While the Chennai edition of The Hindu’s Lit for Life (October 29-30) saw authors, academics, filmmakers and others discuss literature in its various forms, there were some interesting topics being examined on the sidelines as well. One such was on the issue of corporate sponsorship of the arts, between Leela Samson (dancer-director, Kalakshetra, and chairperson, Sangeet Natak Akademi, and the Central Board for Film Certification) and Firdose A. Vandrevala (CMD Hirco Developments Private Limited). Excerpts:

Leela Samson: It’s interesting that a company that’s involved in building cities, would sponsor a literature festival. Why would you do something like that?

Firdose Vandrevala: Several reasons. For one, we’ve got a major project coming up in Chennai and the arts and literature are a big part of life here. Also we’re not just building townships in terms of engineering, steel and concrete. Our philosophy is to build life; there’s more to buildings than water supply and electricity. Those are the minimum hardware. But what goes into the software of creating a fuller, richer life? We want to understand that.

LS: Of course, today there is a lot of public-private partnership (PPP). Many cultural bodies are moving into that sphere. But there is an element of suspicion given that the profiles are so different. The arts, literature, education… most creative processes are so fragile and delicate. How can these two contrary forces come together without bearing too hard on each other?

FV: With PPP, it’s not public or private that’s important. The focus should be on the word ‘partnership’. That’s important, as long as the goals are common and both partners are efficient. For us, PPP translates as people, planet and profit. There’s more to building a school or a hospital than the utilisation of space. It’s a means to an end not the end itself. In a similar way, there is a way in which arts and the corporate world can come together.

LS: For a long time, we have been trying to get over the huge hump of finance. Artists are still paid very poorly but their expertise is on a par with any top company or other artists in the world. This augurs well for the future if we can come together with a sense of social responsibility.

FV: It should be more than social responsibility or finance. There are three phases of life: dependence as a child, independence as a teenager and inter-dependence as a mature adult. Similarly, there is interdependence between the arts and creating a better quality of life, which is what we’re trying to do.

LS: It’s more than the money factor. My impression, when I took over Kalakshetra for instance, was the lack of dialogue between institutions, between dancers and painters or musicians and theatre persons … they’re islands of great work. Of course, there is a huge divide between most artists and the film world…largely because the latter is bigger and has a wider reach. When I became CBFC chairman, I realised that the two worlds must be brought together

FV: In the industry, we talk of co-operative competition…

LS: Competition is fine but to look down or up on two different art forms; they’ve become strongly divided sectors. Which is why I’m personally delighted that avenues of interaction are opening up.

FV: We’re willing to learn from the arts. As engineers, we know what goes into buildings. But when we look at life as a whole, we know we have to have to turn to the arts and literature for an overall perspective.

Keywords: Lit for Life

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