Talents and promoters
(Excerpted from the narthaki Discussion Forum)


January 8, 2008

I am a good dancer in Australia- with no certificates and arangetram to my credit, but I know my dance, struggling to make a living of it.
-Mallika, Dec 4, 2007

Haha! I find your honesty very refreshing and it makes me smile because I am not the only one thinking this. Some are born with talent and some without. Some are born with no talent for handling their talent. It is something they have to learn. And it's tough.

And some are born with a great talent for handling their complete lack of talent. That's also something. The world is full of people like this. It's very obvous in the arts because Art is very unforgiving. They get away with it because of people with Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome.

They are not lazy, like some very talented artists can be unfortunately. Their drive keeps them up all night. “Someday someone will find out that I have NO talent.” Even they know that they can't fool all the people all the time.

It's when they start posing as 'artists'...that's when I want to just outright laugh at their faces and say oh please...believe in yourself but don't believe in your own hype…it's the beginning of the end.

I think to be successful is wonderful and well done to anyone who is. But I also know that people who step over others in order to be successful never know real success.
So I think it's time for really talented people to get a grip, and start honing their skills on how to handle their work, image and talent. It's the best answer to the monsters in the biz. Devo bhutam devo yajet...become God in order to worship God and it's the best way to vanquish all injustice.

This is my humble opinion.

- Deva, Dec 5, 2007

It is normal that talented dancers are born with no talent for promoting and marketing their talent.

In a developed country like the UK, the artists focus on the art, the managers focus on managing, and promoters focus on promoting. This results in successes like the Beatles (the richest musicians in the world).

If talented dancers try to be their own managers, lighting engineers, promoters, marketers, script writers, accountants, pr managers, journalists, web designers, it creates jacks of all trades and masters of none.

I am happy that narthaki is a first step on the path of connecting dancers, film directors, musicians, sound engineers, and so on. I wish Anita Ratnam updated the directory more often, though…
- Nilesh, Dec 5, 2007

Hmm...yes and no. Yes, it's normal for a talented artist to be born with no talent for handling themselves. I never said it wasn't. It's happening all the time. And no, the artist needs must learn the basic skills of managing oneself.

The artist needs to be in charge. At least most of the truly successful artists are in charge. Also most of the ones who have really made it started at some point without the luxury of having a manager, publicist, lighting designer etc etc. They started from the bottom and learnt the tricks and tools of the trade. It's important to start from the bottom. Every truly successful person has done that. You get to intricately learn every level of the industry. So that you know what you are talking about when you are in talks with your manager.
This does not create a jack of all trades and master of none. In my opinion, that is a rather lazy and unevolved attitude. Knowing every aspect of your craft, from artistry to stage lighting to publicity and managing makes for a well rounded artist and helps your art form. It is reflected in the very namaskaram of Bharatanatyam itself and has been positively encouraged in the Natyashastra for eons.

There are many freelance dancers who have managed their careers beautifully, simply because they could not afford managers and expressly did not wish to employ managers. I agree however that for cases such as this success can also only be limited.

It's wonderful to have the holy trinity of agent, manager and accountant doing all the work for you. Definitely more efficient and helpful. But they are your employees. In some cases these people take over and success and satisfaction is also again only limited and leads to resentment and complications in the long run. A truly successful artist maintains a door open for communication with their manager/agent at all times and should not blindly follow anything. That should be quite obvious.

Madonna, Sylvie Guilliem, are all artists who have perfected the art of 'managing their manager.' If I work so hard on my career and have a huge investment in it, and have staff that are cutting off 10% every time I make a buck, you bet I am going to be in charge of what's right for me. After a complete discussion with all of them of course.

- Deva, Dec 5, 2007

Very intellectual input, Deva.

I feel talent or not talent- it's hard work that pays. I have seen many talented people unsuccessful (yet success is a very personalised thing) but have never come across a unsuccessful hardworking person. Personally I know when I see dancers like Priyadarshini, Anita or even the not so well known dancers on videos and start feeling that I might not be as talented as they are – don't have a teacher here...- but I feel I am equally hard working. Every day I go through my lessons learnt. I have huge three bedroom house with full wall wardrobes with complete mirrors. While I practice, I make sure I do it in front of the mirror, and I have seen I have improved by leaps and bounds- even without a teacher - with due respects. The place I stay in, all that the people know of Bharatanatyam. i don't try to fool anyone or myself. I develop inferiority when I watch great dancers, but makes me jump up with vengeance and practice more- taking into view the difference between practicing and byhearting.

