No support for artists?

I have been talking about this for quite some time now. There is absolutely no support infrastructure for budding artists and companies. If an artist wants to put up a show, the biggest challenge they face is to gather an audience. They can somehow manage to find a space to rehearse, other artists to collaborate with and look after other logistics. But what does one do when it comes to attracting audiences who would be interested in consuming their art? There is of course the most obvious issue – the social one. We in India, simply don’t have a culture where audiences are interested in paying for art (of any kind) Our mindset is still stuck at… arts mein kya rakha hai. Engineering karo. Mind you, there is a huge difference between arts and entertainment. Unfortunately in our country the two are always used interchangeably. We simply do not think that dance, theatre and/or any kind of performing arts is worthy of our money. We would rather pay to watch Bigg Boss on television.

It will take a lot of time for this kind of mentality to change. It requires a revolution. Some people are constantly making efforts to change it, and will continue to do so. However there are certain other issues too that contribute to the lack of development or betterment of our Industry – one of them being lack of support from the corporate sector. A platform like BookMyShow, that holds monopoly over ticketing, offers absolutely no support to small outfits who are trying to organize events independently. We recently organized our event, and decided to tie up with BMS for ticketing because of their huge market. Obviously, we agreed to their terms in regard to the commission. But it doesn’t end there. They also charge a “convenience fee” or “Internet handling” fee which is to be paid by the end user during the booking process. Basically, they earn revenue from the organizer as well as the customer. Now, as per the information released by RBI (thanks to an RTI filed by Vijay Gopal), this internet handling fees is, infact, not legal (falls in the grey areas) and is in violation of MDR regulations. This charge needs to be paid by the merchant to the bank, and not the user (Trust me, as a business we pay it too) but organizations like BookMyShow make the users pay it.

This aside, we also wanted to do some extra marketing in collaboration with them – for which they said their minimum package was for Rs. 25,000 – in which they would merely promote a facebook post and it would run until the budget exhausts. No featured posts. No mention in the newsletter. I respectfully declined because, quite frankly, we just didn’t have the money and running a promotional campaign on facebook is something we could have done ourselves too.

Basically, (a) their additional charges are a deterrent for audiences to come watch live shows, (b) organizers think a hundred times before buying their promotional packages because they’re so damn expensive and (c) organizers also have to pay them a share of the ticket sales revenue as commission. Oh, and if its a free event, you have to pay them a fixed amount per seat because they don’t host events for free on their website.

All in all, not a very good deal for smaller outfits. Profit to door ki baat hai, aise toh costs bhi cover nahi hongi. And absolutely NO guarantee that a minimum number of tickets will definitely be sold. You could do all this and still be performing in an empty auditorium.

Other big corporate houses do have CSR, but they only offer their schemes to NGOs or companies, not to individuals. Its very difficult then, as an individual, to get any kind of support from these organizations for any venture. So many artists in our country are suffering everyday, working for a measly amount of Rs. 1200 for a 12-hour shoot. They end up scrounging for work in places they don’t want to – wedding choreographies, corporate events, school events, ad shoots etc. Some of these dancers are extremely well-trained and have invested years in their training. Yet, they end up struggling for a very long time.

What we need is a massive overhaul in the overall social outlook and corporate social responsibility. We need more support from the government and society as a whole to flourish. Performing arts is in India’s fabric, let’s not let it die.

Aye Sinamika – New choreography (Updated link)

When I first heard this song, I didn’t like it much. Then I heard it again, and it seemed better. Before I knew, I was deeply in love and couldn’t let this song go. I’ve been obsessing over it for 6 months. I had planned to choreograph this at one point, but hoped it wasn’t one of my fleeting obsessions. The choreography didn’t actually start with this song; it started with a different song and ended up with this one because my instinct kept telling me to use it. Anyway, enough rambling…I think the video is decent. Critique and feedback is always welcome.

Aye Sinamika (Choreography) from Aparajita Burjwal on Vimeo.

Binge Living

I wrote this so long ago, feels like yesterday though. One story that I’m actually proud of.

