Twelve years is too short a period in an institution’s life to make an impact, especially for a cultural body conceived as a grand idea, one which is designed to make a pervasive influence on the people of the area. Even so, the record hitherto is gratifying enough. One index that it has made an impression on the public is the growing number of its members. It has already 1176 life-members, apart from 16 institutional and three organizational members, on its rolls. Since life membership fee for individuals is somewhat high, it is fair to assume that those who opt to pay and become members—their number is growing steadily—must consider the ‘returns’ worth the cost.
For instance, an average of 270 engagements of assorted nature--kathakali programmes, dance and music recitals, dramas, award presentations, memorial meetings, anniversary conferences etc. all strictly apolitical-- make CSK somewhat busy round the year. Some of the items are sponsored, a few are in-house productions and a sizeable number staged by outside parties on their own. But no rental is charged from any of the parties either for the stages-- there are two, one open air and the other with a roof -- , lighting arrangements or sound systems. CSK even allows free use of its 700 odd chairs and other ancillary items including the standby generator.
These impeccable facilities available to conduct programmes even in foul weather make CSK the preferred destination of art lovers and event managers far and wide. But what make CSK most popular are three factors, 1. an overflowing and appreciative audience to watch, 2. the programmes presented are invariably of high standard and, 3. very important, they are all completely free. People can come and occupy any vacant seat anywhere no reservation, watch the items presented, and go as they please. In fact the organizers would consider it a privilege to have you anybody in the audience to witness the performances.
Programmes presented by CSK may be divided into two kinds: some held at regular intervals/ or on fixed days of the week/month, and others arranged as and when necessary with minor adjustments of the regular agenda. (Requests for use of facilities from outside parties are always accommodated, subject to CSK’s engagement roster.) The programmes held on fixed days include Senior Citizens Forum’s Azhachavattom, Kavyamoola etc. Kathakali and Music programmes have no fixed days although care is taken to have at least one programme each every month. (For details please see Links.) Programmes with annual/longer periodicity include commemoration programmes, Natakolsavam, Nritholsavam, award of puraskarams, youth festivals, Sargolsavam, Onam celebrations and Kerala Day festivities.
In order to help children with an innate taste for kathakali music, a class each for chenda and kathakali vocal was started, the first at the instance of the late Kalamandalam Kesavan and the second at the initiative of Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan. Both the programmes have elicited fine response and are making good progress.
Cinema making (including acting in it) is an art distinct from drama in many ways. In order to educate art-lovers on the salient points of this art form and the technological revolutions sweeping it these days --CSK cannot ignore it-- a beginning has been made to have a film show every week. Initially classics are selected to show recent innovations in film making. The younger generation exposed to modern films can appreciate the gigantic strides made in recent years. The older generation may have nostalgic memories of cinema shows in dilapidated sheds when the haunting music of those halcyon days seemed to compensate for all the discomforts. The new venture has become a big draw.
The one unique feature that sets CSK apart from other cultural centres of similar genre is the recognition accorded to the needs of children to revel and play, along with their mental development. While Mazhavillu will help to nurture and promote their intellectual and creative faculties, their urge to frolic and enjoy has been attended to by CSK setting up a children’s park by carving a big chunk out of the small plot allotted to it. It is a well-equipped children’s park and quite safe, and every evening a pretty good juvenile crowd do make full use of the facilities. GCDA provides some funds towards the maintenance cost of the Park including the Children’s Corner but obviously it is inadequate.
The kid’s corner does lend some delightful sight and sound to CSK’s overall inspiring environment. The numerous magnificent trees in and around the Park give a cool and comforting setting to it and, what is more, the imposing bust of poet Changampuzha Krishna Pillai installed at the centre of the Park, the beautiful fountain, the decommissioned fighter-plane and the many abstract art pieces in stone and wood done by eminent Indian and foreign sculptors thoughtfully kept at vantage points augment the aesthetics of the whole place.
With so many activities crowding its programme calendar CSK felt itself handicapped without a mouthpiece to record highlight of its achievements in the month just concluded or to give notice of major events in the coming one. This shortcoming has been largely rectified with the launching of a newsletter. The large number of pictures and crisp reports make it attractive and useful. It can do better with more pages, three-colour printing and larger contents but these will have to await more advertising support.