Arts institute Kalakshetra is in the eye of another storm with staff filing a second petition seeking to strike down rules under which its director Leela Samson was reinstated on June 29. The 61-year-old dancer had recently returned to the post after resigning in a huff over an age-related controversy. Samson had said that the governing board of the institute, which comes under the Union ministry of culture, told her that she could hold onto the post after retirement age.
After she was reinstated, Sai Sankar, assistant professor in music at Kalakshetra Foundation, filed a petition recently at the Madras high court. "The rules framed for the recruitment of director post under Kalakshetra Foundation Act, 1993, is not in consonance with the Act," said Sankar in his petition. He said that the rule was framed to accommodate Samson as director and had ignored the Central government stipulations.
Another petition seeking Samson's removal based on her attaining superannuation is pending before the high court. According to Gopalkrishna Gandhi, chairman of the Kalakshetra Foundation, the institute continues to function despite the impending legal battle. "Classes are proceeding as always. There have been positive developments such as the return of A Janardhanan, former principal, in an emeritus capacity," he said.
Also, Pandanallur Swaminatha Pillai of the Pandanallur school of bharatanatyam is conducting a teaching workshop, he said. But the artist community finds the situation disturbing. "I don't know about the legal developments but it is distressing. The art world is plagued by politics and conflict," said dancer Alarmel Valli. "Something as marvelous as art should bring out the best in people. Instead, we are bogged down by backbiting and cutthroat competition and forget to focus on dance," she said.
Under Samson, Kalakshetra flourished and she should be allowed to do her job, Valli added. After her dramatic return, artists and staff thought the controversy had ended. "Beyond all these litigations I think the answers lies in a conversation between all the people involved -- the board, director and teachers -- keeping in mind the organisation," said musician T M Krishna.