Aging writers, art impresarios, grey-haired theatre veterans and soon-to retire art teachers are all waiting with bated breath and fingers crossed for the Chandigarh administration to announce the new officebearers of its cultural akademis following the unprecedented advertisement inviting applications for the chairman and other posts.
For the first time, the administration advertised the posts of its Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Sahitya Akademi on a fixed honorarium in a move to play art patron with a difference. Hitherto these were honorary posts offered to artists, writers and performing art experts whom the administration deemed competent. Of course, the inside story is that much lobbying would take place to be appointed to these posts. However, in a surprise move, the administration advertised these posts leaving the arty community aghast. It seemed demeaning to most subject experts that they file applications and appear with bio-data in front of officers for honorary posts. But there were some who welcomed this process, reportedly designed by Bhawna Garg, finance secretary, who earlier held the charge of culture for some time.
However, there were some who welcomed this democratic move. Ishwar Dayal, an artist teaching in the local College of Art, says, “I am happy that the administration has advertised these posts because no akademi should be the monopoly of any one person.”
Rani Balbir Kaur, theatre director (HT Photo)
Theatre director Rani Balbir Kaur holds that this is a welcome move for those without connections in government circles.
Home secretary Anurag Aggarwal also favoured the move saying, “It was a way of getting to know more accomplished people in different fields before taking a final decision.”
The fixed honorarium of Rs 20,000 for the chairpersons, which will include all expense spent on conveyance, telephones and other things. Many feel that the earlier system of reimbursement of actual expense was more dignified and assigning a small sum to an art expert is not a very sensitive move.
No art policy
Kamal Tewari, former head of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (HT Photo)
Meanwhile, actor-musician Kamal Tewari, former chairperson of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi, feels that art patronage by the government will always create difficult situations and adds, “This is because there has never been a composite art policy in the country and most decisions are taken in an ad hoc manner.” The purists who believe in only creative pursuit and choose to stay away from the organisation of art or its politics for that matter are less concerned with the matter as well-known painter Satwant Singh puts it, “All this is peripheral to art and should not be the concern of an artist. To be outstanding, it is best to be an outsider.”
Interaction, not interview
Anurag Aggarwal, home secretary (HT Photo)
Anyhow, applicants to the advertisement were scant so the administration took the softer step of inviting known personalities not for ‘interview’ but for ‘interaction’. What then is the net result of the whole exercise? Aggarwal reveals, “We are in the process of selecting the chairpersons and the process should be completed in a week.”
It will be then that the names of the chairpersons are announced who will in turn select their team. Meanwhile, speculation continues in art circles. It is also learned that the chosen three were further invited for an ‘interaction’ with the adviser so the countdown seems to have begun.