I am very disturbed. I consider myself to be a patron of the arts and the type of girl who loves a good bit of dramatic expression - on canvas, on stage, in song, in step, in word or on 70mm. I'd like to believe that my senses are acutely tuned to find 'truth', 'beauty' and of course coolness in any work of art that is presented to me.
Two nights ago, I traipsed out in the Delhi heat in response to a Facebook invite promising music, comedy, dance and general fun associated with Mr. Kite type evenings. I even dished out Rs.300 that I do not have, to attend this soiree of the artisitic elite. I withstood the horrendous crush of sweaty bodies, all breathing hot, steaming air, crammed into a space that could barely contain its own waiting staff. For all their pedigree, this lot didn't seem to think twice about shoving their exfoliated elbows into my sides, just to inch closer to the 'stage'. They also thought it acceptable to talk loudly through all the comedic sketches that could barely be heard, in spite of the mics.
I may have bitched and moaned and annoyed my friend to the point of violence, but I swear I tried to enjoy it. I tried to forget that these o-so-intelligent organizers hadn't thought to wonder how they would fit over 50 people into an airtight box that could only accomodate 15. I also tried to get over my own baseless prejudices of this 'spoilt bunch of kids who walk around with an air of entitlement' (I'm human, I too have my internal caste system). But what I could not get over was the level of goop churned out by the actors. Did they imagine they were in a PG Wodehouse novel? Were they in the smoking room of a duke's chalet? Were they longing for the days of the Raj to return? Who were these people? I didn't recognize them.
After the evening was officially declared over with a rousing samba (which I thoroughly enjoyed - I'm not that much of a cynical bitch), my friend and I got embroiled in an argument. She had a valid point - these kids were representing a space that's real and exists and had not been represented that openly on the Indian scene. Hyper-elite art, I'd call it. You have to be familiar not just with Western art forms but also Western lifestyles, references and perspectives. It's cool and it has a right to exist.
I was disturbed because I'd like to think that I stand up for any artist's right to express and for any art's right to exist. Yet I was unable to reconcile myself to these young, obviously sincere people recreating Vaudeville in a sense.
Because, if I want Vaudeville, I'd like to see the real thing. Or if it's being done in India by Indians then I don't just want the bare minimum that the bunch is capable of. It doesn't excite me because there's nothing new except the location of the performance and the nationality of the performers. I don't like when artists set out to do something new and then end up doing the same old. I don't like lukewarm.
As a writer who is not the most gifted or the most appreciated (I've had some hard criticisms thrown my way), there's a part of me that says - awww, let them blossom, let them bloom, let them say their piece because they want to. For God's sake, give them their right to be. They're trying.
But then I look into my wallet and find it so empty that I can't afford to go for Vishal Bhardwaj's next film at PVR and I say - screw you and your well meaning experiments.
I want my money back.