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Standing tall and organizing all!

Priya Raman takes a de-tour into what the South Indian Cultural Association encompasses in its pioneering work in the propagation of the performing arts in twin cities.

52 years of service, 21 office bearers,1025 members, 50 annual festivals, 22 Nrityotsavs and countless monthly festivals. SICA (South Indian Cultural Association), Hyderabad should owe credit to these numbers, but simply put these numbers are rightfully credited by SICA in its pursuit of promoting Indian fine arts and culture. And if statistics are not legitimate enough, the quality of culture that SICA brings to modern day rasikas speaks volumes of the organization’s stature.

A formal function of SICA (from the SICA archives)

Established in 1958 as an ambitious parallel to the ‘Sabha culture’ in Chennai, South Indian Cultural Association, though prominently claiming to be endorsing classical music, has given a considerable ascend to the performing standards in the classical dance as well. The organization drifts away from the pay-to-perform routine as Shri Chakrapani, Honarary Secretary, firmly puts forth "Public sector organizations, particularly, financial and banking institutions, business and industrial undertakings at times, provide for and allot a part of their surplus funds to support and sponsor events such as our art festivals. As of now, but for the support and funding from these institutions, it would indeed be a herculean effort to keep the organization going. However, SICA has been fortunate enough to get liberal support from many such institutions, and at times grant in aid from the Government of Andhra Pradesh." He fears imagining as to what would be the situation like when these funds stop flowing to cultural organizations! SICA, as a matter of principle, does not go in for donations from individuals or seek funds from individuals, obviously due to its inherent obligations!

Padma Bhushan ML Vasanthakumari's performance (from the SICA archives)

The organization thus has featured a lineage of artistes ranging from youngsters to luminaries to stalwarts in both classical music and dance, right from Madurai Mani Iyer, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, GN Balasubramanian, ML Vasanthakumari, NC Vasantha Gokilam, P Leela, DK Pattammal, KB Sundarambal, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Iyer, Alathur Brothers, Radha and Jayalakshmi and Shaik Chinna Moulana Saheb, KV Narayanaswamy, Chitti Babu, Emani Sankara Sastry, Kunnakudi, to present day artists, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, Yesudas, Sudha Raghunathan, Bombay Jayashri, Sikkil Sisters, Priya Sisters, Aruna Sairam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, TN Krishnan, Kadiri Gopalnath, Hyderabad Brothers, Kumaresh and Ganesh.

Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi's performance (from the SICA archives)

Hindustani music greats like late Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Bismillah Khan have regularly performed for its annual festivals, which have also featured Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Begum Parven Sultana, Kishori Amonker, Rajan and Sajan Misra, Pandit Jasraj and many more. The icing on the cake is the fact that Sangeetha Kalanidhi Bharat Ratna M S Subbulakshmi has performed for SICA nine times during her life. Some of the dignitaries who blessed SICA by their gracious presence include the first President of India - Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sri C Rajagopalachari, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, and Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh to name a few.

...40 percent of our audience comprised youngsters about 25 years back. Now with added professional and peer pressures, youngsters do not find their way towards classical arts. The concerning issue is a materialistic mentality. Classical arts need passion sans expectations...
Among the dance fraternity while Vempati Chinna Satyam’s ballets have been a great attraction, names like Padma Subramaniam, Dhanjayans, Raja Reddy and Radha Reddy, Sonal Mansingh, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Vyjayanthimala, Swapnasundari, Briju Maharaj, Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Sobha Naidu, and Malavika Sarukkai draw prominence.

Hyderabad Brothers' performance (from the SICA archives)

During one of my interactions with Shri Rajasekharan, Joint Secretary, SICA in the run up to making this feature, he verbally stated "We would give you all the information, but coming to our office would not be a good idea. We do not want to put a lady in trouble." One may wonder why this statement, and for all this I had already visited the office, set inside the LB Stadium in the Public Gardens area. The office is just a room with one table, a cupboard, a desk, couple of chairs, a table fan and a sizeable area at one part converted literally and religiously into a pooja room with numerous idols. It is here that the very popular Tamil saying fits in – "moorthy chinnathaanalum keerthi periyathu", literally meaning don't judge the worth of a people by their size. I deliberately put facts as it is because this is where as a youngster one needs to learn that it does not need the slimmest of monitors, the best of gadgets, air conditioned rooms and extravagant display to serve the arts. All it needs is like minded people to give some time of their life to live the arts! Also consider the fact that SICA’s office bearers, as I distinctly observed, are mostly senior citizens and work after office with passion, pleasure and commitment! Next time you think of upgrading your gadget, think again, you could sponsor an artiste in that cost!

