The art world has reacted with angst and indignation to an incident in which a Mohiniyattam performance by noted danseuse Neena Prasad was stopped by District Judge Kalam Pasha here on Saturday evening.
Mr. Pasha, who lives behind Government Moyan Lower Primary School in Palakkad town, ordered around 8.30 p.m. on Saturday that Neena Prasad’s Mohiniyattam show held on the school compound be stopped as it became a nuisance for him.
The hour-long performance titled ‘Sakhyam’ that portrayed the strains in the relations between Krishna and Arjuna was stopped midway, forcing the senior artiste and her team to leave the stage in tears. The show was part of a cultural evening organised by the Sekharipuram Grandhasala where the book Ithihasangale Thedi authored by Sreechitran M.J. was released.
“This was the bitterest experience of my dance career,” said Dr. Prasad. “It was a humiliating experience not only for me, but also for the fellow artistes who mounted the stage with high hopes after more than two years of hibernation,” Dr. Prasad told The Hindu.
She alleged that it was the high-handedness of a judicial officer. In response to her Facebook post, many described Mr. Pasha’s action as an infringement on cultural freedom.
Dr. Prasad said she had come to Palakkad after spending hours preparing for the dance choreography. “It was an intricate solo performance for which I dedicated a lot of my time. It was performed with sober instruments such as violin, mridangam and edakka. It wasn’t certainly a cacophony,” she said.
The Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham protested against the incident, saying the judge’s action was cultural intolerance. In a statement on Monday, Sangham president Shaji N. Karun and general secretary Ashokan Charuvil called upon the people to resist attempts to silence artistes and cultural leaders.
They said the State would not brook any move to stifle its art and culture. “The people of Kerala always give more respect and importance to artistes than bureaucrats and judges. It is time we remembered that we had a Prime Minister who gave a higher position to an artiste (M.S. Subbulakshmi),” they said.
Swaralaya secretary T.R. Ajayan described the incident as “a shame” on the State. “We never expected such an unfortunate behavior from a judge. It is nothing but high-handedness of power. Look at the broken roads in Palakkad. He should have made a positive intervention there,” said Mr. Ajayan.
Police said they had no choice when asked by the judge to stop the show. It was not the first time that Mr. Pasha intervened in the programmes held on the school compound.