The State Chalachitra Academy Chairman Kamal’s controversial letter to Culture Minister A K Balan has stirred up a nepotism row, raising questions about the film body’s partisan overview and embarrassing the Left Front government.
The row erupted after a letter written by veteran filmmaker Kamal who heads the State Chalachithra Academy. In the letter addressed to State Culture Minister A K Balan, Kamal makes a recommendation to regularise the appointment of four academy staff. After listing out their exemplary services for the academy, Kamal makes a bizarre statement – he wrote that regularising the four employees would help the academy sustain its “Leftist characteristic” as they are Left supporters and cultural activists who uphold “Leftist and progressive values”.
Kamal did not answer Onmanorama's multiple calls and a text message.
His colleagues Bina Paul (academy vice-chairperson) and Sajitha Madathil (general council member) refused to comment. Filmmaker Siby Malayil, another general council member, has also not responded to calls. Filmmaker T K Rajeev Kumar, who was the academy chairman from 2003-06, too refused to comment.
The Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, referred to the letter in the Assembly on Tuesday as an evidence of favouritism by the government, though the chief minister refuted the charge head on.
"Is being a Left sympathiser a criterion to get a permanent government job," the Congress leader asked. To this, CM Pinarayi Vijayan responded: "(Minister) Balan has himself responded to the academy chairman's letter that no government jobs or postings in Kerala are based on caste, creed, colour, or politics of anyone."
The CM may have shut the opposition leader's mouth with the sharp reply, but the issue with Kamal's innocuous-looking recommendation doesn't end there.
By attributing the so-called Left characteristic to the academy, Kamal has simply acknowledged the partisan attitude of the government-funded body. It is an open secret that most of the appointments to the government-funded cultural bodies are political ones. However, a written statement about it from a key functionary has put the academy in a bind.
“By appointing a person who associates ideologically with them as the chairman, the Left government can ensure the Left characteristic of the academy. If all the appointments are made based on the allegiance to the party, it is nothing but corruption,” Congress MLA VT Balram said.
Balram also said that the academy has proved that it is acting as a propaganda machine in the past also. He referred to minister Balan's statement giving credit to the Left government for selecting actor Vinayakan, a Dalit, for the best actor award. “The minister's statement sounded like they were doing some favour to the actor. It in fact took away the shine from the award. Now, with the letter, the academy chairman himself has proved that it is a propaganda machinery,” he said.
Balram had participated in a meeting organised at Kodungalloor a couple of years ago in solidarity with Kamal when the Sangh Parivar outfits launched a smear campaign against the filmmaker after he criticised prime minister Narendra Modi. “I attended that meeting to offer solidarity with Kamal as someone who was being witch-hunted by a political power. Now, he himself is acting as a spokesperson of another state machinery,” Balram said.
Louis Mathew, a former staff of the academy, said appointments to such government-bodies are usually regularised after 10 years.
“Each government, more so the LDF, will have interests in appointments to such posts. They also expect something in gratitude. However, to put something like that on a government record was a foolish act by Kamal,” he said.
“Usually the appointments in such bodies are regularised after 10 years. The logic behind the 10-year period may be that by the time an employee on contract will be working under the third government since his/her appointment. A government regularising its own contract appointments within its tenure will end up in ultimate corruption,” he said.