As the 51st Kerala State School Arts Festival nears its conclusion, it becomes necessary to introspect upon the attitude of students towards art forms.

Classical arts used to be considered an inherent part of the cultural heritage. Acquiring such knowledge was deemed of great relevance.

However, of late, there has been a disturbing trend that finds a majority seeking to learn the various intricacies of similar art forms in an attempt to attain other beneficial ends.

Bitter might be the truth in learning that a large number of students flock to the doorsteps of classical exponents with an ambition of grasping a certain amount of knowledge with the mere aim of performing well at the numerous multi-level arts festivals conducted in the State. Among the large number of pupils, it is a pitiable few that goes on to retain the artistic glow within, notwithstanding, the commitments posed by their vocations.

“Barely less than 5 per cent of these students continue to practice the dance forms they had learnt during their school days. Most among the rest seek their futures in the conventionally sought-after trades of engineering and healthcare,” says N.G. Satheesan Neeleswaram, a Kuchupuddi and Bharatanatyam exponent, who pursues a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) at the Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts College, Tiruchirapalli.

Various reasons may be attributed to this tendency. An interesting cause could be the possibility of the Grade A at any competition of the State Arts Festival leading to the 30 secured grace marks at the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (S.S.L.C.) examinations or the Higher Secondary (Plus Two) examinations, depending on the participant’s category. Former student of the Chilanka Kalakshetram Anil K. Gopinath, an exponent of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattom and Kuchupuddi corroborates to the same. “Many among my wards have admittedly taken up classical dance classes mainly with the sole intention of achieving these grace marks,” he says.

Yet another reason could justify the move on the students’ part to absolve from the long-term commitment towards fine arts. Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi awardee Kalamandalam Prabhakaran points out that continuing with these art forms might not be fruitful in generating the necessary income for subsistence. “Most of the times, it becomes hard to make both ends meet simply by performing at cultural shows and stages. As a result, many artists resort to other modes of occupation so as to satiate themselves financially,” says Prabhakaran, who has worked in the mechanical wing of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).