I agree to a larger extent to what you say when one should know all aspects of one's work. But I feel one need not necessarily do it all the time- when you are well off and can afford it - better delegate it. The advantages of this can be seen in our own homes. I want to actually delve deeply into the point of success. What exactly means one is successful -lets limit it to - a successful artist. Is it something you personally define, like for eg. I feel if I can open a dance school, and have atleast 10 students, and a couple of good shows a year- that's being successful for me. What do u think?

- Mallika, Dec 6, 2007

Mallika, you have made some very interesting points.

You said in your message, “I agree to a larger extent to what you say when one should know all aspects of one's work. But I feel one need not necessarily do it all the time- when you are well off and can afford it - better delegate it.”

I feel that you have not contradicted but have only reiterated my argument as this is exactly what I had said, “There are many freelance dancers who have managed their careers beautifully, simply because they could not afford managers and expressly did not wish to employ managers. I agree however that for cases such as this success can also only be limited. It's wonderful to have the holy trinity of agent, manager and accountant doing all the work for you. Definitely more efficient and helpful.”

Now, about success. I define success as having vision, acquiring the courage, strength and grit to make it real and then actually making it real. Turning dreams into goals and fulfilling them. Your dreams and ambitions are different to mine so it's all relative. My success is different to yours. Just like the failures too. To quote Mr. Kipling,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

I believe a successful artist is someone who has realized and fulfilled their vision and desire to transform mankind through art. As that is why art exists.

The Natyashastra reads, “When the world had become steeped in greed and desire, in jealousy and anger, in pleasure and pain, the Supreme one (Brahma) was asked by the people to create an entertainment which could be seen and heard by all, for the scriptures were not enjoyed by the masses, being too learned and ambiguous.”

Why was it made? It was made to transform us. So that we know the truth, dance the truth and give it to our audience. That is abhinaya.

This is why the Natyashastra is such a great scripture of the Kaliyuga.

The Kaliyuga…an interesting word...the age of annihilation. If you look at most of the Hollywood movies around you, they all deal with Apocalyptic themes. Apocalypto, 28 Days Later, Apocalypse Now, The Last Man/Legend …you know the latest Will Smith film. It is the intrinsic knowledge of mankind now that we are living in the age of destruction. Mankind is meant to be transformed, and to have found a new level of enlightenment before we head for complete annihilation. A kind of, Ah! That's what it was all about! A short lived Eureka! Anyway, that's a whole new discussion.

The reason I started delving into that is I feel that we all need to stop worrying just about our personal goals as artist and start thinking of where and how our goals fit into the Bigger plan. I believe once we have sussed that out, we will be successful in every sense of the word, as that would be for the cause of Absolute Truth. We would ride with the natural flow of the universe, we would understand the effortlessness akin to the growing of grass and the rising of the sun. It would all just happen. As that was meant to be. That is success to me. Something to really aspire to.

More than success, it's a way of being.

- Deva, Dec 7, 2007

Very true. Especially the last paragraph. In fact, I was just pondering over a few things and started to feel there is art in everything, because art is creation of beauty and it can be created with existing things. And beauty, which doesn't wear out with time, doesn't get boring, but more interesting and inspiring as often, just like sunrise or say nature itself.
Every time I look at the sky, I can't stop feeling the urge that some thing is happening out there, may be the ability to feel such subtle things, considered as paranoid or stupid by others, is a major requirement of the artist.

And I look at the sky and think, how the hell could they write so accurately about almost everything happening out there without the present day amenities. Then I receive the answer, because they never felt the body as a physical barrier to stop something from happening, in fact they used the body as a medium to achieve greater heights and pleasures and knowledge. And this knowledge has brought a radical change in my life and dance.

I think, they used to travel (might not be physically) at least at the velocity of light. And vishwa rupa (to be seen everywhere), I think, Krishna traveled at more velocity than light, so that, when Arjuna saw him, he saw him everywhere. This is just a thought.

- Mallika, Dec 10, 2007

I think what you have written is beautiful, and I have learnt something from it. Thank you.
- Deva, Dec 12, 2007

Beautiful thoughts... Reading it reaffirms why we deal with all the mess and still continue the work...
- Megha, Dec 10, 2007