Blame it on the changing tastes and preferences of the people -- traditional creative arts and theatre are getting swamped by television reality shows.
Evidence of this was on display at Sharadotsav, Kumaon region's annual showcase event of its rich traditional culture. Old timers bemoan that it is reality TV stars and their stale fare that is dished out in the name of culture.
The six-day Autumn Festival (Sharadotsav) that concluded on Monday night would be remembered more for stale spoofs and jaded jokes that are frequently played out by artists at the TV reality shows.
All familiar TV artists like Sugandha Misra, Suresh Albela or portly Bharti Singh nee Lalli who performed at the Autumn Festival had nothing new to offer. Other performers like the winners of the now popular TV show , `L’il Champs’, namely Hemat Brijwasi, Swarit Shukla etc, or, for that matter, singer Raja Hasan.
But this evoked an unusually huge response from the audience. That was the very essence of `Sharadotsav’, which ``lies in its being primarily a cultural show, dedicated to promoting’’ the folk art of Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region. Initiated by the British as a recreational game show by the end of the 19th century `Sharadotsav’ was initially known as `Heats and Meets.’ By the first quarter of the 20th century the British administrators again renamed the show as `Ranikhet Week’ before re-christening it as `September Week.’
The game show got its present name (Sharadotsav), thanks to the late Rai Bahadur Jasod Singh Bisht, the first chairman of the Nainital Municipal Board in 1952. He re-christened the show as `Sharadotsav’ (Autumn Festival). Bisht is also credited with changing the very concept of the festival from a mere recreational game show to a full-fledged cultural fair with a focus on Kumaon’s vibrant local traditions.
"When the show was re-conceptualised in 1952 the idea behind that was two-fold --- projection of Kumaoni folk arts and promotion of the folk artists from the region," said Jahoor Alam, a veteran theatre artist of Nainital, who is also associated with `Yug Manch’, the town’s oldest theatre group.
"The dominance of the artists of the TV reality shows at the autumn festival and the huge response they got from the audiences have defeated the very purpose with which the show had been reconceptualised’’, he admitted. Alam attributed the gradual transformation of the `Autumn Festival’ from a pure cultural fair to a poor copy of the TV shows is nothing but a manifestation of growing influence of the idiot box.
The performances given by folk artists evoked a lukewarm response from the audiences whereas their response to the stars of the TV stars was huge. Dr Lalit Tiwari, a reader at Nainital’s Kumaon University, sees in the audiences’ changing response "a sign of the changing times, which is visible everywhere in the country, thanks to the growing influence of television."
Alam, however, considers that influence rather unfortunate. "Its unfortunate," he says, "because the Kumaonis have become so badly addicted to the fare being served by TV that most of them have stopped celebrating their own traditional festivals and have instead started celebrating those unheard of festivals they get to know about through TV programmes."