Traditional art on last legs

Posted on May 1, 2010

Abhirup Bhunia:

Art is a prudent articulation of what goes through an artist’s mind that intends to absorb the people and engross them without resorting to entertaining in a manner which is not artistic in the least. Art and culture has vivid and wide reaching connotation; it could refer to art, panting, sculpture, theatre, films, any traditional custom or a creative output of any sort for that matter. Even poems and literature can fall under the ambit of art. Quite explicitly, older and traditional forms of art round the world have been forsaken and dumped. Falling under these in India are theatre, puppet shows, mural art, pottery and several others from diverse categories of art among others.

Budging from India, opera is perhaps the most prestigious form of cultural expression that assumes immense literary and intellectual significance. It goes back to ancient times when in Greece the drama and dialogue was accompanied by musical orchestra that was formed by mere flute or a harp and a tubby barrel to be drummed. It however had died out and a renewed form exists in very small packages today. For its somewhat macabre treatment of life and for its lengthy structure that often goes beyond a spectators patience limit, opera has perchance been deserted by people. In addition it has faced tremendous competition from pop music, videos, films and cheap entertainment among other diversions.

India is known for its cultural leaning and for its overbearing tenacity in keeping itself rooted to culture, tradition and often to a degree that is unbearably time-honored. Theatre has faced a situation in India that the opera has faced in the West if at all they can be put on the same dais for the sake of comparison alone. To travel to a different form of art or creativity that is not visual or has got little to do with spectatorship, stages or performing arts, one can instance the earthenware art that is infamous in this part of the world. The craft is often claimed to be ancestral in nature and deeply entrenched to the antecedents of the much earlier generations. The entire process is typified by hard slogging and in most cases is time-consuming and needs persistence and perseverance in order for perfection. It all starts with sand which is gathered, followed by it being dipped in water for more than 72 hours. Then the bolus of mud is placed on the rotating wheel, which is exceedingly famous. The rotating wheel is almost an archetypal pictorial description of pottery as a whole. The mud takes the shape of a pot which is then baked meant to be hardened. Then coloring and terracotta complexion ensues which is sold in the markets. However, this is an art form which has increasingly lost its magnetism among people and is only prevalent in a few regions of the nation where women still dangle their hips as they balance the pots in their heads. (The balance is an art too, for that matter.) The one-time lucrative market of pottery has faded, so has the diligence among potters owing to feeble markets and insufficiency in sustaining families. Among other dying arts of India are folk crafts like Parewa, Patra Chitra, Dhokra and Karigeer, belonging to Mewar, Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh respectively. Amongst the visual forms of traditional entertainment is puppet show which is not a crowd puller as it was earlier, principally due to the various modernized forms of art which are apparently far more eye-catching. In Bhubaneshwar, customary mural art painters have gone with the flow and have been forced to gradually abandon it on account of losing client following or customer base. One of India’s oldest classical art forms, the intricate mural art consists of lime, jute and molasses as basic ingredients.

Modern or contemporary art has sure captured popular imagination, but the classical forms are in no way replaceable. Similarly, though films entertain the mass with the Bollywood industry rising each day in terms of fan following, theatre has a significance and class of its own. Before we forget to say, several movie actors have descended from theatre namely Manoj Bajoai, Anupam Kher, Irfan Khan, Vivek Oberoi and the likes.

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