Diversity in Arts
[At the outset, let me place on record that my article in Deccan Chronicle (on 1 Dec, 2017) or other publications before or after have all been more about issues to be addressed clinically and strongly, as warranted, than about taking up the cudgels against any individual (as I have no ill-will at a personal level with any artiste or others). Since a few people had communicated with me about a couple of aspects, I have touched upon a few more points here.]
No art-form is exclusive. Does it mean every art-form is inclusive?
In other words, does non-exclusive automatically translate to inclusive?
Does any art-form have to be inclusive, even in theory?
Answers will vary from person to person.
Can they be inclusive in practice? For instance, are Villuppattu, Rajasthani Manganiar, Chinese, Persian inclusive or exclusive?
Where does inclusivity begin and where does it end?
One can keep doors open but it is the choice of every individual to walk in through it or stay out. In other words, inclusiveness of an art is dependant more on the included than the includer...
1. Are art forms designed for and sustained only by diversity?
2. Are they ignoble if they are not diverse?
While many art-forms including Carnatic have got tremendously enriched by contributions from great people from many communities, no art form is designed to keep anyone out OR force them in.
For instance, there is neither a barricade nor an usher to keep out or pull in new audiences or students from other communities . The social/geographical/historical realities of most systems are accepted as the way art-forms (and sports) have evolved. No intelligent or honest person tries to build a false case against a system based on who are not its practitioners or patrons.
Calculated unprovoked assaults
However, calculated unprovoked assaults against any field or any community with impunity, based on the security that these are fashionable soft-targets in today's social climate and sure-fire guarantees of personal mileage and more cannot be condoned. They can perhaps be ignored if they were based on factual accuracy. A case built on flaky methodology can only sway the wilfully gullible or the trigger-happy. Anyone with basic IQ and objectivity will demand answers for the following:
- Where are the stats to back statements like "Carnatic is caste-driven"?
- Can one prove diversity in other art forms? Do we accuse Chinese/African/Persian systems of intentionally keeping Carnatic community away? Do we hold media conferences to declare that Kuchippudi or Punjabi Bhangra dance are 'full of dirt" which make life miserable for 'non-insiders'? Why target only Carnatic?
- Has one conducted studies and collected at least a list of 150-200 high-quality artists from diverse communities over the last 100 (or even 50) years who were denied opportunities solely on communal grounds?
- Has such a list been made for artists today and shared with other organizations so that they can get appropriate opportunities? If such a list was given and yet a majority of the the orgs kept these artists out only on communal grounds, that would be proof.
- Has one seen music lovers being discriminated against on communal grounds in concert halls?
The Carnatic field actually does far more than many of its counterparts when it comes to promoting talent from any caste, creed, colour, language or region. Numerous sabhas promote instruments like nadaswaram and tavil in special events even if these concerts do not see listeners from the very communities the artists belong to. Sabhas do not do these to win points from pseudo-intellectuals but to genuinely promote diverse art-forms.
Objective to Obfuscate
Those who try to glorify such attempts to obfuscate the obvious even among Carnatic votaries and manufacture malice against it from other quarters must take time off to familiarize themselves with orgs like SPICMACAY, who have striven for decades to make classical accessible to diverse communities with the least amount of negativism or narcissism. True champions try to engage in meaningful dialogues with co-artists, promoters and even with the Government to make a real difference. They would not sneak or snake away to the media with the regularity of the Sun to market shadow sans substance. Throwing mud at others is no guarantee to make jaundice appear snow-white.
To conclude, those who concoct conspiracy theories of communal crisis in the Carnatic world are seriously testing the elasticity of the field's tolerance as well as the elasticity of truth. I sincerely hope that such negativity is discarded in favour of a more productive action-centric approach that can leave behind a monument of contributions as opposed to a mere wall of awards.