The strong, silent men of art scene

`Kartik' Rajagopal.  


On `Kartik' Rajagopal and Krishnaswamy, who were conferred Kalaimamani.

Sabha secretaries are accustomed to turning the spotlight on artistes. The job is a time consuming one demanding an unwavering devotion to the arts and utmost sangfroid in receiving both bouquets and brickbats. The secretary is the strong and silent man who is responsible in a large way for the success of a sabha programme, the man of the moment during the festival season and the one who makes the wheels move even at other times. The Kalaimamani turns the spotlight on two veterans who have received the award for 2004 and 2005: "Recognition by the Government is very important," says 83-year old `Kartik' R. Rajagopal who has been given the award for the propagation of the arts and culture for 2004. He has been a voluntary organiser for the past 55 years, nurturing the arts at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club from 1951 to 1974 and later at the Kartik Fine Arts as Secretary. "We are especially interested in the growth of drama," Rajagopal says. The Kartik Fine Arts has been conducting an annual festival of drama in summer in which nine plays are inaugurated, throwing up fresh talent and encouraging the writing of new plays. "The advent of TV has definitely affected the attendance at plays. Music and dance have grown over the years but drama has declined," says the veteran who retired from the Post Master General's office. "Good stories and themes, with well written dialogue and touches of humour, are necessary for plays to succeed. There is a now a paucity of good playwrights." Rajagopal lists the qualities needed for voluntary work — meticulous attention to detail, punctuality, sacrificing time with the family and teamwork. "I have had the support of assistant secretaries M.R. Krishnamurthi and Ramanujam. We are happy when the audience enjoys a programme, all the pinpricks in organising it then melt away," says Rajagopal who has provided a platform for the plays of the present leading lights of Tamil theatre and cinema. "The category for organisers was introduced for the Kalaimamani awards only in 1996-97," says R. Krishnaswamy (69), Secretary of the Narada Gana Sabha, which was set up in 1958. `It is good to gain recognition from the government but we take it as and when it comes. For artistes it is a "must," helping in the growth of their career in various ways but for us it is not something to anguish over."

Most are lawyers

Most sabha secretaries are lawyers, Krishnaswamy points out. `The profession gives us an opportunity to come into contact with people from various fields but our job suffers as we have to devote our evenings to the sabha." His preference in the arts is music followed by dance and drama. "Drama does not lift you to a spiritual level as music does," he explains. "Of course it can carry a good message for society but that is seldom the case nowadays. Good stories are hard to find and if the play is bad, the audience takes us to task." But a sabha secretary must be impartial, he must not let his preferences in the arts influence his choice of programmes and artistes, says Krishnswami who is associated with various cultural institutions. Sabhas have to face a lot of difficulties, according to Krishanswamy. ``There is no tax exemption. We have to pay corporation tax of Rs. 1,500 a day whether a programme is held or not. We have to choose programmes taking into account the tastes of the elderly as well as youngsters. The plus factor of being a secretary is the regard members and generally artistes have for us. And the cardinal rule is that sabha functionaries should treat the artistes with dignity and honour. The artiste should be treated as a guest but that attitude is mostly missing nowadays. Often secretaries are not present to welcome the artistes at sabhas, only the technicians - the lights and mike men - are present." Not many in the younger generation are keen on becoming sabha secretaries, says Krishnaswami who continues to combine a busy career in law with the numerous responsibilities of a secretary of a leading sabha. He received the Kalimamani award for the year 2005. The Narada Gana Sabha also received the trophy for best cultural organisation.