Yesterday was the start of Ganesha Chaturthi. It poured rain all day, which put a damper on some of the planned university festivities. I’m sure in Hyderabad proper, there were thousands of people out on the streets with their plaster-of-paris Ganeshas, but on campus… well, it was a bunch of students, and it was really wet, so things got cancelled.
The “cultural program,” which took place indoors, still went off. I’m not sure exactly what this program had to do with Ganesha Chaturthi, but it was an opportunity for everyone to dress up in their prettiest saris and dhotis. (Note to the male students: Please find something better to wear with your dhoti than yesterday’s Diesel t-shirt. The t-shirt is wrinkled and it isn’t a real Diesel shirt anyway. You are not impressing anyone.)
It was also an opportunity for students to present “cultural songs and dances.” Which meant that they danced and lip-synched to Bollywood music.
There were a few folk songs sprinkled here and there, but for the most part it was this filmi business, and for the most part the performers were awful. Sloppy, unprepared, etc. The audience seemed not to care, and hooted and screamed after every act as if we had been watching the filmstars themselves.
The reason I’m mentioning this is because it has to do with the next little difficulty I’m encountering with my class: the necessity of polishing a performance. We’re beginning that second stage of rehearsal, where we take the initial blockings and line readings and begin to shape them and add detail and nuance. They’re very resistant to this process, and seem very satisfied with playing general, loosely-drawn characters… who don’t pick up their friggin' cues.
So when I saw this performance, I began to get a sense of what the expectations were on this campus, and why my students seem to think that this kind of work is “good enough.” Which it isn’t.