Saturday, 22 December 2012

Carnatic circus

Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyaru
By Sukanya Sankar
I have read and heard time and again from regular concertgoers on concert hall etiquette. Most of the usual complaints  in terms of in-concert behaviour are on calling out the wrong raga name, instructing your drivers to go home and these days of course fidgeting you’re your smartphones, tweeting and texting your OMG reactions on the concert. But my experience yesterday at a Ranjani–Gayatri concert at Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyaru at Kamaraj Hall was totally intimidating.
The hall itself is not suited for classical concerts. The bad sound system didn’t help much either; in fact it just increased the echo so much that rasikas seated in the middle and back of the hall had a feeling that they were sitting in a cave in Thiruvaiyaru!
So in this cave we have the volunteers chatting on the aisles and auctioning lucky draw tickets, kids running all around, the audience eating chips and some feeble shabashes and bales.
The whole series is sponsor/ television orchestrated. There is nothing wrong in sponsoring and recording classical concerts, but not to the point of annoying the artist and the audience. Vijay TV had mammoth crane cameras which kept moving overhead and also stopped working in the middle of B U Ganesh Prasad’s rendition. Mayhem resulted and he was asked to stop playing. Vijay TV had a cameraperson on stage, seated with his back to the artists and focusing on the audience. He was also seen running up and down the stage and moving the water bottles obstructing his view through the lens. Twelve sponsor screens were embedded in a “palace” backdrop and the centre screen was flashing right through the concert. If Vijay TV want to telecast a classical concert, why can’t they have a sponsored programme in their studio?
Ranjani-Gayatri were in great form and setting up a platform such as this was total injustice to them. Was I at fault to go and listen to a concert other than in the Music Academy and the various Gana Sabhas? Are we building an audience that understands what concert etiquette means? Or are we just interested in spreading art around? The only way to end such practices is for the artists to refuse to perform if the atmosphere is not right. But will they ever do it? Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyaru was more like Thiruvaiyaril Chennai.

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