was to be unveiled on 2 February at Kalaksheta's Rukmini Arangam auditorium.

  • Following this development, however, an alternative venue has been found at MS Subbulakshmi Auditorium, Asian College of Journalism, Taramani, Chennai — on the same date and time (6.45 pm).

  • "This (the book) is not about me," Krishna said. This is about these great people. They are innovators, they are entrepreneurs. They have trodden paths that normal individuals usually don't. The book is a celebration of all of that. And, if my presence is creating all this ruckus, I really don't know how to react to that."

Chennai's Kalakshetra Foundation has withdrawn permission for the book launch of noted Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna at its auditorium, after initially confirming that it would host the event.

Sebastian and Sons, Krishna's upcoming book, was to be unveiled on 2 February at Kalaksheta's Rukmini Arangam auditorium. Following this development, however, an alternative venue has been found at MS Subbulakshmi Auditorium, Asian College of Journalism, Taramani, Chennai — on the same date and time (6.45 pm).

On 30 January, Kalakshetra Foundation sent out a letter to Krishna's publishers Westland and informed them that they, being an autonomous body under Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, wouldn't "allow any programme that may instigate political, cultural and social disharmony".

Revathi Ramachandran, director of Kalakshetra, wrote to Westland saying they weren't aware of the "controversies" surrounding the book at the time of renting out the auditorium for the launch. She mentions that a certain review published in the newspapers on 30 January alluded to statements in the book being "controversial" and having "a lot of political overtones".

Kalakshetra rescinds permission for TM Krishnas book launch in Chennai auditorium cites possibility of instigating political social disharmony

Image via Twitter/ @TMKrishna

Krishna's book Sebastian and Sons is a tribute to the Dalit Christian community of mridangam makers who use cow, buffalo and goat hide to make the percussion instruments used in Carnatic music. Speaking with Firstpost, Krishna expressed surprise at the turn of events. "I am totally surprised by this. This book is about celebrating people who are not celebrated — it is about the mridangam makers who are marginalised, it is about generations of their work," he said.

"It is a hard truth that you need cow skin, buffalo skin or goat skin to make the mridangam. It is a truth that we must learn about and that is what art is supposed to do," the Magsaysay award-winning musician and social commentator said, adding, "I don't understand where the problem is, where the controversy lies in discussing the realities and various dichotomies of the way we are as people."

Krishna said that he had received an email from the director of Kalakshetra asking him to call immediately. Since he was flying to Jaipur, he couldn't do so and after reaching he came across the letter (as seen above) sent to Westland, marking him.

Talking about the recurring phenomenon of politicisation of public spaces in India of late, Krishna said, "Places of art and culture are places where such discussions need to be encouraged. Wouldn't it have been an honour for Kalakshetra in being the place where lives and works of so many mridangam players were being discussed?"

Kalakshetra rescinds permission for TM Krishnas book launch in Chennai auditorium cites possibility of instigating political social disharmony

TM Krishna's upcoming book, Sebastian and Sons. Image via Twitter/@TMKrishna

Referring to the contents of the letter issued by Kalakshetra, Krishna asked: "What do they mean by "political and social disharmony"? What are they talking about? Do they mean we shouldn't discuss people who are in the margins? Are they saying we shouldn't discuss because there is caste involved in this narrative? Do they mean we shouldn't discuss the fact that you need cow skin to make the mridangam?"

"You celebrate the great mridangam artists but it's not okay to say that it is the cow skin that is producing the resonance? Isn't that a strange hypocrisy?" he asked.

"This (the book) is not about me," Krishna said. This is about these great people. They are innovators, they are entrepreneurs. They have trodden paths that normal individuals usually don't. The book is a celebration of all of that. And, if my presence is creating all this ruckus, I really don't know how to react to that."

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