Besides the anxiety of personal safety many questions crowd the minds of people in general, and artistes in particular, because they are a community who thrive on connect. When will we start regular classes, when will programmes happen, will there be sponsors and will there be audience and so on?
The use of digital platforms and modes to learn, showcase and spread has been building up for quite some time, now gathering momentum. Virtual learning has become the need not only in formal education but also in arts. Too long a vacation is not conducive to continuance.
Gurus erstwhile wary of digital modules, who never used recorded music but sing themselves in class and rehearsals are now teaching online. Gurus have reconciled to rescheduling programmes, arangetrams, etc but learning must go on.
“The advantage is they learn through skype in the safety of their home. There is a fractional time lag and hence the need to closely monitor the nritta segments, when I finish reciting the teermanam and so on. In classroom sessions, even in a large group the teacher can check the footwork,” says veteran guru K. Kalyanasundaram, who now connects with his senior disciples through cyber space.
The personal touch, the nascent and essential bonding between the teacher and the taught, so unique to art, is subtracted. But is it not better than sulking and shrinking in isolation? It is definitely helping youngsters by infusing in them positivity and anticipation.
Cyber learning could be a supplement not a substitute. It is also learning for many teachers, who have through practice improved their technical skills.
Budding and senior performers post videos, or participate in online festivals. Even women of bhajan groups and those who chant the weekly Lalitha Sahasranamam, connect on Zoom every week, rather than seek God in solitude. All these ventures stem out of a compulsive human need to be connected. Out of sight is out of mind.
There are a few who are in a perennial race for recognition; for them digital medium gives a clear edge. Not restricting the location, time and duration makes for larger viewership.
We did graduate from live to recorded music, from wearing of sari to stitched costume, from simple make-up to high end products, took the support of technology at every step from photos to videos etc., so why not use the digital medium to reach out.
Lata Surendra, who arranges day-long programme every International Dance Day, has curated and coordinated a nine- hour video, ‘Ode to Humanity’, showcasing over 86 dancers of all genres and stature from across the world.
“This is a big step into the world of virtual reality to surpass the isolating walls of the lockdown through the liberating dimensions of dance forms, music and literature. Art has always mirrored the changing life,” says Lata.
Solace through art
Gayatri Subramaniam, who hosts Utsav festival every year prior to monsoon conducted it online with equal commitment. “Art is food for the soul. Artistes find solace and provide solace to viewers, through their art. When COVID-19 crippled the normalcy of human existence, many artistes organically gravitated towards digital platform reaching out to millions of people across the globe, working within limitations to tap limitless opportunities. Art curators have smoothly adapted to the changed circumstance.
While technology is being used with intelligence, the possibility of an ‘online-only’ platform is out of the question. The digital platform has opened a new avenue and it is here to stay, but the energy of a live performance, with the artiste and audience face to face, is irreplaceable,” says Gayatri.
Performing for a neutral camera or mobile is a demanding task. An appreciative nod and applause from audience is something special which likes, shares and subscriptions cannot give.
‘[email protected]’ is a periodical digital series of exclusive videos and content from across genres from NCPA’s extensive archival library, enabling patrons of art to enjoy some of the finest performances from the safe confines of their homes.
Bonding with people
“The show must go on,” avers Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, Head Programming, Dance, NCPA.
“No one can undermine the effect of a live performance and the experience of alert minds bonding with each other through the arts. Every challenge comes with opportunities. Going online has given us the opportunity to ‘add art’ to the lives of our audiences. With live shows we were able to only reach out to a limited audience but with online, we reach out to even that woman who perhaps has never stepped out of her kitchen,” she adds.
Sudhir Nayak of KalaCoast, who is a committed host of music and informative lectures by veteran and promising artistes under various aegis, uses digital platform to showcase senior artistes such as Aneesh Pradhan, Aditya Kalyanpur and musical musings with likes of Shubha Mudgal. The bonus is for viewers, who can relax in the cosy comfort of their armchair at home watching sessions of yoga, music, dance, drama and Stand-up comedy without travelling or spending money; fortifying the meandering mind from brooding.
Whether digitalisation is a boon or bane is debatable. There is no two opinion that art by itself is an elevating medium and will forever be our proud heritage, to be preserved and ornamented by new ideas and efforts. Tradition and technology can co-exist with each augmenting the other.
The creative curve
A creative mind cannot and should not rest. Research and content creation is comparatively easier in the present context. Digitalisation is indispensable to modern methods, facilitating dissemination of information at the press of a button or sourcing music, literature, meaning and modules.
“Inspired by ‘Art by the letter’ series we decided to create ‘Akashara Kala’ on Instagram and our Facebook page. Using Hindi alphabet varnamala-the Devanagari Script as the base, we explore one letter each week through the idioms of music, dance and allied art forms,” informs Asha Sunilkumar, who spearheads Sanskriti at Thane.
“The idea was basically to get students thinking, to read, create and find new ways to present the alphabet.”
For Chandana Bala Kalyan it is time to create and augment her knowledge bank. “I allot time after coping with household chores for generating new ideas, tuning and elucidation in music and research. I also interact with my senior disciples at mutually convenient time for furthering learning.”
Chandana Bala Kalyan
Subramanian Chidambaran, Carnatic vocalist and speaker started with a 21-day YouTube series on Valmiki Ramayanam, keeping it simple but detailed, following it with a session of 20 episodes on Kshetradanam of Hindu temples, highlighting the rituals and going through Guruvayur and Kanchipuram. In his latest ‘Vande guru parampara,’ he interviews great gurus from different areas.
Subramanian Chidambaran hosting an online session
Artistes have now become more inclusive and do not mind sharing their work.
“Many have shared numerous themed presentations, talk sessions, workshops, online festivals to inspire and heal the community,” says Gayatri Subramaniam, who curates series of lectures by the likes of Leela Samson and Jayachandran, facilitating aspirants across the world to participate.
When normalcy returns, artistes will be equipped with new productions, researched and rehearsed repertoire to present in sabhas and event venues.
The new normal phase will provide a new perspective not only to life, but art too.