The television has ensured that night after night the nation watches its politicians show their true colours as they “debate” rabble-rousing issues taken up by news channels. It was a sad day for artistes when Digvijaya Singh, a politician holding the important position of general secretary of the ruling party, and a man with many decades of experience in public speaking, used the term “nachaiyyon” in a derogatory fashion. Reacting to video footage of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj’s silly jig at Rajghat (possibly to celebrate what she perceived as the BJP’s success in putting the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, in a tight spot over the mishandling of the Ramdev show), Singh asked TV audiences indignantly if the BJP had turned into a “nachaiyyon ki party”. A few days later Singh chuckled gleefully during an interview with Barkha Dutt, describing himself as a “loose cannon”.
Well, Mr Loose Cannon certainly revealed his contempt for professional dancers, and well he might. For what would he know of the deep study and discipline required of a professional dancer? After all, “loose cannon” is a term usually reserved for persons known to be unpredictable and likely to cause damage. A more befitting description there could not be of our own Raghogarh ka Loose Cannon, Raghogarh being the thikana or kingdom ruled by Loose Cannon and family for generations.
Dance drama: BJP leader Sushma Swaraj at a press meet. Photo Gurinder Osan/AP
Sadly, no one questioned the Loose Cannon enough on his irresponsible reference to dancers. In the recent past, we have been witness to calls for the banning of films and songs for their supposedly derogatory references to caste and community. But who in this country cares for the arts, artistes, nachaiyaas and gavaiyyas? They don’t constitute a vote bank, and so Loose Cannon can say what he likes and get away with it, chuckling merrily. Barring an acclaimed danseuse brought in briefly on a lone television channel to state her response to the “N” word, no one, not even the leaders of our so-called civil society movement, bothered to take up the issue. As for the dancer, her chance to protest was dissipated by an audio problem that just about allowed her to cite a few references to Lord Shiva as Nataraj and Lord Krishna as Natvar before the programme ended hastily.
But do we really need mythological references to be able to garner respect for the professions we practise? By that logic, janitors, sweepers, ragpickers and cleaning staff would never be able to command any respect. Is it not the right of all persons to practise their respective professions with dignity? As for politicians, their hypocrisy knows no bounds. When it is crowd-collecting time, they are quick to use artistes, actors, singers and dancers to campaign for them. Later, they become “naachne-gaane waale” of no worth. Remember BJP’s loose cannon Pramod Mahajan, who rooted for a Bharat Ratna for Dhirubhai Ambani by stating that every naachnewala and gaanewala is given a Padma award by the government, so why not the big one for Ambani?
Well, every political party has its share of loose cannons, but perhaps it’s time for artistes in the country to ask Raghogarh ka Loose Cannon for some explanations.
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org