by Ranjith Bhaskar
Dec 2001

As humans, we need pointers and feedback all the time. We rationalise our decisions based on what we hear. This means that we credit the givers of information with knowledge, a state of no bias, a sense of participation and sharpness in perception.

The question is, are we being honestly told the views that matter?

I'm not a critic. I see, and I write. Honestly.

But I find that most critics, in the world of art especially, favour the performers / artists rather than bring up the truth. I know truth is a muscled word and quite abstract, but then by misleading the public about certain performances / shows, aren't the critics guilty of debasing the very concept of reporting an event truthfully?

I don't know why they do it. Maybe to garner an indulgent gaze from a performer, or be on friendly terms with the happening people, or maintain a diplomatic relationship with the newspaper / magazine, who in turn has to think about readership figures.

The loser, at the end of it all, is the reader, the same loyal man or woman who reads the articles everyday and tries to visualise that which they have not seen or heard. They rely on these very critics to summarise the event and tell them all about it. To pander sanctimoniously to the artistes rather than the thousands of readers is I think a huge dereliction of duty.

The cover-up technique here is conveniently putting it down as a point of view. The critics' point of view. Now, what can you argue?

I have heard a noted art critic bad-mouthing a certain dancer's performance, and yet, not 5 minutes later, there she was praising the dancer and telling her what a pleasure it was watching her dance. And, when the critique was published, it was unashamedly friendly to the dancer.

I do honestly admit that there is part sense in the argument of the critic that his or her writings are personal points of view. I don't believe that a critic should be blank-minded. In fact, it cannot happen. There should be a strong underlying, innate sense of creativity within. Every criticism is based on individual likes and dislikes. What 'contemporary movement' in dance is to one might look like yogasana to another.

So, where does this take us?

Simple truth. That's the answer. Or, better still, honesty in criticism. With a little courage and conviction. If the critic in the scenario above had any of these qualities, she would have not given a pompous and sycophantic review of the dancer's insipid performance.

The reader will largely be kept ignorant of the goings-on, so there is no fear of being exposed as a fraudulent writer.

Ethics? What's that?

I conclude by saying that a good critic must write what he or she feels inwardly about something, and not let other servile considerations seep into the critique, thereby making it more of a murky business of endorsement.

I'm not a critic. I am not afraid, either.