In our society, there are certain norms of etiquette that is followed from one generation to the other and sometimes so true to form that it becomes a cultural norm. The practice of showing respect for performers or artistes who take centre stage while performing on occasions of death, marriage and other social events center around showing respect. Audience members who want to show their appreciation must first of all give their benediction to the artiste, which is done by bowing to them and then followed by the act of offering money. The process of showing appreciation is almost ritual in nature with a bow to the platform or rather, the area where the performance is being held and the nature of performance is deemed to be the one where the maximum spotlight that in earlier times, the entry of women in these domains were not encouraged.
While the practice of decorum for showing appreciation to performing artistes are still being followed for cultural and social functions, mostly because they are attended by elders; the nature of younger people towards artistes performing at entertainment programs has undergone a sea change. It is common for crowds now to heckle artistes on stage, passing lewd gestures and making rude gestures if the performers happen to be girls. Much before the storm broke out over the brutal attack on film actor Momoko Khangembam, there were many other cases where people in the audience have ended up getting all too familiar with performing artistes. There is at least one video clip on popular site Youtube where someone from the audience at a musical function, taking place in Imphal is shown being kicked by the singer. It is not clear what transpired between the singer and the person who went up on stage from the audience but suffice to say that if the singer in question did not have a valid reason for his action, he would have been booed down by the rest of the audience and been banned from singing ever again. On another occasion, a male audience member was seen getting too close to comfort to a female singer who kept stepping back from him. He said something to the artiste, which incensed one musician so much that he rushed from his performing spot with his guitar in tow and whacked the man who was pestering the singer.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that a majority of our society tends to look down on artistes who perform for a living. The lack of respect and the failure to associate dignity with the profession that artistes are in, lead to the tendency to misbehave with them. Added to this mentality, the use of alcohol and other drugs that gives people on a ‘high’ only aggravates the situation. Contrast this with how sportspersons are feted and valued in our society. Both sports and performing artistes stand on the basis of their talent and ability. The dedication and hard work that goes into making a sportsperson also applies for performing artistes but the regard that is kept for the former is still to be seen for artistes like singers, film actors, musicians, make up artistes and other technicians. In the confines of a small market made worse by the advances of technology that makes it possible for the latest songs or movies to be downloaded, film actors and other performing artistes have to resort to try other means like performing at musical functions and programs, sometimes at venues far away from Imphal. Most of the programs are decided and confirmed verbally or at most, a written invitation and do not include any terms or clauses regarding the protection of the artistes. The recent Chandel incident is a telling reflection of how things can and do go wrong for artistes and there is no guarantee that such an incident will not happen again. The extent and nature may vary but till the time artistes do not take a firm stand against being harassed by either security personnel or other anti social elements while en-route to their performances or during it, till the time they demand that organizers for their programs commit to ensuring their safety and protection, it will only be a matter of time till another gets roughed up somewhere.