I find a lot of discussion, arguments and counter arguments going on the metamorphosis taking place in the world of carnatic music in recent times through the public media. In this cross fire, a lot of popular artists also got trapped and are either criticized in polite to very acidic way and support to them are not find much in the public domain as far as I could see and read. Again, this is dependent on the clout and the popularity enjoyed by the artist!
It is a well known fact that classical carnatic music is mainly patronized by a group of people and community for long years. The reasons are simple and straight forward. That community and group’s interest was more on their tradition and some of them carried along while some left it long back. I remember at one point of time, the carnatic music and concerts were at a very low profile as there were not many artists as well as audience. This picked up only after a bunch of youngsters with good voice, talent and enthusiasm revived it and the support started increasing. It was, as expected, received wide publicity and patronage from the NRIs who are almost deciding factor of any prestigious item; be it carnatic music or real estate. In my experience, in India, anything popularized by media becomes a ‘prestige issue’ after sometime. I say this because my cousins who evinced least interest in this art started attending concerts and expressing views on this subject for the past few years. So the media coverage and publicity started swelling. But, there are still musicians who grumble and mumble about the immense support extended only to a few artists by the public and the media. As Indian populace is so large, even a miniscule percentage comes to a sizeable number. No wonder in recent times, carnatic music and December month became the talk among many.
It is not very surprising that all of a sudden some artists try to extend their frontiers using their popularity. Making the music more inclusive, to reach the other groups which are not exposed to it (intentionally it is said, which is not exactly true!). This is a sort of politics which is being bring into an art form which is supposed to have its roots on a particular religion and devotion to God and God alone. The music is considered pure, ideal, sanctimonious, spiritual and what not. One need to agree with these arguments as carnatic music has always been in praise and surrender to Gods and Goddesses chosen by the composers especially the Trinity and even others. That has to be considered as its unique quality and leave it at that.
Having said that are all our musicians strictly adhering to the concept of ‘bakthi’ in all their concerts? There are definitely their creativity urge surges out in various degrees and proportions on the raga expositions, swara excursions where the composition becomes just a prop. However, again my comment on this is also sound subjective; when once I asked a popular and very talented instrumentalist ‘is it necessary for going in for such long, endless and meaningless swara segments with a load of gimmicks with your main another instrument artist?’ the reply was simple: ‘then only we get applause from the audience and we want that’. The answer was candid! So where the ‘bakthi’, ‘humility’, ‘surrender to the almighty’ go? Then it becomes an entertainment or profession for which the artist needs loud acknowledgment.
Once film making and the print media were again in the control of a sect that was considered as upper cast. That time the stories, articles and movies were mostly related to their lifestyle and lingo though a few touched on the other lower strata of the population. The literacy among the lower class was also minimal during those periods and so they neither cared nor worried about it.
But, today the situations are reversed. Except carnatic music all the other entertainment wings have opened the gates to all. The present day Tamizh movie topics, titles, content and output may not be palatable to the elders or elite. Yet, they find massive support from the majority of the public. I read a tidbit by one film critic that in one particular Tamizh movie even the hero’s name had to be changed as it sounded as if referring to a specific community! Recently, I was (un)fortunate to go through the several brazen encomiums showered by many popular persons on a political personality who is well known for his corruption, hubris and glib tongue! That showed only one thing; Power and popularity have the power to control anything.
India is a free, highly democratic and secular country; here morals, ethics, culture, law, justice are all just ‘terms’ or ‘words’. Attaching ‘sanctity’ to anything connected with human activity is futile (according to me!) as it is highly susceptible to changes.
We should not give much credence to it! If you like the changing views and values take it or just reject it! Nobody cares!