Singer Sona Mohapatra is not one to mince words. The Bollywood singer has accused Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay’s annual festival Mood-Indigo of being sexist. In her open letter on Facebook, Sona has claimed the festival organisers have asked, for past three years, to get a ‘man’ along with her to perform at the festival.
She slammed Mood Indigo and pointed out at a larger trend of ‘big music festivals’ that follow similar trend of not having solo women performers as headliners.
She wrote, “Dear Mood Indigo, IIT Bombay! You claim that you are Asia’s ‘biggest’ cultural fiesta & take pride in being a premier institute of highest learning in the world too. I LAUGH at that claim & call you out straight up on this date for actually being a cess-pool of mediocrity instead.”
“All the mathematical equations in the world will not be able to teach you the equation of fairness. All the ‘balancing’ of equations count for nothing if you do not seek a balanced world. All the formulae in the world will not teach you the idea of making a true difference in the world & all the sponsorship, hype, marketing & branding of the world will not cover up the fact that you are a training ground for the worst kind of ‘boys clubs’ that create an imbalance in the world,” she added.
She further wrote, “What cultural festival has for decades showcased only men headliners on their stage, be it music, literature, politics, comedy or ANY other domain????? Yours- Mood I. ‘Most’ college campuses in India, esp the premiere institutes of course follow suit & ‘copy-paste’ this disgusting blueprint of yours. Don’t believe me? Please do check out the archives of the line ups you have showcased year after year & start by scrolling down your own current FB festival page today. You have good company in festivals like NH7 & other big music festivals in such discriminatory practices, so take heart (one Anoushka Grammy Shankar doesn’t change the obvious, yo boys!) So yes, your ‘boys clubs’ are quite a ‘brother-hood’ outside of the campuses too! Everyone passing out into the real world has been taught these lessons well in their colleges apparently. The only few human’s of my gender who have landed up ‘performing’ in this ‘cultural’ festival are either ‘not paid’ or could , only under the umbrella of another man or in a ‘troupe’ of some kind.”
Sona performed at an event in Hyderabad.
Sona shared details of offers she has been getting for past three years, “That you don’t even see the blatant sexism that your institute & festival is propagating is sickening. For three years in a row I’ve been getting calls from your Mood-I committee members for a concert in your festival but the invite always comes with a caveat. A BIG caveat. A non negotiable caveat. A ‘MAN’ needs to be clubbed in on the marquee to validate my stage, a paid stage in particular. A SOLO FEMALE headliner? Want to be paid a price? Just not possible. The ‘men’ have homes to support, we women just ‘work’ for ‘fun’! Don’t believe me? Go through your festival line-ups year after year, decade after decade & you will see this clear as day. You are people with a scientific temper who understand statistics & the like? You’ll see the SAD truth slap you on the face. It’s boys, boys & only more boys. The payment part is not so obvious & for now you will all just have to take my word for it. Does it effect me personally? Am I shedding tears of sadness about missing this great opportunity to entertain & blow your minds with my act? NO, not really. I’ve carved out my career path successfully despite the odds & am playing a lot of solo headlining gigs with my band SonaLive, 11 concerts in the last fortnight alone. No colleges except the ‘ladies only campuses’, as usual.”
She went on, “Why even write this letter then? Well, it is gut wrenching & it takes effort & all the love in my heart for my country to do so. That the premiere educational institutes of the country are blindly propagating such values while the government is putting a spotlight on the plight of the ‘Beti’s’ in the country in their public campaigns in 2016 is ironical. You ought to be leading the way in my not so humble opinion not just counting on the government for everything. You have no business being in the business of education using this country’s tax-payers money when you do not pursue its constitutional ideals. That your students are supposedly the top ‘intellect’ of our country & are being groomed to be in the top echelons of our country’s future scares me. They will go into the real world with this deep conditioning & this cycle of shit will continue till it gags our society & mankind!”
“I was advised by my well wishers to refrain from posting this letter. ‘Why come across as a trouble maker when things are going so well for you’, they said. Will only bring on negativity & harm your current touring & work. Truth is, very few people have the stomach to digest ugly truths, let alone tell them. Life here is tough as it is? I am proud of the fact that I do not add ‘glamour’ in other music directors ‘troupes’, get any work from them whatsoever & have yet lasted out & am playing 2-3 hour uncompromising concert sets in the biggest stages of the country. I am the most proud of the fact that my audience & fans love me for my own music & for being myself. My work with Ram Sampath is basis an equal work partnership where both of us contribute to a project, 50/50. Nothing more, nothing less. No favours given or taken. Only mutual respect. I have a young band of amazing musicians, all men at this point & all of whom have no issues backing a female solo artiste. In fact, they are unaware of my gender I believe. They tell me when I’m great on stage & are equally okay telling me if I’ve had an off day. I have a life partner who shares the same value & belief system & is unstintingly committed to the cause of equality of all kinds in society. These are MEN amongst MEN.”
“Those taking umbrage from the institute & calling me names or quoting the 1/2 odd women like Asha Bhosle who’ve graced their stages, go learn a lesson or two about statistics & also brush up your analytical skills. You don’t scare me. I know my numbers & operate on facts, not feelings,” she warned online trolls as she signed off.
Reacting to the allegations, an IIT Bombay spokesperson told DNA said that IIT had approached Mohapatra, but she had quoted a sum, which was more than their budget. “IIT-Bombay is the last place where you would encounter sexism. In fact, last month we had an event at our management institute where Tulsi Kumar gave a solo performance. Earlier this year, Asha Bhosle, too, had performed inside IIT,” DNA quoted the spokesperson as saying.
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