‘Derogatory remarks’: Human Rights Commission takes suo motu case against Sathyabhama

Sathyabhama said that it is “disgusting” to watch male dancers perform Mohiniyattam and that even if they do, only “fair-skinned, good-looking men” are eligible to perform.
Kalamandalam Sathyabhama, RLV Ramakrishnan
Kalamandalam Sathyabhama, RLV RamakrishnanScreengrab/ Asianet News
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The Human Rights Commission in Kerala on Friday, March 22, took suo motu cognizance of casteist remarks by dancer Kalamandalam Sathyabhama allegedly against Mohiniyattam artiste RLV Ramakrishnan. In an interview given to a YouTube channel, Sathyabhama said that it is “disgusting” to watch male dancers perform Mohiniyattam and that even if they do, only “fair-skinned, good-looking men” are eligible to perform.  

Human Rights Commission member VK Beena Kumari ordered that a report must be submitted within 15 days by the Thrissur district police chief and state Cultural Department.

“Only exceptionally handsome men look good while performing Mohiniyattam, which is a dance form meant for ‘mohinis’ (women). Some of these performers have complexions as dark as a crow, that even their own mothers would not want to look at them,” she had said.

RLV Ramakrishnan, who is late actor Kalabhavan Mani’s brother, holds a doctoral degree in Mohiniyattam and is an A-grade artiste in Doordarshan.

He responded to the interview with a Facebook post on March 20 stating that it is difficult for a person like him, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, to continue in the profession due to the attitudes of seniors like Sathyabhama. Even though Sathyabhama did not explicitly take his name in the interview, Ramakrishnan alleged that her remarks were directed at him. He said that she had verbally abused him earlier also, when he was pursuing PhD in Kalamandalam.

The video of the derogatory statements went viral on social media. Several persons including artistes and ministers condemned her statement and expressed their solidarity with Ramakrishnan. 

Following the criticism, Sathyabhama doubled down on her claims to the media, asserting that she said nothing wrong. 

Kalamandalam Sathyabhama, RLV Ramakrishnan
Kalamandalam Sathyabhama under fire for casteist remarks on male Mohiniyattam dancers

In a press release, the Kerala Kalamandalam condemned Sathyabhama’s remarks, stating, ‘[It is] a disgrace for the institution to associate with a person who makes such derogatory statements. She has no connection with the Kalamandalam at present apart from being an alumnus of the institution.” 

Following the controversy, Ramakrishnan conducted Mohiniyattam performances across Kerala. The authorities of Kalamandalamn have invited Ramakrishnan to perform Mohiniyattam at its prestigious Koothambalam. Responding to this, Ramakrishnan  called it a dream-come-true moment.

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