Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Age, Exposure and Experience

Okay, so it's a morning ramble, but I think I do have something to say. Many 'young' artists face this peculiar obstacle of 'being young'. Because they are young, they are not considered experienced. And young may well just mean that they've not been exposed to audiences enough, for whatever reason. Artists are classified into 'young', 'middle-level' and 'senior'. The senior category is uncontested. You've got age and experience on your side. In most cases, anyway. Incidentally, that still does not always mean they are the most talented.

The confusion comes in the other two categorizations. When a 40-something year old dancer wins an award in the young dancer's category, and a 35-year old dancer with perhaps more exposure, but as much training and experience as a 'young' dancer is termed 'middle-level', I'm baffled. Then, a 26 year old is not eligible to apply in the young dancers' category for most festivals. But does that mean he/she becomes a middle-level artist? Or do they remain 'young' (and therefore, inexperienced) until a cultural organisation/sponsor deems them as 'experienced' enough to enter the middle-level? On what basis are these categorizations made and foisted onto artists? Moreover, why does being 'young' imply less capable of creativity, choreography and composition? Does creativity come at a certain age, and not before that? 

Then, I wonder - Is performing frequently (exposure to the public) proof of being 'experienced' (and no longer young?!)? What if an artist has been practicing his/her art tirelessly for twenty-twenty five years, but has performed seldom in those years because of other constraints or priorities?

Moreover, what about all those talented, hardworking artists who have not had the privilege of pushing their art form onto public platforms? We all know that performance opportunities don't come merely out of hard work and talent - factors such as who we know, how we market ourselves, how we are labelled (young, middle-level, experienced, graded by Doordarshan, empanelled by ICCR etc etc), and how much we can afford to spend - all contribute to how often we get seen in public.

Perhaps it is fair to assume then, that experience is measured not by the years of training/dedication, nor solely by knowledge of the art form, but rather by how old we are and how exposed we are to the public. In turn, how 'exposed' we are depends not on how talented we are, but rather by who we know, how we are known and how we market ourselves.

Isn't it time to set aside these categorizations, and be given platforms to perform based only on talent, hard work and creativity? Young or old, thin or fat, rich or poor, exposed/supported or not - there is talent and mediocrity at all of these levels. Isn't it time to measure 'experience' and worth based solely on skill and perseverance? Isn't it time to cast aside the other factors when measuring experience and worth? I, for one, wait for the day when I apply for a festival/performance, and the only thing they ask me for is a sample of my work.


  1. Barbara Harriss-WhiteDecember 29, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    I'm an outsider but what I imagine is that this is in part a political classification, in part a hang over from/ path dependent product of the long lasting and noble guru-disciple relationships through which creativity has been nurtured in India, in part a matter of talent and creative skill and in part who you know...and that this why it doesn't make sense and is so baffling!

  2. Lady,sure taking a chill-pill is no remedy, when you are fuming about an issue that is so passionate to you.

    Nevertheless, All artists, at some point spoke about your feelings at a point when they were not recognized, now that they have, these feelings are alien to them.

    Like any other field, art too calls for a Big Daddy. Patience and Passion alone -unfortunately seem to be the capsule t swallow.

    Recently I read about an article, where Aishwarya Rajnikanth was given a "Kalaimamani" Award, under the young artist category. Honestly, how much of her Talent has one seen?
    There are several such examples to talk of, if we paid attention to it.

    Vani Jayaram, such a promising singer was shunned out of the Industry by the Sisters Lata & Asha, but she did so well, in other regions.
    One of the most respected artists for the traits and qualities she holds, not just for her Voice.
    KJ Yesudas, was underplayed on supporting her.
    All of these people, started at the same time. The cunning played politics, the Gems shine for ever.

    Hang on there Aranyani, Its not an advice, but its what you need to fight through.

  3. I agree that once you get recognition, then these feelings become alien. But how you get recognition is what I'm questioning.

    And once you get recognised, is it right for you to let the feelings become alien to you? The worst is when you don't acknowledge that you ever felt like that, or when you start disregarding the struggles of 'unrecognized'(for whatever reason) artists.

    Your examples are quite telling, eh.

    I'm hanging in there, don't worry! :) But this was not merely my voice, or about my struggle. I'm voicing the collective struggle of a lot of 'young' artists in an arguably unfair system.