While reading a Marathi book of biographies of some famous (Indian) artists, I found some interesting thoughts on artists in a chapter on Kumar Gandharva. These are Kumarji‘s own thoughts, and I’ve tried to translate them, although this is more like a free translation — more of trying to capture essence of what he said.
Despondency (1) is a very important phase in an artist’s life. Any artist must experience it. However, at those crossroads (of despondency) there are different alternatives. A true artist overcomes this despondency and gets back into creative phase. When does an artist get into stagnation? (It happens) when he has fame, he has money. But a (real) artist is never satisfied by just that. He has this craving to discover new ways, to keep creating something new. When an artist is happy and content with himself, he is finished. Self-satisfaction should be considered artist’s greatest curse. There is a strange quality to the stagnation of a true artist. Call it vanity (2) if you want. This vanity disables the artist. He keeps on repeating the same stuff. He doesn’t move forward (in his ultimate journey). Even the fans like the same (and predictable) stuff from him. After this stagnation and the despondency, some try to come out of it. But not everyone is successful. Then they become impotent as artists.I myself went through such a phase of despondency in 1946. I used to get a lot of program invitations. Used to travel a lot, earn a lot of money, make a lot of good friends. Connoisseurs would appreciate my music. But what was my role as an artist? Should one be satisfied by one’s fame? I couldn’t make any sense out of it. One day, I cried in the middle of a crowded street. I was engulfed by an artist’s despondency. But I overcame it and kept on moving ahead. I tried to bring something new to my singing. An artists has to have this craving for creation, like an eternal flame.
1. The word used by Kumarji is nirasha — literally a lack of hope. But somehow, the word hopelessness does not convey the complexity of the emotional phase that I believe Kumarji is talking about. It’s some of those cases where a concept is much more than words. The closets word in English that I could think of is despondency. But even that is not quite right. It’s the despondency that comes after a stagnation — rather through stagnation.2. Again, Kumarji uses the word masti (in Marathi), that can be loosely translated in English as a carefree/conceited attitude that comes when you’re living on the high of success.