Yes, technology has changed our lives irrevocably — even for practitioners of India’s classical performing arts, which even in their modern or neo-classical format go back a century or so.
Before information technology brought computers within our reach, a generous portion of the suitcase of a classical artist travelling for a performance tour, whether in India or abroad, would be reserved for a stack of brochures detailing the artist’s training and accomplishments to date. Every serious aspirant to a performing career needed to find the funds to get a photo shoot done, arrange an impressive sounding write-up and then go to a designer and printer who would produce a pamphlet that aesthetically combined these elements.
Eminent Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas, who has been performing for over three decades, recalls that she used to travel with her brochures and photographs, but these paper documents were usually “shoved into the dustbin,” and were moved into CD format. “Now,” says Aditi, “nobody wants paper or CD. Now everybody says please upload it.”
Only recently, she says, she discovered the term “EPK” — an electronic press kit. “This contains your brochure, photos, video, everything. You upload it to (video and photo sharing websites like) Dropbox or Vimeo or iCloud.” This is a sensible innovation, she notes, since one is not filling up some individual’s email inbox, and if organisers want to refer to the material, they can, instead of wading through old mails, just ask the artist to send the link.
Aditi is saddened, though, by the disappearance of the hard copy. “I like brochures, I like to hold paper in my hand, I still take all my notes on paper.” However, artists have to move with the times too, and with luggage weight and size a big issue these days, it is only practical. “You can even check it on the phone, ye haalat hai!”
She does feel brochures should be printed for significant programmes, though not all. “I think it’s a very nice thing, if the brochure is well brought out. It also becomes an archival document.”
Young Kuchipudi dancer Abhinaya Nagajothy adds that technology allows artists to frame their own programme notes and distribute these as handouts instead of going to the expense of printing brochures. “A brochure is pleasing to the eye, it’s soft, the texture is good. But if you need information (on the performance), you can get it from a handout just as well,” says Abhinaya.