Goa’s leaking Kala Academy roof opens up a flood of memories

Kala Academy is not just a structure of concrete, but on its stones are etched the struggles and dreams of many of Goa’s artistes
THE FACADE: Kala Academy in Panjim is the stuff of memories for many.
THE FACADE: Kala Academy in Panjim is the stuff of memories for many.Photo: Abigail Crasto

The grey clouds, hovering over Panjim's Kala Academy on a monsoon evening, were perhaps symbolic of the storm that the renovation of this art academy has kicked up.

The rain clouds drifted in the wind and Kala Academy brightened up a little, yet the lawns that once bustled with artistes, students, entertainers and just about anybody who sauntered in as the sun set over the Arabian Sea, bore a forlorn look.

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The refurbished Kala Academy has lost its sheen, some might even say its spirit. It still stands, where it has stood all these years, yet will it ever be the same?

In structure, perhaps not. Convenor of the Charles Correia Foundation, Tanvi Karia, in a presentation on the work carried out on Kala Academy in 1986, 1996 and 2004, said it was shoddy.

“The work lacked vision which led to the collapse of the amphitheatre slab, the leakage among other failures. For instance, the front structure had beams made of bamboo, where the creeper vines would grow, they were replaced by PVC pipes,” Tanvi said.

As Kala Academy stood empty, around 100 artistes, art lovers, political leaders and others concerned about the structure in Panjim, had gathered at Margao’s Gomant Vidya Niketan to listen to Tanvi, who was explaining what had gone wrong with the renovation works.

THE PRESENTATION:  Tanvi Karia, architect and Convenor of the Charles Corriea Foundation, recently made a detailed presentation on Kala Academy.
THE PRESENTATION: Tanvi Karia, architect and Convenor of the Charles Corriea Foundation, recently made a detailed presentation on Kala Academy.

In her presentation, Tanvi also pointed out that the original artwork had subtle, yet very interesting, nuances, which were later replaced by shoddy work.

“There were a number of failures and the work was done by incompetent sub-consultants,” she stated, as she spoke about the poor quality of finishes and detailing at Kala Academy, currently.

Sandesh Prabhudesai, journalist and artiste, speaking at the presentation, along with the recently formed Kala Rakhonn Manch Artists group, said that a lot of philosophy had been used in the construction and conceptualisation of Kala Academy.

“When Charles bab, was bestowed with Goa's highest civilian honour, the Gomant Vibhushan, he had a discussion with me, and one of the questions I asked him was ‘why does Kala Academy have such open spaces?’” said Sandesh, who believes that Goans need to stand united to bring justice.

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"He told me that the concept of Kala Academy is the idea of using the number zero. If there was no zero, it would be difficult to keep numbers infinite. There was so much thought that was put into the building,” added Sandesh.

NEW SEATING: Post reconstruction, the seating at the Kala Academy auditorium looks like this.
NEW SEATING: Post reconstruction, the seating at the Kala Academy auditorium looks like this. Photo: Abigail Crasto

Yet, Kala Academy is not just an edifice of stone, cement, concrete. It was one with a heart and a soul, and there are those who speak of it with a nostalgic fondness that only a deep attachment could have created.

In the years that it has been in existence, it has given birth to talent, with hundreds of students learning music and drama here. It also nurtured talent, propelling artistes to aspire for more, and leap further in their careers.

Cecille Rodrigues, dancer and a member of the newly-formed committee to fight for Kala Academy, remembered her time spent there.

“I came from a small town in Vasco with big dreams. Kala Academy was the first big stage I performed on. Back in those days, there used to be a mini pop, which was being organised, and my team and I were selected to perform at Kala Academy," she recalled.

"I was in awe, and then, I realised that if I could perform on this stage, I could perform anywhere. The opportunity I got to perform here gave me the courage to perform worldwide. This stage gave me wings to fly high,” she added.

ART LOVERS: Over 100 people participated in the presentation at Kala Academy.
ART LOVERS: Over 100 people participated in the presentation at Kala Academy.

There will be hundreds like her, who have stories to tell, anecdotes to relate, for the institution has been a go-to place for almost everyone – from students learning music, to art performers, artistes, a meeting place for journalists and even the lay man who wanted to experience the cool breeze of the River Mandovi.

As the GVN lift took the concerned art lovers to the second floor, the irritation in the subdued murmur of voices was evident.

One of the conversations had Siddharth Yaji talking about how great Kala Academy was and highlighted the clarity of the sound.

“I have performed so many times at Kala Academy, and every time, it gave me the thrill of participating again.”

I came from a small town in Vasco, with big dreams. Kala Academy was the first big stage I performed on. Back in those days, there used to be a mini pop, which was being organised, and my team and I were selected to perform at Kala Academy.

Cecille Rodrigues, dancer

He went on to say, how even a pin falling on the stage could he heard by the audience.

Sadly, today, performers at Kala Academy  have to hire sound systems from outside for their voices to be heard in the entire auditorium.

Saiesh Poi Panandikar, an artist who claimed that the changes at Kala Academy were an act of murder, walked down memory lane, where he narrated an incident which turned a serious drama into comedy.

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“In the drama, it was the climax. I was on stage and next to me was the father, who lay there like a dead body. The son comes running from the side, and while he bends to look at his father, he accidentally farts," said Saiesh.

"The sound of that fart was heard at the end. Everyone laughed, and so did the dead body. This is an example of how great the sound system was, which is now ruined,” he mentioned.

There were discussions at GVM, but there was music, too. Tiatrist, Francis de Tuem, entertained the people with two satirical songs which focused on the poor construction and water leakages at Kala Academy.

Fellow taitrist Roseferns, who has directed 104 tiatrs and performed at Kala Academy far more times than he can remember, sat in the audience remembering how he has fed his family of four for the last so many years.

ART MESS: The committee shared that the art done at Kala Academy is sub-standard.
ART MESS: The committee shared that the art done at Kala Academy is sub-standard. Photo: Abigail Crasto

“We started directing tiatrs, and at first, they were performed in the auditorium where today, the EDC building in Panjim, stands. When we came to Kala Academy it was like heaven for us. The lights and sound was so great that I have no words to explain,” said Roseferns.

"We had many repeats shows, from which, we earned a lot of money. Now, the place is ruined. When I last had the show recently, the ceilings were leaking,” he said.

That’s the ruin that artistes and art-lovers want to put a stop to. The movement has only just begun. It has a long way to go.

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