Recently I had a reflective discussion on the state of contemporary art and music with my dear friends Amod Khanna and his wife Chitra both of whom passionately run the prominent NGO TAAL (Toward Action and Learning) here in Bhopal. Amod and I are middle and high-school classmates.
Since I myself am a practising artist, it would not be professionally correct for me to air my views for or against fellow practitioners, or decision makers in and out of government who decide the fate of artists and musicians, however I can objectively state the salient questions that begged for answers during this intense discussion :
- Is democratization of art and music directly proportional to the rise in mediocrity and fall in standards of art and music ?
- Is increasing number of practitioners of art and music directly proportional to the rise in mediocrity and falling standards of art and music ?
- Is music and art for the masses ? Should they be ? If not, should music and art initiatives be funded the way they are now ? If yes, who should be arbitor of quality in these initiatives where high taxpayer moneys or large chunks of private enterprise moneys are being spent for the masses ?
- Would it help if art and music appreciation is taken seriously at the Schooling level itself ? Should objective (objective is the keyword here) documentation be prepared on Indian and World Art and Music History by undisputed and third party subject experts, which could then be included in the curriculum on art and music appreciation in the schools ? If yes, who should foot the bill for this massive initiative, should it be the Ministry of Education ?
- Should art and music be subsidized for the masses ? Does that improve art/music orientation and demand for better standards of art/music ? Have other parts of the world followed the same formula ? Or does subsidization lead to increase in entertainment value on one hand, loss of quality consciousness and lack of belongingness on the other, and vested interests and coterie arbitors on selection standards on yet another ?
- What should be the comparative role of government (ie tax payer money) and market in promotion of arts and music? For example, who should put money for the preservation of art forms facing extinction? Who should put money for promotion of young talent? Who will fund the need of the market to find a new star every 3 months? And more importantly who and how does one distinguish betwen shresht (best) and vishesh (special)?