Entertainment Scene

Amitava Sen

Pujor Gaaner AshorNo 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.

Amitava Sen

2 thoughts on “Entertainment Scene

  1. Dear Amitava-da,

    I failed to comprehend the point of your article. Pardon my naivete’, but I did not understand what it is that you really like as entertainment. It seems you neither like classical music, nor pop/modern music (like the type presented by Raghab). You surely do not like local artistes, neither you are sure that you like the Kolkata artistes (like Raghab or Jojo). You kind of indicated that the people who paid most did not get what they wanted, implying that the “relatively young” crowd who danced to the beats of Raghab (although I did see few not-too-young folks stomping their feet and swaying their …) did not pay enough and hence do not deserve to be entertained. I don’t know if Kallol collects any statistics regarding age and contribution amount, but don’t you think that you are a bit presumptuous on this issue?

    You mentioned that the younger generation has taken over the control of the backstage. But isn’t this what the “elders” of Kallol has been asking for. all along? If you want the younger population to participate actively, you need to give them the some authority and independence too. They should have some say in what needs to be done. They should be allowed to express their cultural views too. You ofcourse have your rights to express your opinion, but so does the younger crowd.

    I agree that we need to express to the organizers what we want. But first of all we need to decide what character should our Kallol Pujo be? Should we mold our Pujo as a homely “Gharoa” kind, or make it a money making commercial venture. If we’d like it to be the “Gharoa” kind, I think we need to be more tolerant and encouaging to our local artistes. Yes, their presentations may not be of professional quality, but they may be our memories for life. Those videos that we record of our kids reciting Sukumar Roy in English or one of our friends singing Hindi Rabindrasangeet in off tune may help us spend few lonely evenings in our later days with few laughs.

    But if we like the Pujo to be a commercial venture, so be it. Bring on Bollywood and Tollywood. Let’s dance to the tunes of Miss Jojo or Alka Yagnik. Make it a gala extravaganza. Find a bigger place, charge big bucks, make it a great show.

    But then I do have a choice as to whether I want to buy the product or not. I, for sure, will try to seek out a more warm and homely Pujo, where I can share my heart with my friends and with Maa Durga.

    With best wishes of Subho Bijoya,

    Sudipta

  2. I found the blogs from Amitava and Sudipta quite interesting. I preferred to skip Raghab’s show @ Kallol over Chandrabindoo, but heard him singing the following weekend @ NY.He performed very well inspite of the poor sound system. He sang a wide variety of songs from bengali folk,films, recent hindi hits etc, By and large the audience enjoyed his show. .

    I have more questions and few answers when talking about our Bengali entertainment scene in NJ. Some of my thoughts:
    Catering to and satisfying a wide cross section of public is not an easy task. We need tolerance and acceptance of programs designed for a section of the populace different from which we may belong. Maybe Raghab could have entertained the Kallol audience better if he had known about the type of songs we would like. This applies to any performer for any show.
    We need ideas from all to enrich our entertainment scene and that includes our nextGen.
    One of the reasons we could not get the Bengali-NextGen( BNG) participate more wholeheartedly in our cultural events is because we are not receptive enough to listen to them. Have we tried enough to encourage them on topics of their interest? Why not provide them with a program slot to present their ideas? For the past many years we have taken pride in always ‘importing’ cultural icons from Desh and presenting them,…its high time that we start presenting our home grown talent. This year’s natak @ kallol Puja was a great example of how given an opportunity and guidance, the BNG can entertain us with quality presentations. Kudos to Sudipta and his team for leading the way.
    I believe we will be better off having a policy of inclusion over exclusion. Some appreciation, tolerance and patience is called for from the audience.
    Culture is not about ‘commodotizing’ a product. There cannot be a perfect ‘cultural product’ to sell in a market. Culture is a way of life,a perception that has to be felt and experienced by those who are inclined towards that experience. I think the ‘value’ factor for entertainment cannot be weighed in terms of ‘$$$’ terms only.

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