26 August 2004
'Kaatha' becomes an exhibit
By C. Gouridasan Nair
IF HER husband were alive now, they would have celebrated their seventieth wedding anniversary next month in full glare of the media. When he was alive, they were one of the most photographed celebrity couple in Kerala. There was no 'Thakazhichettan' without his 'Kaatha' always hovering around to hear him call her by her pet name. Today, her celebrity husband is but a memory and she a forlorn soul in the space that they shared for more than six decades.
To the Jnanpith award-winning writer, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, she was just 'Kaatha'. To thousands of fellow writers and admirers, she was 'Kaatha chechi'. The feature-writers and pen pushers of mainstream Malayalam media raised them to iconic status.
Till the master craftsman of Malayalam literature was around, she was as much in the public glare as he was. No longer. Today, she is weak, hardly able to cover the space that separates her from her part of their former home to his last resting place, which is today a public monument.
'Kaazhchavasthukkal' (Exhibits), a 59-minute docu-feature by Raj Nair, the great writer's grandson, which seeks to map the evolution of 'Kaathamma' from a village belle to the lonely 85-year-old, was previewed at the Kalabhavan in the city today with several celebrities in attendance.
The film, according to Nair, is both about his 'Ammoomma' and 'the realities of ageing, conflicts between the past and present, the depressing colour of loneliness, but, above all, the redeeming power of love and memory.' Over to critics.
Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar
© Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu
13 April 2004
Economics of museums
By K.G. Kumar
LAST week The Hindu reported that the promise made by the State Government to build a memorial to Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai - amongst Kerala's greatest writers - at his ancestral home
"Sankaramangalam" at Thakazhi in Allapuzha district, remains to be fulfilled even years after his death. The project to upgrade the Sankaramangalam house to a world-class museum was announced by the former Cultural Affairs Minister, Mr T.K. Ramakrishnan, two years after Thakazhi's death. According to the master plan prepared by the State Government, the museum was to include an auditorium and halls where scenes from Thanazhi's various novels would be enacted.
Following the announcement of the Minister, the Sankaramangalam house was acquired by the State Government on February 8, 2001.
His wife Karthiyayani Amma, better known as Kaatha, was allowed to live in the house at a nominal rent of one rupee a month. At present, the house is in the custody of the State Archaeological Department. And, apparently, that is where the matter will probably lie buried.
This development, however unfortunate, was only to be expected for, all over the world, building museums has always been an avenue for the conspicuous expression of personal, foundation, corporate and civic wealth and self-confidence — all of which are conspicuous by their absence in Kerala.
That is sad since, together with sports stadia and conference centres, architecturally distinctive cultural buildings have become one of the tools with which cities, regions and countries project a distinctive and attractive profile when competing for tourists, inward investment and brand identity. As one commentator has pointed out, they have become instruments of public policy valued as much for their contribution to wider agendas for social inclusion and economic regeneration as for their intrinsic worth.
In practice, however, many museums are undercapitalised and their balance sheets are splattered in red. Insufficient working capital, poor reserves, mediocre human resources, weak lines of credit, structural deficits — the list of woes is endless. As a result, museums and cultural centres find it difficult to fund routine repairs or depreciation. They under-invest in the remuneration and development of human resources, making it difficult to attract and retain staff with transferable skills or develop those without them.
Yet, innovative avenues can be explored. Take the case of the UK. Much of the fuel for growth of museums in the UK has been the availability of funding from the national lottery. This source began to be tapped in 1995. However, a new Labour government in 1997, new lottery legislation, and the growing realisation that museum building is an inescapably loss-making business turned the flow down to a trickle four years later.
As an inevitably red-ink business, museums require subsidy in the form of contributed income or grants to survive. In today's liberalised world, who dares utter the S word? And so it is highly unlikely if the Thakazhi museum project will ever see the light of day. Kerala is too poor to afford a memorial to one of its greatest sons. May Thakazhi rest in peace, and may his memory be preserved in the printed word, sans museums, sans artefacts.
© Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu Business Line
10 April 2004 - Kerala
Thakazhi memorial fails to take off
By Our Staff Reporter
ALAPPUZHA, APRIL 9. The promise made by the State Government to build a memorial to the late writer, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, at his ancestral home Sankaramangalam at Takazhi in the district, remains to be fulfilled even years after his death. The project to upgrade the Sankaramangalam house to a world-class museum was announced by the former Cultural Affairs Minister, T.K. Ramakrishnan, two years after Thakazhi's death. According to the master plan prepared by the State Government, the museum was to include an auditorium and halls where the characters of various novels of the late writer would be depicted.
The plan also envisaged to constructing a library and reading room and a literary research centre. Mr. Ramakrishnan had also announced that the Government would appoint guides at the museum to explain Thakazhi's works to visitors.
Following the announcement of the Minister, the Sankaramangalam house was acquired by the State Government on February 8, 2001. His wife Karthiyayani Amma alias Katha was allowed to live in the house at a nominal rent of one rupee a month. At present the house is in the custody of the State Archaeological Department.
The project to build a museum failed to take off. There are allegations that the Rs. 30-lakh allotted by the Government for the purpose has been diverted for other purposes. Though the wife of the late writer reminded the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, about the unfulfilled project during his stopover at Sankaramangalam en route his visit to the drought-hit areas of Kuttanad recently, he failed to make any commitment.
© Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu