Saturday 2 March 2024

Article - Response to T. M. Krishna's Opinion article - Jeetendra Hirschfeld

 In his latest opinion piece (11 February 2024), singer T. M. Krishna again reminds us of the historical and ongoing injustices within Bharatanatyam art, focusing on its appropriation by the Brahmin community in the 20th century. In his article, T. M. Krishna adeptly blends academic discourse, employing terms like "rupture" and scholarly vocabulary ending in "-ness", with accessible English. Unlike many dance scholars who employ intricate terminology and convoluted sentence structures, the singer opts for clarity, potentially ensuring his message resonates with many. He also appears to acknowledge his caste privilege by using the inclusive "we" in his piece.

T. M. Krishna raises valid concerns regarding the homogenisation of Bharatanatyam aesthetics on the 21st-century stage and the distinct "Carnatic-ness" of nattuvanar singers compared to the mechanised approach of contemporary singers, including his own (and I guess his disciples). While some of his points are well-founded, it is significant to note that historians universally recognise the fallacy of single-cause explanations for historical events. Countless causes converge to shape an event, leading to multitudes of consequences branching out from it. But as is often the case, the repeated mention of certain historical truths becomes ingrained through incessant repetition, leading to unquestioning belief.

What caught my attention is when T. M. Krishna says: "When I hear the great nattuvanars or dancers belonging to the same community singing even a flash of a raga or line, I hear this Carnatic-ness. It is in the way they pronounce the syllable, move the raga, articulate the svara."

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