Only sound and fury in Jaipur

In India, art for art's sake amounts to escapism. Art should serve a social purpose

The Jaipur Literature Festival, which is regularly held in our country, appears to me to be nothing but a big tamaasha, in Shakespeare's words, "full of sound and fury signifying nothing". There is hardly any worthwhile literature to be seen nowadays and there was certainly none at the festival. Everything has become commercialised. Writers often write only to earn some money, and there is hardly any artistic value in what they produce.

There are broadly two theories of art and literature. The first is called art for art's sake, and the second is called art for social purpose. According to the first theory, art and literature are only meant to create beautiful or entertaining works to please and entertain people, and they are not meant to propagate social ideas. If art is used for propagating social ideas it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda. Proponents of this view are Keats, Tennyson, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Agyeya, the "Reetikal" and "Chayavadi" poets, etc.

The second theory is that art and literature should serve the people and help them in their struggle for a better life, by highlighting the socio-economic problems in society and inspiring people in their struggle. Proponents of this view are Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Walt Whitman, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Victor Hugo, Maxim Gorky, Balzac, Stendhal, Schiller, Goethe, Cervantes, Pablo Neruda, Kabir, Premchand, Sarat Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Faiz, Josh, Manto, etc.

Which of these two schools should the Indian writers follow?

In my opinion, in a poor country like India, it is only the theory of art for social purpose which is acceptable. Today, our country is facing gigantic problems of poverty, malnutrition, price rise, lack of healthcare and good education, casteism, communalism, superstitions, etc. Hence writers must join the ranks of those who are struggling to make India free from these great socio-economic evils, they must inspire people by their writings, and write against oppression, injustice and backward mentality which are widespread in India.

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