Creative spaces Art

Artist and his ‘kingdom’

Artist T. Kaladharan  

Artist and organiser of all things cultural, T. Kaladharan calls the city, in its entirety, his creative space; the place that nourished the creative in him. His alma mater, he calls it. He says he is richer for having been able to work here. “Kochi is my kingdom,” he says.

Kaladharan belongs to a generation of artists who were able to look beyond the narrow confines of their ‘area of specialisation’. He embraced art in it is many forms – as drama, cinema, music, literature and others. He had his art education under MRD Dethan, M.V. Devan, C.N. Karunakaran and Artist Namboodiri. When M.V. Devan founded Kerala Kalapeetom in 1978, Kaladharan found his karmabhoomi under his guru. Over the years he has become synonymous with Kalapeetom, the identities seem to have merged.

When Devan was looking for a space for Kalapeetom, Kaladharan offered the property on Karikkamuri Cross Road that belonged to his father. And Kerala Kalapeetom got an address. Later on it moved to PT Usha Road before returning to its original location in the early 2000s.

In time, Kalapeetom became Orthic Creative Centre and in 2008 Nanappa Art Gallery, as a tribute to his father Narayanankutty Menon known as Nanappa. That Kerala Kalapeetom has all but ceased to be pains him. He says, “my family and friends have advised me not to revive it and I trust them.”

More than as an artist, his creative space is also as an organiser. Kerala Kalapeetom organised the popular ‘Sahitya Sandhya’, ‘Nataka Sandhya’, ‘Sangeetha Sayhanam’ and ‘Nritya Sayhanam’ through the 80s, 90s and sporadically in the last decade.

He says his is a case of the mountain coming to Mohammed. “I wasn’t able to travel much. But so what? I have had the privilege of hosting greats such as Mulk Raj Anand, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, Kamala Devi (in both her avatars), M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and so many others I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise.”

The airy, well-lit Nanappa Art Gallery doesn’t see as much activity as it did in the past. The well-loved space is perfect for artistic pursuits and also a good place to listen to stories about a long ago Ernakulam before it became Kochi. Among the paraphernalia of art shows – brochures, remnants of art shows and art works – there are stories. Stories of how Balamuralikrishna offered to sing as a fund-raiser for Kalapeetom, disagreements, artists’ tantrums, heated discussions, and some wonderful memories of a bygone passionate era. The bamboo wind chime’s soothing notes sound the background score for the art gallery. This is Kaladharan’s personal space, his home, his work – “my life.”

“Times have changed. In the past Kalapeetom used to be packed with youngsters – as volunteers and participants. Today, participation of youngsters is nil. Those days parents gave children the space to engage in activities other than academics. Art was a collective effort in those days,” there is a touch of sorrow in Kaladharan’s tone. Physically too “the road blocks due to work on the Kochi Metro should not become a mental block to getting here to Nanappa Art Gallery.”

The city has grown in stature, artistically it has moved to greater things like the art biennale. But, one can’t help wondering if the genesis of it all lay in Kaladharan’s Kerala Kalapeetom which to many, is Orthic Creative Centre and to many others Nanappa Art Gallery.




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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 3:28:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/artist-and-his-kingdom/article6511516.ece

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