Aparajita Burjwal

Hair roughly tied back in a loose bun and mascara running down her cheeks, Swati looked around the room. The state of her house reflected her inner state – broken. Her life was empty. She had nothing.

Her mind suddenly started reeling back in her past. The only good years of her childhood were the years she spent with her parents. When she was 5, they died in a car accident. They were both driving under influence (DUI), something that Swati was completely unaware of. Alcoholism lived in her house – day in and day out. Her thoughts shifted to the time spent in an orphanage. Those were probably the worst years of her life. She preferred not to recall them, so her mind sped through those memories and paused at one day. The day she ran away from the orphanage.

While she was in the orphanage, Swati had discovered a…

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Binge Living

Hair roughly tied back in a loose bun and mascara running down her cheeks, Swati looked around the room. The state of her house reflected her inner state – broken. Her life was empty. She had nothing.

Her mind suddenly started reeling back in her past. The only good years of her childhood were the years she spent with her parents. When she was 5, they died in a car accident. They were both driving under influence (DUI), something that Swati was completely unaware of. Alcoholism lived in her house – day in and day out. Her thoughts shifted to the time spent in an orphanage. Those were probably the worst years of her life. She preferred not to recall them, so her mind sped through those memories and paused at one day. The day she ran away from the orphanage.

While she was in the orphanage, Swati had discovered a deep love for music – that was perhaps the only good thing to have happened to her in that place. Her love and passion for music drove her to construct a plan to run away. She knew she had to learn music.

A small bittersweet smile touched upon her lips as she recalled the wild times she spent outside the orphanage – Struggle for work, money and survival, small and petty jobs, endless drinking and endless music. She finally managed to collect enough money to enroll in a music academy.

Music academy. Her mind stopped there. From there on, it was as if she had had a re-birth. That she wasn’t Swati Gupta. She looked around her house once again, and this time she noticed the broken photo frames.

Armaan came into her life when she stepped into that academy. They hit it off almost instantly and before she knew it, they were in love. Swati could speed past 20 years of her life, but each moment that she spent with Armaan was engraved in her mind like a tattoo. She knew that he was the one. Still did.

After graduating from the academy, Armaan, Swati and a two of their common friends decided to form an Indian pop band. That was the highest of all the highs – their band. Her world was full of music, lyrics, tunes, notes, instruments, voices..everything music. Their band was an instant success. They were on the top for 5 straight years. But as they say, nothing lasts forever. And then Swati Gupta became Swati Gupta once again.

Armaan had a drinking problem. His drinking increased when early success struck them. With each passing concert, his addiction became worse. When the media sniffed this, the tabloid papers went into a frenzy. It created a rift between their band members. And just as they had shot up to fame in 5 seconds, they were pulled down in 2.5.

Swati stood up for Armaan wherever necessary. They moved in together. Lack of music was like lack of air. Armaan indulged himself into alcohol, and it increased her resentment. Not long after their fall from grace, she discovered that she was addicted to music and the audience. Her craving to play the guitar just once again increased day by day. To get rid of the anxiety, she played in small bars and restaurants. One day, when things got too out of hand, she confronted Armaan. Their fight culminated in them breaking up.

Her mind zapped back to the present. Words from that conversation still echoed in her brain.

“I can’t do this anymore Armaan”

“Then don’t”

“You really mean that?”

6 months. It had been 6 months. She moved out and found another flat. With Armaan gone, she was completely hollow from inside. She tried to get her mind away from him by working endlessly, but it didn’t work. Each day was like a restricted breath. When it got too much to handle, she turned to the only way she could find – drugs.

They opened a new world for her – momentary happiness. It was like flying in heaven for those few moments. She forgot all about her failure, and about Armaan for those few moments. It was like being back to her mother’s welcoming arms. Her dependency increased everyday, to the point that she was working only to be able to buy enough for one day. She had no permanent house, and moved from one flat to the other as frequently as changing clothes. Her previous cleanliness ‘freak’ attitude had been turned into complete disregard of her surroundings. She lost her appetite, wore the same clothes for numerous days, stopped caring for her health and her veins were beginning to weaken.

