'Kerala's first musical dancing fountain' left in the cold

Anand Prince

Construction of musical fountain at Ansari Park / Photo: Mathrubhumi Library

"The revenue from the musical fountain will be enough to fund the maintenance works of the entire Mananchira Square."

These were the words of the former corporation commissioner quoted in an old newspaper report about the record collection from the ticketed shows of the musical fountain at Ansari Park in Mananchira Square, Kozhikode. However, two and half decades down the line, the fountain itself remains dysfunctional. Moreover, the fountain installed in the 1994 functioned only for a couple of years.

The musical fountain had sparkling statements like 'Kerala's first musical dancing fountain', 'South India's second musical fountain' and 'One among five musical fountains in India'. It was launched mirroring the musical fountain at Brindavan Gardens, Mysuru. It was touted as the most modern electronic fountain that could give the experience of counterparts in Paris and Vienna.

An old advertisement about the fountain's inaugural / Photo: Mathrubhumi Library

According to old reports, the fountain was able to showcase 120 designs. It could dance to to pop, rock, Carnatic, light music, Mappilapattu and Vadakkan Pattu. Some reports even said cassettes having songs/music of audience choice could be played, if the city committee entitled with administration approved it.

The cost of the installation of the musical fountain was reportedly Rs 11. 5 lakh. Kozhikode Corporation bore the expense. But it earned Rs 14.5 lakh through auctioning the operations for one year.

It was estimated that the fountain could fetch Rs 1.5 lakh per month. An average of 750 people were allowed to attend each show by charging Rs 3 per adult. A Sunday's collection from three shows even rose to Rs 10,200, said an old news report. Crowd control at times was problematic due to the heavy rush.

In spite of all the promising developments, maintenance of the fountain ended up as a cumbersome task. It was outsourced from the beginning as technical expertise was required. The cost of maintaining such technically qualified staff was a challenge. Increasing ticket rate of the fountain show was deliberated to manage funds, but it did not work out. The corporation gradually distanced and the fountain has been lying abandoned. There were attempts to use the musical fountain as a normal water fountain. It worked as a normal water fountain for couple of years in 2000s.

Present condition of the fountain / Photo: Mathrubhumi

Renovation, patching and modification works at Mananchira Square happened multiple times over the period. Administrations changed, but nothing on the ground changed for the fountain, despite claims of revitalisation.

Interestingly, though the musical fountain is dysfunctional for decades, the signages within the Mananchira Square and Kerala Tourism website still embraces it as an attraction.

According to Kozhikode Corporation's engineering department, leaves from big trees that fell on the fountain area and equipment were the major constrain for management. Department claimed that some of the collectors took the initiative to resolve the fountain issue, but yielded no results. Even corporate social responsibility (CSR) or public–private partnership (PPP) model proposals were invited, but no entity was ready to take them up, the officials claimed. Later there was a plan to maintain the fountain as water scenery, but that too never got implemented.

A telephonic monologue of IAS character Joseph Alex from 1995 Mammootty starrer movie 'The King' had slammed city beautification project including musical dance fountain and its ticketed show as a publicity stunt and a misplaced priority of development with no vision on realities of the city. Old reports also suggest that the Mananchira Square development was executed despite public flak.

Meanwhile, many parts of the world have either abandoned or stopped proposing musical fountain projects as new conscience says such entertainment send the wrong message about of water usage.

'Kerala's first musical dancing fountain' sings a mute note in heart of Kozhikode city. At the same time, it echoes issues like lack of vision and poor maintenance given to development projects touted with catchy pitch statements.

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