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TM Krishna’s book launch scrapped over its ‘political overtones’

The book, which took Krishna four years to research and write, traces the story of Parlandu, a Dalit Christian and a well known mrdangam-maker. Krishna interviewed 43 makers of the percussion instrument and 10 players to write about the effects of caste discrimination on mrdangam makers.

south Updated: Jan 31, 2020 03:06 IST
MC Rajan & Dhamini Ratnam
MC Rajan & Dhamini Ratnam
Chennai/New Delhi
TM Krishna, a reputed Carnatic music singer, was to release his latest book, Sebastian & Sons: A brief history of Mrdangam Makers, on February 2 at the Rukmini Arangam auditorium of Kalakshetra.
TM Krishna, a reputed Carnatic music singer, was to release his latest book, Sebastian & Sons: A brief history of Mrdangam Makers, on February 2 at the Rukmini Arangam auditorium of Kalakshetra.(Mint)

Chennai-based Kalakshetra, an autonomous body under the ministry of Culture, cancelled the book launch of Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, TM Krishna in a letter sent Thursday, stating: “Being a government organization, it cannot allow any program that may instigate political, cultural and social disharmony.”

Krishna, a reputed Carnatic music singer, was to release his latest book, Sebastian & Sons: A brief history of Mrdangam Makers, on February 2 at the Rukmini Arangam auditorium of Kalakshetra, named after its founder, freedom fighter and Bharatnatyam exponent Rukmini Arundale. The letter written by Revathi Ramachandran, the director of Kalakshetra, and addressed to Westland publishers — which has published the book — stated that a review of the book which appeared in a newspaper on Thursday contained “certain statements relating to the book which touch controversial issues and certainly have a lot of political overtones...We were unaware of the controversies surrounding the subject matter of the book at the time of renting our auditorium for the book release,” Ramachandran wrote.

The book, which took Krishna four years to research and write, traces the story of Parlandu, a Dalit Christian and a well known mrdangam-maker. Krishna interviewed 43 makers of the percussion instrument and 10 players to write about the effects of caste discrimination on mrdangam makers.

Krishna described the decision of cultural insitution as “shocking” and said that he was at a loss to understand what the political overtones in the book were. “I have no words. The book is a celebration of the genius and creativity as well as the greatness of the generations of mrdangam makers, the Dalits across South India,” he said. “The book talks about caste and the technology employed [to make a mrdangam]. It is a reality. How can discussing it become political?” he asked. Countering the reasons cited for the cancellation, he said everybody knew what the book was about. “It has been there since last month. Why cancel at the last moment?” Executives at publisher Westland remained unavailable for comment.