The Madras Music Academy has barred seven artistes from performing at the Margazhi festival in December after they were named as sexual predators.
Bengaluru is responding to the allegations, too. Organisers of the city’s biggest annual music festival, at Fort High School in Chamarajpet, told Metrolife they were also blacklisting artistes named in the #MeToo campaign in Chennai.
Abhijith Varadaraj, executive officer, Sree Ramaseva Mandali, says the artistes would not be invited unless their names were cleared.
“We will take action similar to what the Madras Music Academy has taken,” he adds.
Varadaraj is mooting an internal complaints committee to address problems in the classical music circuit. “I suggest all sangeet sabhas come together to set up one,” he says.
As things stand, the seven artistes will not be invited for the annual Ramanavami festival coming up in April.
“We will wait till the allegations are cleared to associate with the artistes. We have to respect the sentiments of the ‘rasikas’ and the other performing artistes,” he says.
If the Mandali receives separate complaints, it will check with its network of artistes before dropping anyone from the concert list.
Leading women artistes and senior and retired artistes should come together to form a grievance cell, he suggests.
Carnatic artistes named
OS Thyagarajan, Chitravina N Ravikiran, Mannargudi Easwaran, Srimushnam V Raja Rao, Nagai Sriram, R Ramesh and Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan are the seven artistes barred from the Margazhi festival.
Not judging them
“This is not a legal show cause notice. These are allegations and we are not judging them guilty but we have every right to decide to feature them in our festival or not. We have just exercised that right.”
N Murali, President, Madras Music Academy
Decision taken after due background checks, says academy
When Metrolife called Chennai, N Murali, president of the venerable Madras Music Academy, said the decision to drop seven artistes was taken after due diligence.
“The #MeToo storm has hit the Carnatic music industry. After singer Chinmayi Sripaada exposed lyricist Vairamuthu, several young artistes came forward with accusations against some artistes on social media,” he says.
As a 90-year-old institution promoting art and culture, the academy couldn’t remain oblivious to what was happening, Murali believes. “Empathising with the victims and in solidarity with them, and to uphold our credibility, we took some action,” he says.
The academy took action wherever there were more than allegations than one on social media, and if news had circulated of incidents of a serious nature, mostly physical.
“We validated our impression with unbiased people from the industry,” he says. The academy did not discriminate between big and small artistes when sending out notices. “One of them, N Ravikiran is our awardee last year and we had to delist him too as his name popped up. We informed the artistes. Some did not respond, while others denied the allegations,” Murali says.
The academy aims to set an example for music organisations and festival organisers. “We hope this action will be a deterrent,” he says.
ICC for city musicians
Organisers of the Ramanavami concerts in Bengaluru are mooting an internal complaints committee for classical musicians in Bengaluru.
All organisers should come together and form the committee, an executive member of Sree Ramaseva Mandali told Metrolife.
‘We should not make artistes victims’
R K Padmanabha, senior Carnatic vocalist, says that no action should be taken without proof. His take: “Anybody can create anything now. Without knowing what has happened, taking such drastic steps is not right. Many people are taking undue advantage of the #MeToo movement now.
If the Music Academy has solid information against the artistes and barred them, then its action is justified. If the allegations are true, any action can be taken and it will act as a deterrent for the future. The academy’s ban will not affect the artistes’ long-term career but they will be careful now. If the allegations are not true, an action will have done them injustice. We should not make artistes turn into victims.”
‘Act with discretion’
Sangeeta Katti, Hindustani classical musician, strikes a note of caution, and suggests action be taken against an artiste only if he is convicted in a court of law.
In her words: “People are different, everyone has a dark side and we wouldn’t be able to identify who is what or what allegations are true. I have sincere doubts about allegations being raised after so long. If these incidents are proved in court, we must definitely think about valid steps.”
She believes no connection exists between the allegations and the art, and mere allegations should not be allowed to impact stage performances.