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It was a few years ago. I was chatting with a Buddhist monk at Bodhgaya. I was curious to know his view of their advice against performing arts and entertainment.

The monk was staring at me, and did not look surprised. It was another matter that he was surprising me with his replies to all my queries, observations, and views. So, I expected that the next one would also be enlightening.

“Why did you club both performing arts and entertainment together?” He quipped.

It was before Vidya Balan’s voluptuous expression of ‘entertainment, entertainment and entertainment’. Also, it was well before the new definition by the new mascot of Indian cinema, Gajendra Chauhan – anything that entertains should be called as good cinema, a good art. But then I had already spoken though didn’t intend to equal both of these two words.

“They are different,” he emphasised, and then went on elaborating what he meant:

“Art simply expresses what the artist feels about the world. An art is simply the result of free imagination of the artist. Artist enriches his or her creative conception by deriving experiences from the surroundings and the contemporary society. If an art becomes relevant to people, it is good. People entertain themselves with some art, and cry with some other. People believe some art as divine, and view some other as an expression of the very mundane world.”

I was amazed at his eloquence.

“Buddha had never pressed a gag order in his time against performing arts. His view was about the avoidance of experiencing a false reality,” he opined adding that it was prescribed for the people who seek emancipation from the material world. It was the path of spirituality.

I was in no mood to break the flow of his thoughts, but could not resist.

“Well, but performing arts flourished since then. Our drama, music and dance adopted many forms, and spread to all parts of India and beyond. It also assimilated traditions and ethereal values from outside too.” I was making my best effort to be apt.

“But our view still persists, and is still pertinent.” He added while agreeing to the coexistence of two world views so comfortably and with so much of grace.

When I recount today, I am amused of the prevalent attitude towards arts and free expression on one hand and towards spiritual traditions on the other. Interestingly, I am not excited about the third world view – binding both art and spirituality in a rigid framework. Art in any form, including cinema, must be set free; and its evolution should not be a victim of dirty political confrontations. At the same time, general populace must discern the reality from its false mirror. After all, we Indians are spiritual.

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