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Arts thrive only when people pay: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

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Acclaimed film director, screenwriter and producer Adoor Gopalakrishnan today said only when people pay to enjoy the arts can artistes thrive.
 
Airing his views at a panel discussion on ‘Creative Approaches to Sustainability’ at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) here, Gopalakrishnan raised questions on the impact of technology on the arts, the role of an artiste in society and the need for people, and not just the state, to nurture art.
 
“Why must we only depend on government patronage? In our country, arts and culture are given last priority – they come after sports in every budget! So it is important to educate people on their responsibility to provide sustenance to the performing arts be it ‘Koodiyattam’ or ‘Kathakali,” he said.
 
Sanjna Kapoor, director of Junoon, the travelling theatre company, building on the theme of sustenance, spoke of the crying need for professional management in the field of the arts.
 
“Although there is a rich variety of the arts in India, we are not doing anything to value them or make them flourish. When we urbanize, if we don’t think of spaces for the arts, it is going to be detrimental to the health of the country. Our role as artistes is to claim our spaces, explore terrifying and new areas and shout out our needs,” she said.
 
On the subject of technology, while Adoor, ever the minimalist, observed that technology often diminishes palpability but can be harnessed by better technique, Sanjna chose the middle ground, suggesting that technology can help the artiste if used well.
 
“The arts should not be static; they should evolve and adapt. Opportunities, be it from technology or from the corporate world, need to be grabbed and managed well,” she added.
 
Responding to the role of an artiste in society, Odissi, Chau and Manipuri danseuse Sharon Lowen said an artiste must be a risk taker. “Creativity is the opportunity to keep exploring and learning, and to keep taking risks.” 
 
Indian classical dancer and choreographer Alarmel Valli spoke about the process of creating art. “Art becomes a cliché when the artiste becomes too secure. Vibrant tradition can fall prey to straitjackets. As artistes, we need to understand traditions, practice and internalise them and come up with something new. We should take the ‘then and there’ and make it our ‘here and now’,” she explained.
 
Award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter Vipin Vijay struck a different note when he confessed that contemporary artistes need to speak their mind more often.
 
Actor, director and screenwriter Pawan Kumar, whose films ‘Lucia’ and ‘U-turn’, have seen commercial and critical success said, “As a film maker, I see myself more as an artisan and less as an artiste.”
 
He spoke of sustenance in the context of his own creative journey from dropping out of engineering college to staging plays in an almost-empty theatre to enjoying box office success.
 
“Rewards and marketing are important for sustainability in the arts. As an artiste, I want people to listen to me. To have an audience is vital for sustainability. It is all about finding the right balance between making money and getting work acclaimed critically. Managerial competence and finance are also important for good art to thrive,” he explained.
 
The workshop, led by Prof. A. Damodaran, the IPR Chair at IIMB, brought together film directors, leading performing artistes and thought leaders for a day of stimulating discussions on how innovative creative organizations can make a transformative difference.
 
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Earlier in the day, while welcoming participants to the round table, Prof. Damodaran said the forum was not a lit fest or a film fest, but a platform to explore whether simple can be beautiful, in the context of minimalism.
 
IIMB’s Dean Faculty Prof. Ishwar Murthy pointed out that IIMB strives to create a platform for exchange of ideas. “You can plant seeds of thought here today and things will happen. You can create the dots in a way that we all connect them,” he said.
 
The day’s other highlights included the screening of the 70-minute film, ‘A Door to Adoor: Images/ Reflections’, by well-known filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli on imagery in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films.
 
“There’s a huge difference between both our styles of film making. I use imagery to embellish my offerings, he uses imagery to heighten the minimalistic effect in his films,” said Kasaravalli.
 
Divided into five segments – all named after the master’s works – Kasarvalli’s film explored the use of minimalism in Adoor’s films through his choice of music, lighting and imagery.
 
This was followed by a masterclass on ‘Spinning Creative Ventures: The Junoon Saga’ by Sanjna Kapoor. There was a mesmerizing Kathakali performance by Margi, an organization dedicated to the revival of ‘Kathakali’ and ‘Koodiyattam’, through the Gurukula system of training.
 
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