Kamal’s letter asking Minister Balan to consider making Left-leaning and progressive employees permanent at the Academy created a row.

Kamal with light coloured shirt and specs and mostly grey hair against a pink background
Flix Controversy Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 17:48

Malayalam filmmaker Kamal, who is also the Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, landed in controversy recently over a letter that he had written to the state's Minister of Culture AK Balan last year. The letter, which lists reasons for making four employees of the Academy permanent, has a part highlighting their Leftist leanings. This part has been criticised as Kamal trying to win the favour of the Left government. In the letter, Kamal had said, "It will help to sustain the leftist character of the Chalachithra Academy, which has a great place among Kerala's cultural institutions, to make permanent these employees who are Left sympathisers and engaged in cultural work involving leftist and progressive values."

Kamal told TNM that he regrets writing the last part and could have avoided it. Though Minister Balan had rejected the recommendation last year, the letter created a controversy after Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala raised it in the Assembly on Tuesday.  

“It was a personal letter that I wrote to the Minister, regarding the amount of work done by the four employees of the Academy, who have been appointed on a temporary basis. It was not an official letter which would have gone through the Cultural (Affairs) Secretary before reaching the Minister’s office. However, I accept that the last part of the letter, highlighting the Leftist perspectives of these employees, should have been avoided. It was a lack of caution from my side,” Kamal told TNM.

The letter lists the important achievements made by the Academy in the last few years, including the setting up of its own office, running the yearly film festival with limited funds even amid the two disastrous floods of 2018 and 2019 and so on.

“Every five years, when the government changes, these employees may also lose their jobs. The work done in cultural organisations such as the Chalachithra Academy requires a creative element. These four individuals had shown their passion for cinema and the work done in these past few years, working way past office time late into the night. I just wanted the work to have continuity despite the changes in government that may come,” Kamal said.

He did not refer to a particular party, when he wrote about people having Left-leaning perspectives, Kamal said. “When I wrote Left-perspective and progressive values, I didn’t think of it as Communist party affiliation, but individuals with progressive ideas. I consider the Congress also as being progressive in these matters. It is India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who set up the Kendra Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Nataka Akademi and established the Pune Film Institute.”

The letter was written to the Minister in August, following which the latter had rejected the recommendation. “The Minister let me know immediately that it cannot be considered,” Kamal said.

In September 2020, Kamal was embroiled in another controversy when his son Jenuse Mohammed's film Nine, produced by actor Prithviraj, was submitted to compete in the state awards. A petition was filed by a few filmmakers and technicians alleging nepotism. Kamal cleared the air citing that the rules and regulations did not stop anyone from submitting a film for the awards. Only those who were working with the Academy were not eligible to receive individual awards, he said. 

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