But she kept using. She didn’t know what had become of her life. ‘Living’ was now an alien word. Slowly and gradually, her world started revolving around drugs, and one day, she had no work. And now, she was here.

She blinked fresh tears and looked down at the syringe. The only object that offered her some solace. Without thinking, she shot it up her arm and closed her eyes.

She was in a vast white room. She was wearing nothing except of a small necklace, with a guitar in her hand. A smile adorned her face as she started playing. In the distance, she could hear a melodious voice singing. Turning around, she saw that it was Armaan, and he too, was smiling at her.

But his face faded into nothingness as the immediate euphoric rush ended. She felt herself slipping into a state of drowsiness. Armaan’s smiling face still lingered in her mind. Suddenly, she doubled over and vomited out blood. Her pupils began to dilate and her temperature suddenly dropped. She lifted her shivering hands and saw that they were blue. Weakness took over her and she began to lean sideways towards the ground. As her head touched the ground, her breathing became shallow.

Her mind once again sped past all memories, and the last thought before she closed her eyes was of Armaan waiting for her in the white room with his arms open.

 

_______________________________

Armaan tried to control his shivering hands as he ran then through his hair. Being put into a rehab was nothing short of hell. 3 days in this place – and he already wanted to end his life. The withdrawal symptoms were getting too much to handle. It seemed as though he had run into a dead end, and there was no way out.

He got up from his bed and started pacing to ease the anxiety. After Swati left, he had nothing left in life worth living for. He lived off his previous earning and occasionally sang when he ran out of funds. His day began with a can of beer and ended with whisky. It was not until he rammed into an old lady while drunk driving that the police put him in a rehab.

His heart craved for her presence every day. He knew he had ruined their relationship, but Swati’s sudden break down hadn’t helped his already guilt ridden conscious. It wasn’t something he could help – he was addicted. He tried to find her countless number of times, but never managed to find her. She kept moving from one place to the other. At times, he didn’t realize when his tears started getting mixed with alcohol. He tried and tried until he stopped controlling alcohol and alcohol started controlling him.

“Armaan”

He heard an angelic voice coming from the window. He turned to see Swati standing there, smiling at him. He couldn’t believe what he saw, “Swati?”

She just widened her smile and nodded. He was still shocked, he asked again, “Swati?”

He slowly walked towards her. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he outstretched his hand to touch her cheek. She leaned into his touch and said, “I can’t live without you Armaan”

“Neither can I”, said Armaan in a voice full of raw emotion.

But then she slowly moving backward towards the window. Armaan began to shake his head, “Swati, don’t leave me again, please, please, Swati..” tears were now freely rolling down his cheeks. His outstretched arm still lingered in the air as he tried to stop her. With horror, he realized that Swati was too close to the window and might slip.

“No Swati, no, stop!”, he yelled, but to no avail. In the wink of an eye, Swati slipped, the smile on her face still intact.

“NO!”, the scream left Armaan’s throat before he knew it. The door to his room burst open and his roommate came rushing to him. Turning a frantic Armaan around by the shoulders, he said “Armaan! What happened? Are you okay?”

“Anuj, Anuj, Swati was here. She-She fell down. We need to go down. I have to save her. She was here. I-”

“Armaan…Armaan!”, shouted Anuj when he kept on rambling, “Listen. There’s no one here. You were hallucinating”, he started rubbing Armaan’s arms, and said softly, “It happens. Okay? Hallucination is common amongst alcohol withdrawals”

Armaan, too dazed and shocked to respond, just mumbled, “B-But I saw h-her..How..”, and trailed off. Anuj’s heart broke at the sight of his roommate. He was not just an addict, he was shattered. Hollow.

Seeing that Armaan was in no state to think properly, he softly said, “C’mon, we need to attend the evening meeting”. He didn’t know whether he heard it or not, he simply held his hand and pulled him towards the door.

___________________________

Feedback will be highly appreciated. I’d written this long time back, and recently came across it again when I was browsing through my documents. Used to be an avid writer before.