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'Pay to perform' vs 'Paid to perform'
- VP Dhananjayan

April 7, 2020

'ART FOR ART SAKE' is a bygone slogan when all art activities were patronised by kings and feudal societies. Gone are the days when all kinds of art practitioners think of their art profession as their livelihood. All genuine artistes dedicated themselves in pursuit of perfecting their god given talent, be it sangeetam, natyam, crafts, painting, sculpting, weaving and such art forms. Art activities flourished, so we have now so many wonderful art forms to stride on and make them a career for livelihood. Though our ancestors may not have left material riches, they left rich heritage of various art forms for us to choose and not only make a livelihood but also accumulate riches.

The art world has been changing rapidly especially the performing arts like Bharatanatyam. Scenario is alarmingly exploding where the theory of demand and supply is concerned. Talent is in abundance unlike in olden days. All talents have to be exhibited and opportunities have to be created irrespective of criterion, caliber and credibility. Ample opportunities are booming in the performing art field, but main drawback is lack of funds. Because of the surfeit of talented artistes in different forms of Bhaarateeya Naatyam and Sangeetham traditions and not giving it a professional status even by our Government, professionals are not getting their due recognition and adequate remuneration. Of course, some are lucky and some are not, especially in the field of Bharatanatyam.

The Sabha culture is very unique to Chennai city and Tamizhnadu and they have done yeomen service to the promotion of our culture through patronizing performing arts. They have created a situation and status that all performing artistes of different standards and calibre consider a performance on the Chennai Sabhas' platforms as showcase venues for self promotion and publicity, irrespective of they getting a sizeable audience or not. Since there is so much of demand for performing space, mushrooming of organizers popped up competing with the established Sabhas. Due to this situation, a lot of mediocrity crept into the field sidelining the professionals with high calibre and capacity. Situation is alarmingly desperate that professionals, whose livelihood is their art, are not adequately paid to perform or even asked to pay to perform. The talented NRI performers have created a situation where money can lure the so called cultural organizations whose gullibility is exploited by and large. To tide over this situation, I humbly and earnestly appeal to all Sabhas or cultural bodies and give the following suggestions, if they consider themselves as art and cultural promoters.

1. Categorise (1) Professionals between the age of 25 and above, (2) Amateurs between the age of 20 and above (3) Talented youngsters between the age of 10 & 25.

2. In today's situation, a professional Bharatanatyam artiste needs a minimum of Rs.30,000 to Rs.50,000 for a solo performance, plus their travel /stay etc if coming from outstation.

3. If it is a group production, not less than 2 lakhs is the minimum expense involved. This can be raised by corporate sponsorship.

4. The Sabhas may give free platforms to talented amateurs who have another profession for their livelihood and perform Naatya only as pastime to satisfy their passion.

5. The Sabhas may demand any kind of donations in kind or cash towards expenses in putting up a show.

6. Exceptionally talented NRI professional artistes should be given due respect as professionals and remunerated as local professional artistes.

7. The donations collected could be channelized to pay the professionals.

This way, the Sabhas will be doing a great service to the art forms and the genuine professional performing artistes who thrive on their art. The long time established cultural bodies have enough funds and realizing the plight of professionals they should set a precedence paying them well, recognizing their contributions. It is easy for them to get corporate sponsorship and pay the artistes adequately.

Natyacharya VP Dhananjayan is the director of Bharata Kalanjali, Chennai.

Dear Dhananjayan garu,
Namaskaram. The article written by you 'Pay to perform' vs 'Paid to perform' in is abruptly right, wonderful and very nice. You have suggested very good points to Chennai Sabhas to choose real dedicated artists to perform than choosing amateur artists for monetary benefits. We agree with you on same. The Sabhas and Government organisations should recognise and encourage the talented, dedicated artists then only our Bharateeya Natyam, Sangeetham will live forever.
Warm Regards
Drs. Raja - Radha Reddy and Kaushalya Reddy (May 2, 2020)

Wonderful article by Dhananjayan sir. The plight of the artistes have been well explained. The suggestions are practical and if implemented will bring a balance in the field of performing arts. Thank you.
- Keshav (April 15, 2020)

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