The Performance...

By Aditya in Daily Musings
Updated 13:25 IST Jul 12, 2018

I had this raging debate with my friends about the performer and fan relationship a couple of times. So I thought it would be better if I put together my thoughts in a coherent manner rather than arguing. The premise of the discussion was; whether the audience, the fan as we call him, has any right to comment, criticize or form opinion about the performer, his craft and his on stage behavior?

My friends feels that as viewers we should just observe the spectacle and leave it at that. Some feel that it is ok to express about the craft but not the “other” aspects. Some say that it anyway does not matter what you feel, cause the performer isn't performing for you, he is doing it out of his own passion and love for the craft, you just happen to be there. Therein lies the question.

Does a performer, be it a sportsman, or a dancer, or a painter, perform only for his personal happiness and or enrichment? Or does he seek something more?

Shibumi, a novel by Trevanian remain one of my favourite works of fiction for various reasons. But there is a particular passage in it which is of relevance to this debate. Here is the essence of what is conveys;

The character Nicholai is a professional caver. For the uninitiated, caving is an adventure sport where the athletes venture into unknown cave system. The objective can be personal exploration or assisting geographical or archaeological study or filming of the same. It involves squeezing your body through tight crevices, it involves rock climbing, rappelling, etc. The most important aspect of the sport is to overcome the primal fear of darkness and unknown. However the reason why Nicholai chooses this sport (in addition to the mental and physical challenges) is the spiritual challenge it poses. For inside the cave there is no audience, if you squeeze through an impossible crevice, no one is going to applaud. If you make an unbelievable shear drop into the dark unknown gorge and land without an injury, no one is going to cheer for you. You are on your own. There is no adulation. Caving as Trevanian puts it is very internal, personal. It has an element of Shibumi to it.

A caver does not covet admiration, he does not yearn for fan following. He works on his own, in solitude.

Let me just say, most other performing arts and sports differ from the above! And that is exactly why they are called “performances”..!

If as a child one attempts a sport, then there is a possibility and a great one at that, that the choice is out of pure love for the game, the exhilaration it offers. I am not saying that this pure love for the craft is absent in professionals, it would be foolish of me to say so. What I am saying is that, the moment an individual evolves into being a professional, other aspects gets attached to it, money, fame, fan following, and these are inseparable part of it. What I dare say is this, that it is a conscious choice that one makes and once a performer does that, he is subject to criticism as well as admiration. It would be foolish on the performers part if he feels indifferent to these or claims so. Remember, even as a child, you wanted your mother’s adulation, didn’t you?

There are two stream of thoughts in Hindu philosophy, Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The former, which is similar to Buddhism believes in detachment. It is the ascetic way of life, one does not yearn for material possession, or anything for that matter, one is only and only in search of meaning and salvation or mokhsa. The later on the other hand believes in the opposite, it encourages participation, it professes duty or karma.

Most of us consciously or unconsciously follow Vaishnavism, and while doing so we yearn for acceptance, for recognition, for our place in the society, we basically yearn for dignity.

Now matter who the individual is, whether he is a sweeper who is cleaning garbage of the street or he is a celebrity performer, every single person has these common desires. So if anyone is of the opinion that a performer does not need a gathering, he does not need an audience and is indifferent to applause or criticism then I feel it is wise idea to reinspect.  

My friends, when we are so addicted to social media these days, what are we doing essentially? We are trying to seek attention. We covet attention, our stage is say a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. The stage of a performer is bigger, his audience is larger and his need to hold attention that much bigger. The audience is what makes the performance “complete”. No one would perform for pure joy in an empty stadium. Such a person, if any, would prefer doing his thing in isolation. Why covet attention?

The fan has every right to observe, comment, analyse, appreciate, criticize, shout with joy or curse with disappointment. The performance is all that he is privy to, the fan does not know the performer personally, he need not to. The relation ends there. The image is made there and fades there. Oh and for the record, the fan need not be a performer himself, cause had he been one, he would not have flocked in large numbers to see someone else’s show.

On a lighter note, I will remind you a dialogue from the film Rangeela. It is enacted by Amir Khan as Munna and it goes something like this…

“Apun public hai public, jiska picture pasand nahi aya na, uska dabba gul..! Samzhya kya?”

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