02 March, 2021

Cauvery In A Puddle

The total hijack of the South's rich classical arts into airless, Brahmins-only monopolies is stifling genuine growth

Cauvery In A Puddle
If you want to OD on high art, even to the point of nausea, Chennai might seem the place to be in December and early January. Some 2,000 concerts, via 53 competing sabhas, all squeezed into four weeks. On the surface, Chennai's fabled appetite for Carnatic and Bharatanatyam—given full body during its annual 'margazhi' (winter) festival—shows no signs of waning. The more the merrier. Stuff it all up in one go and digest it through the year.

Washed ashore in this high tide of music and dance, however, are also signs of death. Not from a sudden wreckage, but the slow sinking of a grand liner following the wrong compass, into turbid cultural waters. Signs of suffocating, of closure, of gross inbreeding and loss of vigour, and the dubious life support offered by the marketplace.

Some symptoms are stark. For so many concerts per square inch, the audience is spread really thin. Fact is, in a city that boasts 6,000-plus Bharatanatyam dancers past their arangetram (debut) stage, and where every other locality has a maami offering classes in dance and music, the...

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