Why is the artiste community up in arms against you?
I am not responsible for people's personal frustrations. Some people in the Akademi do not want the steering committee report on financial irregularities to be brought out in the open. I have refused to be a part of the misdoings happening in the Akademi. So I am a danger to them.
Why are vice-chairman Kavalam Narayana Panikker and other artistes seeking your removal from the post?
Mr Panikker has said openly that he cannot work under a woman. He is 75 and I am only 62. He feels he is senior and thinks that as the vice chairman he should enjoy unlimited powers. Is it true that you wanted to change the name of Sangeet Natak Akademi to Sangeeta Nritya Akademi?
Half a dozen dancers pointed out that the Akademi's name did not reflect dance and at their behest I proposed that we make it Sangeet Natya Akademi. By "natya" I meant it as in Bharata's Natyashastra, a compendium of acting, dance and music. It was a proposal before the executive board. I was not trying to take a unilateral decision.
Why are theatre artistes complaining that theatre is being sidelined?
Over 40 per cent of the Akademi's grant is for theatre. The rest is shared between dance, music, puppetry, folk and tribal arts, publications etc. In 2004, over nine major theatre events took place. There are as many awards for theatre as for other art forms.
What are they complaining about? One camp says you are saffron and another says you are just a rank opportunist. What do you have to say?
(Agitated) What is saffron? What is red and what is black? And who is white? ... At the ripe old age of 62, with 45 years of professional life, if I were an opportunist I would not be living in a three-room rented flat, driving my own car. My opportunism would have taken me to palaces and chauffeur-driven Rolls Royces. You are supposed to have campaigned for Narendra Modi and got him to propose your mother's name for Padmashree?
I never campaigned for Modi. Where is the proof ? How low can these people stoop? (Her eyes fill up) Dragging my 92-year-old mother who has spent her whole life working for the welfare of tribal women into this controversy is the limit.
But the Akademi staff is supposed to ve terrified of your autocratic ways?
It is I who am terrified of them. I don't know which one is going to stab me in the back.
INTERVIEW WITH KAVALAM NARAYANA PANIKKER
Why has it become imperative to remove Sonal Mansingh from the post of chairman of the Akademi?
Her autocratic manner has created this situation. She has been flouting norms of the Akademi. Funds are not released to institutions and she interferes in the day-to-day functioning of the Akademi. She cannot be allowed to destroy an old and venerated institution in this manner.