By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo: Nangiarkoothu exponent Usha Nangiar
On March 26, Nangiarkoothu exponent, Usha Nangiar, and her husband Kalamandalam Hariharan felt happy when they received a cash gift from the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi at an award ceremony at Thiruvananthapuram. More than 50 artistes were presented with cheques of Rs 15,000 each. Since Hariharan and Usha were a partner-couple, they received Rs 7500 each.
The next day, when Hariharan presented the cheque in the bank, the clerk refused to accept it. He said that it was a post-dated cheque. When Hariharan checked this, he noticed that the cheque was dated May 26. “We felt humiliated,” says Hariharan. “Is this the way to treat artistes? To give a cheque that is two months hence.”
Another artiste KY Sreeja said that the Akademi office-bearers had told her to put the cheque a few days after the event. “Somehow, I forgot to do it,” she says. But when she checked the date, following this reporter's call, she got a shock. “My God, it is dated May 26,” she says. “It's good I noticed it now.”
Meanwhile, Dr. PV Krishnan Nair, the secretary of the Akademi, confirmed that they had given post-dated cheques. “It was the end of the financial year,” he says. “There was a cash crunch. I do not deny it. That is why we gave cheques with a May dateline, because we would have got our annual grant in the new financial year. I don't know why artistes are upset when we specifically told them the reason why.” Incidentally, the annual budget for the Akademi is Rs 4.05 crore.
A peeved Hariharan said, “When we went to the Assam Akademi recently we were treated with so much of respect. The top leaders of our Akademi should also treat us with dignity.”
Eyewitnesses said that the function at Thiruvananthapuram took place in a small hall at Thycaud. As a result, many artistes had to remain standing.
The Akademi has been in a controversy in recent times. In December, 2014, it gave the Kalasree Award to film star Manju Warrier for Kuchupudi and the Pravasi Kalasree Award for chenda melam to actor Jayaram. “Why were these stars given awards, when several senior professional artists are yet to be honoured,” said an artist who preferred anonymity.
(Published in The New Indian Express, Kerala page)