No one can say that Raghav Chatterjee does not sing well. He does. He is an extremely talented and skilled singer and performer. But he came up short in delivering for the major and I stress, major part of his audience at Kallol Puja. He was too loud and sometimes painfully screaming. His repertoire was too post modern and convoluted for our liking. He possibly was targetting relatively young Calcutta born crowd present, but he definitely did not cater to the people who paid most for hiring him. The fault does not lie with him. The so called younger group of Kallol is ostensibly in control of the stage and what goes on there. Programs are chosen and directed by them with a trace of arrogance and a little bias. We heard Raghav at Banga Sammelan in New York and really liked his not so hip performance on the sober side. But his program at Kallol was disappointing to many and I dare say most of us. 50 people who danced with his singing at Durga Puja are not the final arbiters, I am afraid.
This is neither new nor an isolated instance. Larger question is: are we being culturally manipulated by a few? Have we always been? By we I mean people who have been here for two or three decades or longer. In the beginning we had amongst us a self proclaimed intellectual coterie, the “better than thou” crowd. They fed us with all sorts of revolutionary cliche’d theatrical performances and obscure plays. We the intellectually challenged masses sat through them approvingly lest we were branded un-intellectual. Then there were literary seminars and classical musical soirees. We also suffered through them silently. While we prided ourselves of being in elite intellectual company, they really needed an audience and mostly our money.
Now, there are friends and close acquaitances, who consider themselves artistically gifted, eager to present their wares in public, at a price of course. Saying no to their entreaties to buy a ticket or two will not take you far. What is a friend in need if the most expensive tickets are not bought? They also badly need a crowd. So attenedence is a must if you do not want to flush your relationship down the drain.
I say, where the culture is doled out wholesale as in Durga Puja we have to excercise our collective power in letting the organizers know what we want. In retail performance area we have to excercise our individual buying power in choosing what we like. Sitting through poorly presented and histrionically deficient plays, listening to Rabindra Sangeet in Hindi or Sukumar Roy in English translation is ultimate undermining of our cultural sensitivity. We are not doing any favor either to our friends by encouraging them to hold on to their delusional views of their thespian and musical talents.