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Thou not wither away

Article first published in 'Ananya Abhivyakti', Apr 2012

Ever wondered what would make an ideal definition of an artistic evening? A random thought and it received a lot of similar reciprocation in me. Your performance presented with utmost satisfaction, or even a most fulfilling class of art attended, witness to a performance triggering inspiration, brainstorming hours of long conversations and arguments, or even getting nostalgic of a journey in art well lived...

Where all these can make up to an imposing experience, it does not take time for the same evening to have an adverse effect!

I connect the scenario to a series of concerts that I recently attended and as I slipped in each day, there were moments of dilemma every time I looked around. The audience mostly comprised of "aunties" and "uncles", "granddads" and "grandmas", and "mamas" and "mamis" all over the place donning the trademark large sized round spectacles, bottles of boiled water in hand, draped in kancheevaram sarees and carefully dyed hair. So much so that I almost felt a stranger implicated by their wild stares as if to say, "Why're you here, those malls are just a step away!"

There can be a "why this?" and "why not this?" angle. Being specific, the concert in question was an instrumental recital and it attracted the common man for the sheer love of it and to those whom it did not appeal, so be it!

The apparent point is that music concerts largely succeed in having a niche audience. Be it students, artistes, connoisseurs or even the average music lover. An ear for good music and value for erstwhile literary wonders is all it takes for the audience to drip in, who over the years have mastered the art of appreciation of classical music. It is also a rather known fact of how traditional families have indulged in religiously attending the so called "paatu katcheris" as a way of life. Music has thus grown over a large population of Indian community only to metamorphose into making an avid listener. Thus has developed an audience which not only craves for, but going a step further, exercises careful choice.

Theatre probably pulls in a mixed ratio of young aspirants, the elite community and the entertainment seeker. Characterized by a good combination of traditional stories and contemporary plots, theater strikes the chord for the closer to life raw realities often interpreted. Regional variations coming in the proscenium format also add to the variety and taste that it has to offer.

Classical dance though stands on a different altar with only the artiste fraternity, and friends and family forming the skeleton of support. Rather tough holds towards classicism, larger than life images and non-reachability form the cloud of reasoning for the lack of healthy audience–artiste relationship. The visual imagery does form an advantage for an initial attempt but one needs to develop an understanding with the technicalities to appreciate classical dancing and this is only possible with a continuous and patient attempt to multiply the process of attending dance concerts.

The invariable tenets like media, government bodies, organizing committees and the networking fringe though form a common and dormant existence in all the above genres, but the status quo is still questionable.

While it can be taken as an underlying mutual responsibility of both the artiste and the audience, it is a dire necessity today that art needs to create inroads into the levels of gratification among the current generation, and the audience needs to wake up to a call of culture and heritage.

It is not to find solace in the quantity of reach-out but to strive for quality; Else we loose the torch bearers of our rich legacy and stand to watch them wither away!

Selections: Articles by Priya Raman