No shame in art
An advertisement of a popular TV show on a leading channel showcasing women dancers in a bad light drew a lot of flak on Twitter.
India is a land of varied cultures and traditions and Indian folk dances have always been a form of coherent expression of human feelings in our country. No wonder then, an advertisement of a popular TV show on a leading channel showcasing women dancers in a bad light drew a lot of flak on Twitter.
The said promo states, ‘Kya aap karenge ek nachaneya ko bahu ke roop mein swikar.’ Nachaniya is the colloquial slang for someone who makes a living as a dancer. It posits the question as to whether a wealthy Indian family would take a dancer as their own. This advertisement itself speaks volumes about the very dim view that the Indian masses have with respect to dancers, artists and performers. Not only leading danseuses but one of the first people to react was senior UP Police officer, Rahul Srivastava. He tweeted, “A flippant advert of a TV serial, ‘profaning’ a ‘sacred’ art form. The ‘Yellow & bold headlines’ asks the viewers “would you accept a ‘dancer’ as your daughter in law? Dance as a gracious art form needs to be celebrated rather than de”moralized” This is plain ‘REGRESSIVE’”
A great voice of the artistic tradition, Manjari Chaturvedi, a Sufi Kathak dancer, through her Courtesan Project has been trying to change the narrative around artists for the past ten years. She says, “Nachnewali, nachaniya, tawaif, mujra these are all terms that are used to slam a woman performer. The irony is that the similar men performers are given respect whereas women are subjected to ridicule. It’s all patriarchy driven; the idea is to show the woman her place. And while we talk of women rights, even the most elite educated people fall prey to using these terms, easily.” She adds, “This sense of entitlement of owning a woman is time and again told through such stories and it gets imprinted on the minds of the audience.”
Shovana Narayan, Indian Kathak dancer, says, “This is unfortunate! The portrayal of an artist in this light is contrary to the depiction of artists in Indian mythology and philosophy. Over the year’s people have tried to defame dancers and this mentality has solidified over decades and has deeply penetrated popular notions and stereotypes. We are a land where Vedas integrate rituals with performance arts, where not only praises to god were sung but the dialogues were part of a dramatic discussion of spiritual themes.”
Shovana adds, “TV makers have an innate responsibility to be aware and critically think through their advertisements and the premise of their shows as their actions would have a ripple effect on the behaviour and body language of a lot of people.”
Kaushalya Reddy, Kuchipudi dancer, feels, “With such shows and portrayals of artists, seeds of distrust and disrespect for other professions especially the arts are being planted, in a community, unnecessarily.” She adds, “Every word should be measured and carefully spoken in a society with impressionable minds. “
Upon being asked to comment on the outrage on Twitter, producer, Gul Khan, states, “The show is about a small town girl who ekes out her living by showcasing her art of dance and refuses to be morally judged because of her profession.”
She further adds, “Dancers play an integral part in many prominent occasions and are routinely engaged by wealthy families, but these families hypocritically do not deem them worthy to be a bride.”
Yogita Bhayana, social activist and founder, People Against Rapes in India, says, though agreeing with the premise of the show expressed her displeasure at the wording of the advertisement. She says, “I hoped that the hypocrisy could have been brought to light in a better way without hurting the sentiments of the artists.”
“Dance is not disgraceful. The male gaze is disgraceful. Period. Accept it. Fight it. Stop it right here. Speak up. Don’t let our children grow with abusive words which are used for women freely. They should be encouraged and taught to respect all genders and live with a freedom to express their desires and talents,” Manjari signs off.