Saturday last week started with Vaani and I watching the “Petta” trailer. To us, there was nothing remarkable about it – except that he is most likely playing his age; it had all the trappings of the film ‘Rajnifying’ the audience though!
And Saturday ended for us with a spectacular, out-of-this-world, T M Krishna concert; his only live performance this Margazhi!
As #BlissCatcher Sriram Ayer (Season 1, Oct 2015), of NalandaWay, introduced the concert, he talked about how much venom had been spewed on social media over Krishna, over NalandaWay, and over the two partnering for this concert’s cause, to raise funds for the Chennai Children’s Choir. I had read some of those comments as they appeared on my timeline. They were not just distasteful, they were pathetic; they showcased how much our society – the educated lot, mind you – has got stuck with the insipid discourse on religion, caste and hatred, all of this in the name of ‘protecting and preserving culture and tradition’.
As I sipped my coffee on Sunday morning, I asked myself why do we, as a people, think it is OK being #Rajnified while it is not OK being #Krishnafied?
I guess the answer lies somewhere between what we can’t do – being like Rajnikanth – and what we don’t want to do – being like Krishna.
Rajni is an actor, a Superstar – everyone clearly cannot be that! His screen persona feeds our wannabe sentiment somewhere. We can’t be that, so we drool over him; we celebrate even his most mediocre efforts in the name of keeping his Superstardom alive – for our own aspirational needs! We can’t be that, so we need him, even if he is inaccessible and very, very distant! (PS: Having said all this, I must confess I respect Rajni for the person that he is – humble and sincere; I only wish he was not trapped in his on-screen image and truly explores his fullest potential as an actor!)
Krishna, on the other hand, is like you and me – he is ordinary, accessible, and has the guy-next-door persona. Yet, he has done what many out there don’t dare to do – not that they can’t, but they don’t want to – which is, he has followed his bliss, music; he asks questions on why irrelevant tradition must not be dumped, he works with change-makers to democratize the art form, he pauses and asks important, must-be-asked, questions to the government and, most significantly, he chooses to be himself. He has chosen not to be trapped in society’s image of who a musician must be or what a musician must do. Now, all of what Krishna is doing can be done by anyone. But people don’t want to do it. So, they spew venom; they find it easier to hate someone, who is like them, who has broken ‘tradition’!
But the beauty is, as Sriram pointed out, 1200 people made the pilgrimage to the Mutha Venkatsubbarao auditorium on Saturday evening, to show that love and unity can thrive in an environment where hatred appears to be extending its vice-like grip. And, I believe, whoever was there that evening, loved Krishna’s concert.
I surely did.
As I see it, Krishna’s is not even a music performance; he is not performing because he has an audience; or that he has to perform ‘for’ the audience. He is not in music for the living; he is living for – and because of – his music. So, whenever he sings, he is exploring the spiritual depths of ‘his’ art. How else could he have combined two (as it appeared to me) different compositions where he sang about 1. weeping inconsolably and 2. the Lord’s lack of compassion? How else could he have taken all ‘his’ time to delve into the magic and beauty of ‘Srirangapura Vihara…’? How else could he have so seamlessly blended with – the surprise of last evening – the Chennai Children’s Choir to deliver such inspiring, elevated, renditions, including the closing piece, Tagore’s ‘Momo Chitte…’ in beautiful Bangla?
In Krishna’s daring to be who he is, he is not saying that only he can do it. He invites us as a society, as people, to debunk hollow beliefs and traditions; he is suggesting, if he can, you too can: you too can partner in creating an inclusive society, where religion, caste and art are not held hostage by a few as if it were their fiefdom; you too can look at the Emperor, like that metaphorical child in the fable, and say “No clothes!”; you too can be who you want to be – and not be stuck in society’s definition of who they want you to be!
I am reminded of Rumi’s immortal line: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy!” Vaani and I live – despite our circumstances – doing things from our soul, so we know what it is to feel that river move in us; I am sure, Krishna feels that river moving in him too…
And so, I believe, you can feel it too…you don’t have to even be #Krishnafied, just be #Youfied…love yourself, celebrate yourself, be yourself, be happy…and let us together stop feeding and/or spreading hate…
My Standard Disclaimer applies: I have no knowledge of classical music (so, I have no learned/rasika point of view to offer a comment on anyone’s performance)…all I share here is what I have felt of what was sung or said.