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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Swarnamalya Ganesh On Leading The #MeToo Movement In Carnatic Music

  • IWB Post
  •  November 3, 2018

“I am somebody who believes in adding strength to any cause that needs support,” says Swarnamalya Ganesh, the woman who decided to go against the dark lords of Carnatic music fraternity and waged the #MeToo war against them.

With the #MeToo stories from the Carnatic music industry seeing the light of day, so much more has been revealed about this industry’s hypocrisy and its disguise of the unmaligned teacher-pupil tradition.

As popular dancer and actor Ganesh led the way for the movement along with her sister Radhika (the founder member of this collective called Ek Potlee Ret Ki) she realised the mammoth problem that faced them all and that no one was willing to recognise.

Baffled by the “sense of power” possessed by the seniors in the Carnatic music industry and their exploitation of the same, Ganesh thus began her fight against the same. Here are excerpts from a recent chat that she had with The Hindu:

On deciding to lead the #MeToo movement in Carnatic music

“I am somebody who believes in adding strength to any cause that needs support. The #MeToo movement is something we have been watching from around the world. When it came to Chennai, stories were already floating in the air. I realised that the entire industry was ducking it. The entire industry was ducking from speaking about it, acknowledging that anything had happened, or was happening. The whole thing was being brushed aside. There is an elephant in the middle of the room and you don’t want to see it, so you walk away.”

“It came to me as an instinctive, civic responsibility. I did not even think I was going against the people I knew, because that was not the point at all. In the last three weeks or so, I have come to know sides of people that I never knew or would never want to know. I have felt very bad and mentally tired. It was never about activism, everyone had to speak up, but no one spoke up and so I spoke up.”

On the shocking silence of senior artists

“Trying to pretend that nothing is happening, and unmindfully going on with your concerts and your life also makes you culpable. You are enabling these people to continue perpetuate these crimes. For instance, a student took her complaint to her guru, she shockingly said ‘this is how it is, next time be more careful.’”

“You may be a great artist, no one is questioning that. Everyone has their journey and struggle, but what is important is that if you call yourself a professional, then you have to take some responsibility towards the community. Senior or junior doesn’t matter. If you are senior, received awards and recognitions, all the more why you need to speak up. It may not have happened to you. It should not happen to anyone either.”

On the extent to which an ICC can help

“The ICC is a constitutional body, that can reach even the topmost person in the institution. We need to enable the ICC by bringing the most balanced voices that have no fear or favour. We have been negotiating with the Federation, and they have acted commendably. It is ultimately about human safety and it is paramount.”

“Music Academy is to be indeed commended for its solidarity towards the movement, but going forward there has to be transparency and accountability. That is the key. Senior artists will be emboldened only when there is transparency. Only when powerful institutions such as these say — we will not string your talent to opportunity and opportunity to abuse, and break the power cycle, will things look up.”

On the pressure being inflicted by those accused in the #MeToo stories

“Many of them have been my friends. They think it will go away with an apology to me. Someone accused me of being a megalomaniac, who thinks she is shouldering the movement! The umpteen troll accounts we had to unearth and clear, fake accounts, the blatant abuse, calling of names, intimidating us and the survivors — I can’t even begin to tell you.”

“All these days only the survivor had to see their depravity and the human low they could stoop to, but by doing this to people in support of the survivors, they are exposing themselves to a larger audience. I no longer respect their artistry, because it is shrouded in skulduggery. We are not doing this arbitrarily.”

H/T: The Hindu



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