I vehemently question the absence of the young crowd and Shri Chakrapani contemplates from all angles "As a matter of fact, about forty percent of our audience comprised youngsters about twenty five years back. Now with added professional and peer pressures, youngsters do not find their way towards classical arts. The concerning issue is a materialistic mentality. Classical arts need passion sans expectations. Young artistes today also put their foot down on their material requirements for performances!"

This all senior staff has their own sweet nothings. Every time you enter Ravindra Bharathi for a SICA programme, you would invariably come across a group of octogenarians at the counter very diligently giving away tickets, doing accounts and handling cash. Maamas and maamis dressed in their best Kanchivaram pattus, straight out of the famous Chennai stores, would come well prepared, and the show would start off right on time.

Dignitaries during a performance (from the SICA archives)

While all looks well on the front side, Shri Chakrapani more than willingly shares some organizational fun and frolic, hazards and managements. "Sometimes, we wonder how some artists make it a habit to reach the venue just a couple of minutes before the slated time and start complaining of some (imaginary) deficiencies in the stage arrangements, which even if really true, obviously cannot be rectified in minutes. One senior artist, in the middle of the concert, chose to demand the organizer some butter milk; her request was that it should not be sour and should be homemade and laced with a little salt and asafetida. Around Ravindra Bharathi, where the concert was held, there were hardly any residential houses in those days and it is left to anyone’s imagination as to what the organization would do in such a situation. But still it was managed - thanks to the offer of another artiste, who left the concert, rushed to her house two kilometers away from the venue, and got the 'desired' buttermilk".

"A leading Hindustani instrumental artist, who confirmed his participation in one of SICA’s annual festival in the seventies, made me jittery, when I contacted his residence. His wife told me that as per the diary kept in the house, there was no concert in Hyderabad that evening, and that the artist himself was on a concert tour of Australia and reaching New Delhi on the day on which our programme was being held. There was no chance for contacting the artist. Fortunately, the artist did reach Hyderabad late in the evening that day and came direct for the concert!"

"Due to lack of communication, the accompanying artists of a leading vocalist whose concert was to be the inaugural of one of our annual festival, left for Chennai, in stead of Hyderabad. Since we were informed that all of them are coming from Guntur direct to Hyderabad for the concert we were awaiting their arrival at 5.00 PM, but to our shock, the vocal artist who reached here before, enquired with us if the accompanying artists had arrived! Just an hour was left and the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Kumud Ben Joshi was to inaugurate the festival at 6.30 PM. Again, fortunately, we could fix up the violin, mridangam and ghatam artists locally and the programme started on time!"

Public sector organizations, particularly, financial and banking institutions, and business and industrial undertakings at times, provide for and allot a part of their surplus funds to support and sponsor events such as our art festivals...
The organizational issues do not end here. Every event of SICA being a high profile function, has involved dignitaries from among the Government, art fraternity, sponsors, Judicial and Industrial bigwigs, press, members and their families. All this calls for a great deal of patience, tolerance and presence of mind to handle every situation without causing a heart burn. It is here the role of SICA Committee members and volunteers is laudable!

Shri Chakrapani adds "It is but natural for the artists to expect a reasonable increase in the compensation for their concerts, more so, when they are invited by leading sabhas like SICA, in various metropolitan areas. In some cases, the artists jack up their demand assuming for themselves that they are on the 'most sought after' list, though the organizers know well what could be the response for their concerts. Often it is the gate collection that an organizer thinks of while settling the compensation for any artist, and a personal one-to-one relationship is the best way to tackle this delicate problem. What is reasonable compensation will always remain an intricate problem and a dicey issue for the Secretaries of Sabhas everywhere."

Padma Bhusan Vempati Chinna Satyam and his troupe (from the SICA archives)
Amongst all this chaos, SICA today stands tall in its integrated vision to promote and preserve the great cultural heritage of our nation in the field of fine arts. In this mission it acknowledges support from the Department of Culture, Government of Andhra Pradesh, in all its associations and in its gesture of promise for allotting a plot of land for an auditorium (though it has been in the pipeline for a number of years now!).

From the threshold at which SICA is today, Shri Chakrapani rather satisfactorily signs off saying "SICA’s credit comes from tremendous guidance and involvement of its President Dr S. Chakravarthy, IAS(Rtd.),the humble office bearers who work tirelessly in its motive and the artiste fraternity who consider it a lifetime, an honorable and prestigious platform to perform for it."

I leave you with a quote to substantiate the commendable effort accomplished by this organization -
"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."
- Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Thanks for showcasing such organization efforts. Could you please also provide contact details of SICA?

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