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Editorial: Oops, we did it again...

The Bengaluru leg of comedian Trevor Noah’s stand-up tour titled Off the Record was cancelled on Wednesday owing to acoustic issues.

Editorial: Oops, we did it again...

Trevor Noah (PTI)

CHENNAI: It is yet another reminder of how India is still ill-prepared to host performing artistes, comedians and bands of an international standard. The Bengaluru leg of comedian Trevor Noah’s stand-up tour titled Off the Record was cancelled on Wednesday owing to acoustic issues. Noah apologised saying he would be unable to proceed with his act both on Wednesday and Thursday, dejecting fans who had coughed up top dollar to watch him during his first India tour.

India has previously hosted comedians like Russell Peters in closed venues, and international acts like The Prodigy, Metallica, U2, Backstreet Boys, in open venues. But the infrastructure has been a perpetual pain point. Noah’s venue had poor acoustics and poorer ventilation. The comedian reached the venue 20 minutes late, thanks to traffic snarls on Outer Ring Road. Attendees also went through hell, owing to a narrow approach road to the venue.

The absence of adequate parking was compounded by dodgy internet connectivity which made it hard for patrons to get their QR codes scanned for tickets. Chennaiites could relate to this as thousands of fans here were chagrined due to their failure to catch the AR Rahman concert Marakkuma Nenjam, held on ECR this month. That show was a washout, as there were reports of stampede-like situations because the organisers failed to properly guide ticket holders through the entry points. Many speculated that tickets had been oversold, without considering the size of the venue, and several fans could barely make it past the gates. Episodes of women being physically accosted had also emerged in the aftermath. There was even a blockade on ECR that compelled the CM’s entourage to take a detour and led to the transfer of three IPS officers. The Mozart of Madras in turn sought a cultural renaissance in the city through the creation of world-class infrastructure, venues, efficient crowd and traffic management, aided by audiences who comply with rules.

Yes, Indians would love to attend a farewell performance by Elton John or ABBA, maybe back to back gigs by Radiohead, Ludovico Einaudi and other European composers too. Unfortunately, we do not have one venue that can hold a candle to the likes of O2 Arena and Royal Albert Hall in London; or the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; or the Sydney Opera House.

Why? It’s because we cut corners in allocations towards art and culture. The 2021-22 budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Culture was Rs 4,482 cr, which is less than one per cent of the entire Union Budget. The only support that the country’s performance arts spaces get is from the generosity of industrialists and entrepreneurs whose foundations ensure the infusion of some lifeblood into such artsy affairs.

Recently, one of India’s biggest industrialists set up a premier performance art space in Mumbai, which was greeted with fanfare. Here in Tamil Nadu as well, the CM has envisioned spectacular investments towards tourism, to the tune of Rs 20,000 cr, which will also help cultural venues. This renaissance needs a multi-pronged approach, starting with seamless, congestion-free public transport and far-sighted provision of amenities like parking, restrooms, emergency services, among others. Here’s hoping the cultural guardians among the politicians are paying attention.

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