It’s not easy to be a performing artiste in Carnatic music these days. The expectations from a savvy audience have skyrocketed. Today’s audience isn’t stodgy and old; the average age of the audience at a Carnatic concert is skewing far younger than at any other time in the recent past.
The current-day audience wants to be moved and entertained. It wants glitz and pizzazz without sacrificing tradition and technique.
Artistes now realise that their total “package” of music, the visual impact that they make on stage and their public persona are all critical to packing the hall year after year
I’m trying hard to be Sudha Ragunathan for just one day. It’s not easy. First things first. Of course, I’ve worn my jasmine. Then I’m on top of my jimmikkis.
Then I’ve picked out an expensive sari from my poor sister’s wardrobe in a colour I know Sudha would love. Then I’ve worn bangles that are in perfect harmony with my pearl necklace. Then I’ve accessorised it all with the right bindi and shade of lipstick and blush. I wonder if the real Sudha thinks I’m pitch perfect?
But oops, first I need to check my purse.
The real Sudha has concerts. The real Sudha will have concert lists. I, the false one, have made none. I, the false Sudha, find the whole picture disconcerting.
Just from December 1 through January 3, Sudha has over a dozen concerts — one every other day, literally.
I tell you what: it’s not easy being Sudha Raghunathan. Just thinking about it takes the tadhinginatom out of me.
(Kalpana Mohan is a writer based in Saratoga, California.)