Film city plan at Roerich Estate violates SC orders

Film city plan at Roerich Estate violates SC orders

Roerich and Devikarani Roerich Estate. DH Photo

The state government may earn the Supreme Court’s wrath by planning a film city in the verdant Roerich and Devikarani Roerich Estate in Tataguni on Kanakapura Road.

The move would violate the Roerich and Devikarani Roerich Estate (Acquisition and Transfer) Act of 1996, which the Supreme Court had approved.

While the Act allows the state government to set up a dedicated board, it restricts activities within the estate. The plans to set up a film city at the 468.33 acre estate, where a considerable parcel of land is already used for conservation activities, would therefore tantamount to a violation of court order.

Interestingly, the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, which decides and clears projects inside the estate before forwarding them to the state, is clueless about the film city proposal.

“It was a surprise when the CM announced (the proposal) and inquiries flooded the office,” said a board official, reiterating that the board did not clear the proposal.

Sources close to the Chief Minister informed DH that a meeting to familiarise with the activities of the sprawling estate earlier was attended by retired forest officials, tourism officials and infrastructure development organisations of the state government. “No talk was held on the film city proposal at any level,” the official attached to the CM secretariat said.

As per the act, the board can administer and manage the estate, establish an art gallery-cum-museum in the name of Dr Svetoslav Roerich and Devikarani Roerich, layout and maintain public park and preserve tree growth in the estate, take up cultivation and protection of linaloe crop (Bursera), collection of all the paintings, art pieces and other literary works of the couple and levy, if agreed by the state government, fees for entry into the public parks and museum-cum-art gallery.

Much of the 468.33 acres of estate land, bisected by the NH-209 (Bengaluru-Dindigul), abuts the Bada Manavarthe (BM) Kaval and Uttarahalli Manavarthe (UM) Kaval reserve forest, a part of the crucial elephant corridor connecting Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) with Savanadurga forests.

“The Estate, with a huge water body, acts as a buffer to the corridor,” pointed out Joseph Hoover, a former member of the State Board for Wildlife and convener of United Conservation Movement.

“Wildlife, including elephants, leopards, otters, barking deers and spotted deers, often inhabit the area. There have been plenty of places across the state to build a film city, but why a forest and green area?

“Already we are running short of open lung spaces and here again, vested interests are trying to gobble up a place through which animals have been traversing and creative couples have poured out their lives to maintain it as it is. Why can’t the estate be maintained as it is,” Hoover asked.

Recalling the suggestion by the previous government, art historian Suresh Jayaraman said, “It should be used as a museum for the Roerichs and there is no need for a film city.

“If not for the verdant ambience, the estate would lose its legacy. It can be developed into an artist residency and a gallery for international artists for the display of works.

“The natural environs of the estate have to be kept intact and must blend with the architecture,” Jayaraman said.

MJ Kamalakshi, Secretary, Chitrakala Parishat, whose official will also be part of the Estate board, said, “It is shameful. The Roerich’s lived there for decades and now the government wants to destroy it. The Russian government has shown interest in maintaining the estate, but the government does not pay any heed.”

“The earlier proposal for a museum was much more sensible. Probably an amphitheatre space can be built in honour of Devika Rani. Instead of wasting money building a film institute, they should find a way to honour the work of two great artists,” Kamalakshi said.

Information accessed from the estate board reveals that the Horticulture department has been given about 25 acres to raise a ‘Rose Garden’ and the flower garden has come up in a five-acre area. Another 25 acres has been set aside to create a museum by the archaeology department. This apart, a 100 acre area on the other side of the highway has been given to the forest department to raise a tree park.

“A year ago, the house and the studio buildings have been renovated and currently archaeology department has taken up the restoration work. As on today restoration of some of the rare photos and documents by the heritage experts is underway,” a senior official revealed.

(With inputs from
Krupa Joseph)

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