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Connecting with people through culture

By C. Gouridasan Nair

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 2. What does Ezhuthachan and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have in common? Or for that matter, the BSNL and Vaikom Mohammed Basheer or J.C. Daniel? Nothing apparently. But the public sector communication behemoth begs to disagree.

"In a way, we have been practising the art and science of capturing the subtle nuances of a unique culture that communicates in a rich language to the world... But long before our times, the practice was perfected by luminaries who famously accomplished the task of communicating to society, something new, something of timeless value, something of vital importance," says the BSNL as it seeks to remind people of God's Own Country about their rich cultural legacy in an innovative way.

Paying tribute to the great souls who expressed the collective experience of a culture in sounds, words, signs and diverse other means, the BSNL has chosen `communicating culture' as the theme for its 2004 calendar. Featured in the calendar are 12 icons from Kerala's cultural pantheon, from Ezhuthachan for January to Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai for December. Gracing the months in between are Kunjan Nambiar, Swati Tirunal, O. Chandu Menon, Raja Ravi Varma, Kumaran Asan, Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, Vallathol Narayana Menon, J.C. Daniel, Vaikom Mohammed Basheer and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, each presented in pared down bold line drawings accompanied by a short write-up.

"Our attempt was to break free from the familiar themes and connect ourselves with the people of Kerala in an innovative way," says Saju George, Deputy General Manager (Commercial & Marketing) explaining the rationale of BSNL's choice. The normal themes in calendars are beautiful landscapes or visuals of traditional Kerala art forms, both of which have become too familiar to move anyone. The BSNL commercial unit's attempt this time, he says, was to find something novel. It did so with the help of a national agency which came up with different proposals from which the `communicating culture' theme was chosen.

The selection of personalities was a tough task, says the BSNL Chief General Manager, K. Sreekantan Nair. "The choice of the 12 cultural personalities was made after detailed discussions and we have, within our limitations, tried to do as much justice as possible," he says. "The main parameter employed in the selection of personalities for this calendar is their social relevance, along with their work. All these personalities were pioneers in their respective fields, or responsible for landmark innovations in a particular medium. Their work had a cultural and social impact, which in turn, affected the work which followed theirs," the calendar says and goes on to add, "This chronology is not exhaustive at all; there are more personalities than a small anthology could possibly contain".

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