VIEW: Ethnicity should be portrayed in its entirety, not just for commercial benefits

Aarti Bajaj is the creative director of groundbreaking production company, Wild Dreamer Productions. Bajaj recently rejected the words “white” and “brown” on the set of her major stage production, believing the terms to inhibit inclusiveness and diversity. She said her aim is to offer actors, dancers, singers and composers a platform to showcase their talent, without being hindered by their ethnicity.

In this interview, Bajaj shares experiences from her career in production, and her views on the representation of ethnicity on screen.

  • What initially instigated your interest in production?

Every creative is a storyteller. Productions are a great platform where raw, uncut versions of various human efforts, emotions and expressions are brought together in a form of a story which then transcends in the atmosphere among the audience that is palpable. And to bring all this to life is the reason that instigated my interest and passion to create productions.

  • How has that interest evolved over time?

Time has taught me more about what NOT to do than what TO DO. The main intention and purpose for Arts in my life was to find the sustainability of arts and with time I have evolved to understand that just passion, dreams, desire and intentions to walk on the path of Arts and Creativity isn’t sufficient. If a sustainability factor needs to be incorporated in Arts, then the marriage of commerce and arts is essential.

The interest to create, produce and reach to the wider global audience has only intensified with time but with a better understanding of commerce and much more concise agendas and expectations.

  • What are your views on how ethnicity is currently portrayed on screens?

The portrayal of ethnicity on screens is more like a flavour, a preconceived idea about certain humans with certain ethnic backgrounds will only be shown in specific colours and roles. There are deeply rooted prejudices and stereotypes in human thinking patterns, which then also transcend in creatives, their portrayal of creativity and then the way their audience consumes it.

  • Can highlighting someone’s ethnicity in a role be a good thing? Why or why not?

According to me ethnicity is part of one’s life story. It should be portrayed, but should be portrayed in its entirety, not just picking the flavours and showcasing them for commercial benefits. Screen plays an integral part in designing and training society’s thinking pattern. Therefore, it can play a key role in breaking prejudices and stereotypes that we humans have about various different races, cultures and ethnicities.

  • What is your advice to other creatives, artists and performers in the industry currently feeling held back because of their ethnicity?

One key advice that I would like to give to other creatives, artists and performers in the industry who are currently feeling held back because of their ethnicity is there are numerous amounts of stories in this world, many yet to be told. Today the world has become one big little global village. It’s time to embrace your ethnicity and identity with pride and respect while honouring the others and their cultural backgrounds with respect and humility. Technology, science and modernisation have built the bridges all across the globe, nothing is too far, nothing impossible anymore, now it’s our turn to embrace humans from all walks of life. And if noone does that for you, then brace yourself, put your best armour on and sing your own song, fight your own battle. We live in the age of infinite possibilities, if none come your way, make one for your own.

About the expert

With a bachelor’s degree in Indian classical dance Bharatnatyam and experience of over 25 years in creating, performing and managing the journey of creative works and creativity as a whole: I believe the most important role of an artist is to tell stories. We are storytellers – storytellers that have the ability and power to transcend the emotions of humans and all other living creatures beyond boundaries, breaking geographical and ethnic cultural barriers using our expressions, physical and technical craft. The main ethos and motto for me as an artist remains to be a global citizen that sees art as an entity that speaks the global language and brings all culturally diverse backgrounds, humans and ideas on one platform of humanity.

Image description: Close-up headshot of Aarti. She has shoulder-length, dark hair, is looking at the camera is wears a floral camisole. Photographer: Helen Selmeczy