After Chullikad, Thampi criticises Kerala Sahitya Akademi for poor treatment of writers

A controversy arose after Malayalam poet Balachandran Chullikad’s public outcry over the markedly low remuneration he got from the Akademi, raising questions about devaluing writers.
Balachandran Chullikad, Sreekumaran Thampi
Balachandran Chullikad, Sreekumaran ThampiFacebook
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A day after Malayalam poet and orator Balachandran Chullikad made clear his resentment of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi's neglect of writers, he said that he did not want any compensation for it. The problem he was trying to raise was bigger than that, he said on Sunday, February 4. 

Chullikad was replying to Akademi president and renowned writer K Satchidanandan’s response on February 3 that steps were taken to resolve the issue. Chullikad’s public outcry over the remuneration – so markedly low that it could not cover his travel expenses to reach the venue – to attend the International Literature Festival of the Akademi appeared as a note on February 3. Later in the day, veteran writer and lyricist and filmmaker Sreekumaran Thampi joined Chullikad in condemning the Akademi’s poor treatment of writers. 

The same day, Minister for Culture Saji Cherian echoed Satchidanandan’s statement. However, Chullikad said on February 4 that getting compensated was not the intent of his revelation. 

Balachandran Chullikad's note on Sunday, rejecting the compensation:

“Tens of thousands and lakhs [of rupees] are paid to mimicry artists, singers, dancers, serial and film actors. My aim was to bring out the neglect and discrimination shown by the government and the society towards poets like us, in light of my experience at the Akademi. It is not a problem that can be solved by compensating me,” he said through a note shared by his friend and publisher Jayachandran CICC on Facebook.

It was Jayachandran who shared Chullikad’s grievance a day earlier, asking if “Rs 2,400 was his value” when he was paid the amount for attending and giving a lecture at the literature festival, held in Thrissur. The fest was held between January 28 and February 3. Chullikad, who made his speech on January 30, later said that it cost him more just to reach the venue and that he had paid the extra amount from the money he made from acting in serials.

Chullikad's original note, posted Saturday, titled 'My Value':

Satchidanandan, while expressing regret for the way Chullikad was treated, said that it was an administrative mistake and they had calculated the amount by considering the distance the poet had travelled. “They just followed the process mechanically. All the writers are paid in this manner, because of the limited amount with which we run the festival. What he said about the neglect shown towards writers is a general problem that should be addressed socially,” Satchidanandan said.

Minister Saji Cherian, reiterating Satchidanandan’s words, added that cultural organisations should also try to make their own income and not rely just on the government. But, he added, the government would seriously examine the issue raised by Chullikad, on how people in the literary field do not often get the recognition they deserve.

By February 3 evening, Sreekumaran Thampi joined forces with Chullikad, sharing his experience with the Akademi from a few months ago when he was asked to write a song for Kerala that the government could use anywhere and at all times. It should be simple enough for even a child to understand, he was told. When he turned in the song a week later, Akademi secretary CP Aboobacker, who had requested him to write the song, said that he wanted the first stanza rephrased, Thampi said. Both Aboobacker and Satchidanandan had been insistent that Thampi write the song, he said.

But after he sent in the revised lyrics, there was no reply except a ‘Thanks’ from Satchidanandan. He was not informed if the song was accepted or rejected. Much later, he saw an ad by the Akademi, inviting poets to pen a Kerala song. Realising that his song was rejected, he felt humiliated, said Thampi. He has written more than 3,000 songs and many of them were about Kerala and Malayalam, and he will post his song about Kerala for all Malayalis soon, he said. The Akademi has never given him an award or recognised his contributions, Thampi added.

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