Difficult to find a successor as dynamic as Leela Samson, say staff and students

In addition to board members of Kalakshetra, who plan to take up the issue of Leela Samson's resignation, senior artistes have voiced their concern about the development. Alumni, staff and students also feel it is a big loss to the institution.

Violinist and composer Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, who has been closely associated with Kalakshetra, said such an institution required a leader with both, efficiency in administration as well as sensitivity to the arts. “Leela Samson perfectly fit that role. She is someone who values tradition, and at the same time, is very progressive and contemporary in her outlook. She had a clear vision for her alma mater and was committed to working towards that,” he said.

Observing that it would be difficult to find a successor as dynamic and appropriate, he said: “If age alone was the criterion, then many others may be eligible for the same post. However, Leela Samson is someone who has been with Kalakshetra from the time she was under Rukmini Devi Arundale. She not only appreciates the ideals of the institution, but is also well-equipped to spearhead good initiatives. And over the last seven years, we have seen her do that remarkably. The government should make an exception in this case and re-appoint her,” Mr. Jayaraman said.

Nagaswaram exponent Sembanarkoil S.R.G. Rajanna said he was shocked to hear the news. “Leela Samson made the institution very accessible, and got artistes representing various styles and traditions to come and perform at Kalakshetra,” he said. It was rare to find an open-minded artiste like her, Mr. Rajanna said, adding that her passionate approach to the arts and outlook towards other artistes made her a great leader. “It is very sad that she will not be heading the institution anymore. I hope the situation changes,” he said.

Younger colleagues also have great regard for Leela Samson. A young Bharatanatyam teacher and alumnus remarked: “I have great respect for her as a guru, but I have also worked with her closely, as a colleague here. Leela akka was straightforward in her approach and her functioning was transparent; looks like there was some sort of pressure. About two weeks ago, she told me that she might step down, but I was hoping she does not.”

Meera Nangiar, an alumnus, said Ms. Samson was a simple and understated person. “She would land up in our hostel riding our bicycle to check if we were all fine. As director, she created platforms for students to perform and grow,” she said.

A Bharatanatyam student at Kalakshetra said she could not imagine having a new director. “She has been taking interest not just in our artistic growth, but also personal welfare. She was truly involved.”