Aishwaryaa R. Dhanush’s invitation to perform at the UN headquarters in New York was heralded with much praise, but the dance and culture fraternity in the city is unhappy, to say the least. When the video of her performance in NY was released online, veterans and aspiring dancers alike, took to social media to express their shock at how inept Aishwaryaa’s performance was. There was further mumbling on how those with decades of experience could never hope for a chance like this, and Aishwaryaa wasted the opportunity. But at the same time, there was defence for her, with many claiming that it was not her fault, but her guru’s for letting her accept the invitation and participate without being well-prepared or trained. Is the backlash justified or is the director-dancer, who’s also a UN Goodwill Ambassador being targeted?
Murugashankari Leo Prabhu, a popular Bharatanatyam exponent and research scholar, opines, “Basically, in any field, people with influence and contact, get many opportunities. This comes with a few pros and cons — if an artiste is good, even if influential, then it doesn’t matter. For instance, if they have the curriculum vitae or have been judged by the seniority, then I think it is okay. Not only is it my personal opinion but in speaking for the fraternity, I would say that Bharatanatyam, as an art form, is challenging and is off-beat and many have dedicated their life to it. They are the ones who need to be performing our art on such global platforms.”
Murugashankari adds, “Even Kangana Ranaut came out and spoke against nepotism in the film (Bollywood) industry. I think it’s not just here, but it is a global phenomenon.” Sharing a similar point of view, Kathak dancer, Shrita Baskar, says, “I think Aishwaryaa performing at the UN was a little unfair. There are a lot of stalwarts and nationally well-known people who deserved to be on that stage. Generally speaking, irrespective of being influential, if they’re trained, they definitely deserve opportunities — take actress/dancer Shobana for example. In spite of the fact that she’s already a celebrity and influential, no one can deny the fact that she’s an exceptional dancer. I’ve been a classical dancer for 14 years and only very recently, I got to know that she (Aishwaryaa) is a dancer. And regarding her performance, I have to say it was not up to the mark. Even my friends, who are not experts, could notice that.”