Dubai: He quit India's
space agency many years ago to spur a revival of India's cultural
traditions across the world. Today, Nataraja 'Soorya'
Krishnamoorthy is busy trying to rejuvenate Kerala's age-old arts,
enable folk and theatre artists to live a more dignified life and
also integrate Malayali artistes living outside Kerala, especially
those in the Gulf countries.
Krishnamoorthy, the brain behind the reputed Soorya Festival, is
determined to use his position as the current Kerala Sangeetha
Nataka Akademi chairman to make a difference by recognising "the
genuine artistes" in the state and the contribution of Pravasi
Malayalis - those living outside it.
"I want people to know who the genuine artistes are. All these
years I have been doing it through Soorya, now I will use my
position to implement it," Krishnamoorthy, who has been a member
of the expert committee of the Indian government's Department of
Culture, told IANS in an interview here.
And by genuine artistes, he refers to those practising classical
dance, music, theatre, Vaadyam (the percussionists of Kerala) and
Kathaprasangam (the centuries-old art of storytelling that is high
in satire and carries messages of social reform), apart from other
folk and ritualistic arts.
"If these people are full-time professional artistes, they are
poor. They are unable to earn money from their arts," said
Krishnamoorthy, who quit the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
after putting in 27 years as an engineer-scientist.
Thus, the first step he took within months of assuming office last
year was to get the artists medical insurance with help from
several well-wishers, including top Malayalam movie stars.
"Their health is a priority. They are unable to go to hospital or
buy medicines. So we are now providing them mediclaim upto
Rs.100,000. They can get admitted to any hospital, hire an
ambulance and buy medicines. And I haven't taken money from the
government to pay the insurance premium. Several people like
(actors) Mohanlal and Mammootty have given huge amounts because of
their friendship. So also B.R. Shetty, the CEO of UAE Exchange."
Krishnamoorthy has also secured them life insurance policies in
case of accidents.
"These artists often have to drive home at night after a
performance in faraway towns. And this many times leads to
accidents and death. In such cases, Rs.200,000 will go to their
Krishnamoorthy's biggest link to the Gulf countries is Shetty,
also the chairman of the NMC healthcare group and the chief patron
of the Soorya Festival. He hopes to now integrate more Pravasi
Malayalis through culture.
"Gulf Malayalis miss their culture so they preserve it better. So
they must be recognised," he stressed, referring to the over 25
lakh Malayalis in the region.
"I thought Pravasi Malayalis should also get some benefit of the
Akademi. They have never been recognised so far."
Krishnamoorthy also has the support of Kerala Chief Minister Oomen
Chandy. "The chief minister said that with half the effort, you
will get double the benefit in Gulf countries."
Having held meetings with several Malayali organisations in the
Gulf, his aim is to unite them through the Akademi, cutting across
communities and religion.
"It's a great dream to bring together the Malayali associations in
the Gulf," he said.
Krishnamoorthy wants three awards, equivalent to the Akademi award
in Kerala, to be given to artistes in each Gulf country. He has
also started the process of holding theatre competitions in the
The move to assimilate the Gulf Malayalis comes close on the heels
of reaching out to those living in different parts of India.
"We have made four zones with headquarters at Chennai, Delhi,
Kolkata and Mumbai. We are trying to give five Akademi awards to
artistes living outside Kerala."
Krishnamoorthy is the founder of the 36 year-old Soorya Stage and
Film Society, which has chapters in 36 countries, including
Britain, Australia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The Soorya
Festival, which has been recognised as the longest running
festival in the world by the Limca Book of Records, has now become
a 365-day event spanning several Indian cities.
Having spent decades promoting Indian culture, Krishnamoorthy is
disillusioned at the way artistes are treated by the government
and the people.
"Our tradition says artistes are not for entertaining others.
Artistes are very close to god. But Bollywood stars and
sportspersons get Padma awards at a very young age but artistes
who give their whole life to art and culture get no recognition,"
Krishnammorthy lamented, citing eminent Malayalam playwright
Thoppil Bhasi and poet P. Bhaskaran among those who truly deserved
Asked why he quit his well-paying ISRO job to promote cultural
traditions, he attributed this to an "inner calling".
"Even if one person gets enriched with each of my efforts, I get a
sense of satisfaction," Krishnammorthy said.
(Malavika Vettath can be contacted at email@example.com)