Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Roses & Thorns - How grateful should we be to sponsors who support the arts - especially Dance? - Anita Ratnam

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is openly wooing NRI investment and closer to home, the august Music Academy has had the benefit of Sreedhar Potarazu’s generosity over the past 8 years. He is the CEO of VitalSpring Technologies based in Washington DC. The annual January Dance Festival has seen VS as the title Sponsor of the event. This year, on January 3, 2014 on opening day of the festival, Mr. Potarazu delivered his annual speech. Except this time he seemed a man on a mission. And nobody knew what it was. Adopting a belligerent, mutinous look, he took to the microphone and spoke about the media and critics as being ungrateful of his munificence???? Really??? Thank you, Mr. Potarazu, for your continued support of dance. We know your daughter Deepika, the Kuchipudi dancer who is trying to make her mark on the Chennai scene, no doubt fueled by your paternal love and resources!

However, have you ever thought of THANKING the artistes who perform at the festivals that you sponsor? In fact, does any sponsor actually thank the ARTISTE for the chance to be associated with the arts? NO. It is the other way around. We dancers, scrape, prostrate, kneel, kiss hands, backsides and brown nose ourselves to the point of humiliation.

Read the article in the site


  1. Time to take an overall perspective on these issues though it is difficult to conclude anything from the available information on the specific matter.

    Generally I observe a particular trend., there is increase in cases where genuine artists are being disrespected directly or indirectly or are not being extended adequate support, remuneration, opportunity etc. All those involved in arts (other than artists) are fully getting back their contributions in cash or kind. In fact by serving the artists, society is doing good for itself. My simple guideline "Let the stages be only for the artists and art".

    Money and resources must be given due respect, but importantly knowledge be respected even more. It will be very nice those involved with arts..organizers, sponsors, volunteers, support staff, chief guests... respect artist in the true sense. As Anita mentioned, it is artists (those making a livelihood) that totally left out of the equation and from the economics.

    Support to performing art and artists is wealth in the form of goodwill and is recognized thus by custom, tradition and even business.

    All of us hear and read very good things about Mr Sridhar and his grand contributions towards promoting arts. Hope this would continue into the future and I believe, in fact I am sure that this one incident is in fact just a misunderstanding.


  2. The relationship of an artist and "supporters" has always been a thread in a needle type! One can function on its own but when in synregy both create magic! Both should and must acknowledge the efffort of each other to continue creating the magic.

    This relationship was even there during the Raja - Maharaja's era!

    Why quantify or measure this bond?

    If one really want to do it then the person should re-visit the real objective of him/her "adding value" to this relationship!


    Mahesh Kedlaya

  3. Bringing up the daughter's name in this blog is in bad taste. Why personalize the issue?

  4. In his response to the open letter from Leela Venkatraman in The Hindu, Sreedhar Potarazu says:

    “My personal philanthropic commitment to the arts and the artists is steadfast, and I will continue to do everything in my means to help further the cause of members of the artistic community globally who dedicate their lives for the sole purpose of invoking divinity through their work. To these gifted artists I humbly bow down and honour them for what they do every day to make the world a truly better place for all of us.”

    Several years ago, I witnessed him, firsthand, grab and slap a dancer across the face in a public forum following a performance. Therefore, this comment is not honest and I question how truthful he is, and also how clear and pure his fundamental intentions are in his “philanthropic commitment(s),” At the time, I did not know who this offending person was—Sreedhar Potarazu. Regardless of the reasons for his actions against this person—who happened to be an artist—they were in poor taste. I find it difficult to trust or respect a person who claims to “humbly bow down and honour” artists on one hand, and then commit such felonies on the other. No person, artist or not, should be treated this way.

    In light of the discussion context of onshore and/or offshore support, I firmly believe a sincere philanthropist is a person who is first truthful to herself/himself, and is thus able to support the “artistic community globally.” One cannot choose behavior based on which side of the oceans she/he is on—consequences may be that the support might lose its value worldwide in the long term. Making “the world a truly better place for all of us,” takes strength, commitment and discipline, yes. But for it to be enduring, it requires integrity and truth. Altruism is both principle and practice—it’s more than a simple fundraising exercise of writing checks. Many people could do that.

  5. No one ever mentions how often Indian organizations - from sabhas, teaches, musicians, videographers (such as Chella) fleece NRIs. Hew everyone wants to come abroad to earn big money, but NEVER contribute to foreign economies because of their stinginess, the way that NRIs contribute to Indian economies. There is a very bad sense of entitlement by Indians to their so called "art, " and people such as Anita Ratnam, et. al hate to see NRIs doing it faithfully, doing it well, and getting credt for it. I personally think all NRI organizations should stop funding Indian artists ad focus resources on artists at home.

  6. NRI musings…

    I know personally of several acclaimed leading Bharatanatyam stars/ artists in the recent times from India that have on more than one occasion presented supposedly "premier productions" with only one rehearsal / no rehearsal. The organizers here are also to blame but they make good $$ fooling the gullible NRI public ( who liked to be seen at these events - with their latest accessories read jewelry, sari , car et al...) and without a clue about what is happening on the stage ! Why should we support such third rate effort ?

    In the month of April this year, there is a Mega Bharatanatyam performer from Chennai being presented by a major Philly Organization . The lady is presenting a production that was initially presented by her in 2009 ( possibly earlier ). According to public records, this Philly orgn is a claiming a funding/ grant of $150,000 viz. this presentation/ workshop. The show is also being ticketed by the Orgn. (Talk about a double whammy !) Additionally, it was touted that she will do a one day workshop FREE from 10.30 - 3.00 pm for Beginners, intermediate and advanced followed by Q&A for all the groups. – IN ONE DAY ! This wonderful dancer does not even have a school where she teaches in Chennai ( except for a handful of students - I guess capable of paying top $$ with good connections). Why should these USA based orgns support these programs and artists and claim such huge grants. I am sure the funding orgn will be very unhappy to see the truth. We should stop supporting these NRI Organizations that promote these events.
    Then we have the self made roving artists, contemporary visionaries, self made critics who paint the picture that they are always travelling, very busy in every other city in the USA, Europe or India . They will portray a picture like they are at ease in every other international art venue , as comfortable as in home in Singara Chennai. They will talk / write (supposedly) effortlessly about food, booze, designer wear, air travel and how tired they are with their busy schedule…comment on all and sundry and of course come and park themselves in some NRI house for a holiday jaunt when it suits them, and finally and most importantly trash talk most NRI’s, their life style etc. They will have a clear hidden agenda to support a few ( ie. those who involve them in their festivals, committee, seminars, teaching bs -( you scratch my back I will scratch yours funda !!). They are also under the delusion that no one is observing them and also have figured their trip in life. Oh forgot to mention, they will have bunch of incompetent , artistically clueless Facebook friends ( who spend trolling Facebook , I am guessing 90 % of their “alive” time ) who will LIKE ! all their comments and post “Chamcha – sidekick comments” . We should stop paying attention to these loose cannons, who cannot add any value intellectually or artistically.

  7. It is most unfortunate but a glaring fact that Indian classical dance still relies on patrons ......or shall I say Indian art itself relies on rich patrons. The paradox of this whole situation is that while there are patrons who fund these festivals, we outside Chennai get to know that all the sabhas charge artistes and the artistes never get paid. Infact we from outside chennai have heard of a rate card. Music Academy charges 80k , Narada Gaana Sabha charges 40k , Karthik Fine Arts charges 25k and the others charge around 10k . So the question of what exactly these patrons patronise? still remains.............