Sowgandhika Krishnan asks pertinent questions that came to light in recent times, in the world of performing arts and culture. Have you pondered on these topics as well?

This is not the usual review I write regularly, nor is it along the lines of the usual International Dance Day and International Theatre Day writeups that I do. This is just a compilation of what I observed, read, and was shared with me in recent times. I chose to put it up as this month’s article because it is something you would have opinions on, and these questions are food for thought. So, at the cost of sounding like the late Michael Jackson, who in his song ‘What About Us’, asks: “what about sunrise, what about rain, what about animals”, etc., here are a few questions. Enjoy reading and please do opine in the comments.

Should artists speak up on political issues?

A few weeks back, Opera houses across Europe dropped Russian artists from their list. There was added pressure on the Russian artists living elsewhere in Europe to speak up against the Russian President. Conversations erupted about the role artists played in such situations. The real question is would it make any difference. Would any President listen to some artist on political and international disputes? Does the artist know each and every aspect of the issue or ground information to advise the head of a nation?

Instead of asking the artist to speak up on issues that he/she has no control over why not encourage discussion on protecting artist interests post-Covid. It directly affects his/her livelihood. He/she should survive to be able to make comments, right? Funnily, no one seems interested in that so let’s get back to what we can argue about – Should artists speak up on political issues?

Photo of the Opera

How much is too much?

Social media platforms are influential in opinion forming. They have also interestingly created a bunch of armchair commentators with expert views on everything under the sun. The recent ‘slap gate’ at the Oscars has been a topic of animated discussion both on and offline with opinions thrown around. A lot of commentators mentioned how “Mrs Smith should take Alopecia in stride and not make a big deal of it’. How many of us would have taken it in stride if it happened to us, and we were spoken about on a public platform without our consent? So, was Will Smith justified in slapping Chris Rock? Absolutely not. In all this, surprisingly, very few called out Chris on the type of content he puts out.

Yes, there is artistic freedom et al, but does one need to demean physical appearance/body shame to generate a few laughs? Is he that incompetent or does he have the upper hand over what he can say simply because he has a mike and stage? How much is too much?

Where is the content?

A recent coffee-table discussion with people who have kids in the age ranges of five to fifteen threw up an interesting discussion. Why do Indian OTT shows overdramatize LGBTQ relations and affairs of all kinds and make it so in your face? Can topics such as these not be dealt with sensitively? What message are we giving to impressionable minds? Now that brings us to the type of content Indian OTTs have. There is enough for the young kids, there is more than enough for 20 plus. However, this very vulnerable age group between 11 to 19 does not seem to have much. They are either forced to subject themselves to bad content meant for their parent’s age groups or look for international content. There simply is no content tailored to deal with their curiosity or to put issues sensitively so they understand right and therefore behave right. You would have heard or read TV/film guys say ‘Content is king’! Where is the content, please?

What next?

Everyone looked forward to 2022. This year has been good till now thankfully with few concerns of new variants or increasing cases but still much better than the last two years. No one ever thought artists from the traditional arts would have to use online platforms as much as they did in the last two years. From FB live concerts to Zoom concerts to YouTube uploads a new world was thrown open to us. As it is with everything different, people react differently.

Some took the ‘post every day or be forgotten’ route, some others took the ‘I post if I have something to say’ route. Some others took the ‘I keep posting videos-quality be damned’ route and still some others took the ‘marathon workshop’ route. The question for the future though, is ‘What next’? Do we forget these two years as a blip on the radar and continue like before? Do we incorporate the hybrid format but present the same content? Do we prepare and present content separately for both mediums? My dear artist colleagues and friends – happy dancing, acting, instrument time, and singing to each one of you as you navigate your way through ‘what next’!

Is the theatre day or dance day only for an artist?

I may not have answers to other questions but this one I can definitely answer. All the world is a stage, and everyone is a part of this mad dance called life. So, dance well and enjoy the stage time, all of you. Happy World Theatre Day and World Dance Day to all you lovely readers.

Photo of two artists performing Kathakali

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