Education Often ‘Killed’ Us
Everyone remembers how, when we were of 10 or 12 or 14, our parents and teachers almost gloated on our tiny abilities to draw, paint, dance, sing or write a poem; how we were paraded before our relatives to ‘show our talent’ or perform on school stage on the Annual Day.
As we turned 16 till 18, and faced two Board exams of X and XII standards, all these great abilities took a backseat, were dubbed as ‘hobbies’ and declared not to be pursued much for the moment. We must rather focus on our careers, education that will give grades, make us logical and rational, and put us on a great professional track as the best engineers, doctors, lawyers or stock-brokers of the world.
Before we could realise, we were adults, into a rat race, and have forgotten that once upon a time we also did sing, dance, draw, write poetry, act, or speak on stages. And, we were lost in the big bad world, because in a rat race, you remain a rat wherever you are positioned at a given moment. We were taught to compete with others. We turned logical, very rational, evolved structured thinking, turned reasonable. But we ceased to laugh in abundance, or dance with the wind, or sing when heart wanted, or act funny every now and then.
We even thought that anything which is creative, which is right-brain, which is aesthetic or artistic is for appreciation, admiration, a tool to break ice with others, for social charm, and only that much. They are not to make money, create careers, be valued in the economy.
Exceptions to the Order of the Day
There were exceptions though. Someone’s piece of art sold at thirty lacs you hear. Someone sang for almost half a crore one night. Someone wrote a story whose film rights went for twenty lacs you got to know. And many more. But these were not enough for your ‘security’ seeking parents and would be parents-in-law to consider you having a recipe of ‘success’ ahead.
It is time to declare a beautiful, colourful and bold war against all of these which went against your grain if you are a creative soul from inside. It is time to declare, “Ladies and gentlemen, here I arrive, a unique creative soul, with no competition with anyone except myself, dedicated to my creative work, aware of the technologies I need to make this work a great one, and conscious of the ways and means to take my work to millions and earn my livelihood with joy and abundance, and for years and years ahead.”
Security? Sustainability? Career? Money? Fame? Name? Network? Recognition? You name it and it is there for the taking. But only for those who would go the full hog to turn their die-hard dogged passion into a marketable, sustainable and admired profession. Dog is my favourite animal indeed. Today, the media and entertainment industry is pegged at `1.7 lakh crore (some $22 billion) in India, according to FICCI Frames annual report of 2020, with some 2.4 million people working, and till 2019, it was growing at 13 per cent annually on revenue and 11 per cent in new workforce addition (with some 9 per cent falling to attrition as well).
The figures are far higher than the GDP growth-rate of the nation. Surely, pandemic has caused a havoc in these figures, details of which are still not known till we have the next FICCI Frames white-paper on the industry. The digital revolution is sweeping across the world of creative expressions bringing forth web-entertainment on internet and through OTTs, mobile and online journalism, reputation and branding online, radio online, et al. Lower entry barriers are making digital media almost a cottage industry, though the revenue models for all digital media properties are still not in place, which is a question of time to evolve.
A Bold New Path Ahead
So, all the artists on canvas or stone or wood or glass, stand up and create a brand of your own through social media, place yourself in the marketplace through corporate art, media cartoons, restaurant art, art curating, art gallery, art foundations, or art and literary festivals.
The story-tellers around, stand up and choose your medium and audience to tell your story. Tell it in audio through podcasts and radio. Tell it in pictures through photo features and creative photography. Tell it visually through your computer-generated graphical or animated visuals. Tell it audio-visually through short stories, feature films, web series. Tell it for-profit and not-for-profit organisations through branded content. Tell it on streets, tell it on stage. Tell it in whispers, tell it in small groups, tell it to many, tell it to all, tell it loud and clear. Tell it in silence, tell it with sound. Tell it in tears, tell it with laughter. But tell it with all your charm and boldness. And making good money in the process. No one thought that a `400-crore investment in story-telling on celluloid over five years can bring in `3,500 crore. Bahubali did. Or that a `90-crore investment can bring in `2,200 crore back. Dangal did. Even Marathi and Bengali films have crossed the `100-crore mark.
But know the right techniques to tell it effectively, know your right audiences to tell it with the best desired impact, know how to be resourceful in your work without chasing just the mundane. And, above all, know not just how to produce great content, but how to monetise it seamlessly across all media, and more particularly, in the digital medium.
For the dancers, the singers, the composers, the writers among us, we have a world of opportunities knocking on our doors. There are some sixteen types of professional writing, for example, that can make money: fiction, non-fiction, journalistic, web-writing, branded content, screenplay, dialogues, playwriting, copy writing, jingle writing, technical writing, and a lot more. You want to tell what you see, or what you imagine, or what you believe in, or what you observe: you have takers for all.
Music has a robust career in bands, concerts, music management, online music, playback singing, music direction, fusion creation, and many more. So do the dancers dancing in troupes and films, for functions and weddings, running schools and events, managing operas and dance directing. Media and communication domain has three broad pathways: journalism, entertainment and brand communication, and then several specialisation areas within each of these. While specialised skills and knowledge are must, one must begin from a broad-base of understanding the entire gamut of communication, its technology and its business, before specialising in one segment.
Tech-driven Story-telling Ahead
Those creative geeks with a penchant for technology more than others: you have a longer path of fun and success. We are now in a world of fantasy visualised into animated images, characters and stories, or into engaging games and play-stations. The stories you cooked up all your life, with some observation of your sample audiences, can be evolved into video games that engage them. Today, virtual reality (creating the make-believe world which is not in front physically) or augmented reality (extending the physical reality to a larger canvas) are storming the creative space. They are breaking all frontiers of imaginative story-telling. Then there are weaving stories on fabrics, blending nature and culture with apparel, and creating styles and fashion simple or stunning. There are all other forms of creative and communicative careers now: creating behavioural changes, building images, managing crises, creating brand trust, weaving identities of people, places and organisations, et al.
This is your big time to call the shots. Just that an average half-hearted initiative will not give any outcome. It has to be all your power or none at all. It has to be the best foot forward or show no limb. It has to be ideas, concepts, practices, technologies and business sense all rolled into one.
And to get this knowledge right, with a portfolio that can command a price, and acquiring technical skills that will hold you for long in the marketplace of talent, choose an institute which is hands-on, which is intricately industry-connected, and which is strong in technical infrastructure and intellectual capital.
Bon Voyage in your creative journey.
The author is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Adamas University, and earlier the Media Dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities.