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The magic of cultural dialogue

Cohen, who moved to France on an international scholarship in 2008, after studying musicology at Tel Aviv University released a single ‘A Paris’ in 2012 that garnered 4 million hits on YouTube and made everyone take notice of her…writes Sukant Deepak

It is the mix of cultures where she ‘finds’ herself. It is amid languages that she discovers what rhythms can do — first with awe and then, with gratitude.

The magic of cultural dialogue for Israeli singer-songwriter, actor and musician, who performs songs in Hebrew, French and Arabic stuck her quite late by her admission.

“And then, it (cultural dialogue) is not only my story but that of an entire generation and the traditions they carried,” says Israeli singer Riff Cohen, who sings in Hebrew, Arabic and French.

The artiste, who has a major fan base not just in Israel but across the Arab world, feels that coming in contact with people from different cultures acquaints one with multiple ways of seeing the world.

“Music opened my mind, it is such an apt way to find a language in and beyond words to express differently. The art forms facilitate imagination in me, it helps me emote in ways I never thought possible.”

Assimilation of different cultures in her work also has to do with the fact that her parents came from entirely different social realities. While her Algerian father came from a tough neighbourhood, Cohen’s mother was raised in Nice, France.

“One always tends to observe their parents closely. They both struggled a lot in different ways. However, I grew up different — with virtually no problems or stress,” says the artist, who was in India to perform at Jodhpur RIFF this year.

Cohen, who moved to France on an international scholarship in 2008, after studying musicology at Tel Aviv University released a single ‘A Paris’ in 2012 that garnered 4 million hits on YouTube and made everyone take notice of her.

“Interestingly, the French are open to everything international. When I was younger, I remember going to Israeli radio, and it just would not work out. ‘A Paris’ became such a huge song and it started playing everywhere,” says the singer, who has consistently given hits like ‘Helas’, ‘Marrakech’, ‘Malach’, ‘Elecha’ and ‘Boi agale lach’.

Cohen, who defines her music as a mix of Middle Eastern Urban Rock, North African folk, and Rai, and is influenced by Amazigh music, gnaoua and rai smiles that she does not want to sell her music by “being beautiful or her looks” — “I grew up in the nineties and I saw a lot of music on television. A lot of new concepts and ideas. I play with that and I see many different things. Also, power is tiring — why do you want to show you’re stronger than anyone? Show the vulnerability…”

Considering the region she comes from, it’s tough not to ask about the politics in her art.

“But I do not think there is any in my music… Maybe because I sing in Arabic…My father’s side of the family lived on a small island for almost 2000 years with people of different nationalities. So, yes, I am Arabic — this is my ‘genetic culture’. But everything comes together in a universal whole when I sing — including relationships and collaborations with others. I am really not into politics. I have deep love and respect for people in Israel.”

In India, she ‘sees’ music as more spiritual than anything else.

“Out here, everything has a different melody and a distinct dimension. When you’re in a divine situation, you experience something different. I can feel the harmony and vibrations in India.”

ALSO READ-Festive month December to explore New York City

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‘Moments of modern art history’ for auction

A collection of unique works, lot no. 2,3,4 by Salvador Dali will be showcased in AstaGuru’s upcoming international iconic auction. These works belong to a limited series of 78 custom decks of tarot cards known as Dali’s Universal Tarot which the artist started to work on during the early 1970s…reports Siddhant Shetty

The second half of the nineteenth century was a remarkable period in the history of modern art. Beginning in the 1860s, the western world saw the emergence of several important movements that sought to challenge the hitherto accepted academic realism style of art that was primarily based on mythology and religion.

Marked by non-decipherable figures, abstractionism, and unique application of colour, these movements would continue to evolve and transform into different unique idioms that gave a new voice to modern painting. In its upcoming ‘International Iconic’ Auction, auction house AstaGuru will showcase a medley of works by revered and iconic global artists. The stunning lineup of the auction scheduled on November 28-29, 2022, represents some of the most important moments in modern art history.


Baigneuse Assise by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Leading the auction line is lot no.8, a beautiful work by French Impressionist master Pierre Auguste-Renoir, who created an extraordinary artistic legacy with his fascinating canvases bearing sublime female nudes. Titled ‘Baigneuse Assise’ or the Seated Bather, the circa 1915, oil on canvas creation depicts the sitter in profile with a softly defined figure against a warm abstract dominated by a brown and green background that almost blends with the contours of her figure. Her curled hair, pink naked flesh, and the nonchalance of her unassuming posture in this idyllic masterpiece are exemplary of the intimate study of his models undertaken by Renoir. With variations of a rich mould of colours and sporadic thick impasto, the surface of the canvas evokes a dreamlike, almost ethereal harmony. This work was formerly in the collection of revered English playwright and novelist W Somerset Maugham who was also a passionate collector of Impressionist and Modern art.The painting also featured on the cover of his book ‘Purely For My Pleasure,’ published in 1962. It will be offered with an estimate of INR 4,34, 50,000 – 5,53,00,000.

Dali Tarots

A collection of unique works, lot no. 2,3,4 by Salvador Dali will be showcased in AstaGuru’s upcoming international iconic auction. These works belong to a limited series of 78 custom decks of tarot cards known as Dali’s Universal Tarot which the artist started to work on during the early 1970s. First commissioned to him by Hollywood producer Albert Broccoli, the tarot deck was meant to be used as a prop in the James Bond film Live and Let Die. However, the deal fell through, supposedly due to Dali’s exorbitant monetary demands, the artist remained intrigued with the idea and continued to work on the cards. Each of the cards is estimated to be acquired at INR 19,75,000 – 27,65,000.

BusteD’homme Et Femme Nus by Picasso

The reinterpretation of the female nude is one of the greatest legacy in the oeuvre of Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s groundbreaking works on this subject not only questioned the long-standing conventions, but also introduced a disconcerting new way of looking that rejects the majority of the constraints that had hitherto characterised the feminine body. A work by him, lot.no.5 executed with coloured wax crayon on paper in 1969 is also a part of the auction. It was exhibited at R.S. Johnson International Gallery in 1971. This work is offered at an estimate of INR 2,37,00,000 – 3,95,00,000. With 2023 being the year of Picasso’s 50th death anniversary, galleries and galleries and museums around the world are gearing up to celebrate him. Added to his monumental fame, this has heightened interest in his work.

Beautiful Hours Spin Painting IX by Damien Hirst

Lot no. 14, a work by Damien Hirst titled ‘Beautiful Hours Spin Painting IX,’ was originally unveiled as the cover for the album ‘See the Light’ by British rock band ‘The Hours’. The impactful imagery rendered in a psychedelic colour composition with high-gloss paint embodies the central theme of life and death, which has been a preoccupation and inspirational subject for the artist. The elements in the work, such as the skull, and a clock in the eye socket, become a metaphor for the fleetingness of life. Referencing from ‘Vanitas’, a common genre in paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries signifying the transience of life, these symbols appropriate the impermanence of bodily existence. And yet, weaved through the technique of Damien Hirst’s iconic spin painting, the work exudes a sense of joie de vivre. This work will be offered with an estimate of INR 2,37,00,000 – 3,95,00,000.

Poinsettia by Andy Warhol


Lot no. 33 is a unique work titled ‘Poinsettia’ by iconic artist Andy Warhol and marks a departure from his popular body of work focusing on the culture of consumerism. At the same time, it also gives an insight into his personal side and his approach to aestheticising the surrounding elements and subjects that intrigued him. Bearing Poinsettia flowers, often referred to as the unofficial flower of Christmas, this work is an ode to Warhol’s endearment to the theme of Christmas. Resembling the Star of Bethlehem, the ubiquitous flower traces its attachment to the Christmas holiday through a 16th-century Mexican fable about a poor girl who decorated the church altar with weeds that miraculously sprouted into flowers. Sharing this festive merriment with a large legion of his friends during the early 1980s, Warhol executed over 20 paintings in different sizes featuring Poinsettia. One of these, the presented work, was created in 1983 by Warhol and gifted to his friend Christopher Mako. A photographer, author and artist, Mako met Warhol during his early twenties in the decade of the 1970s. He soon became one of the people in Andy’s inner circle who frequented The Factory and also produced several photographs capturing the pulsating world of the studio. It will be offered with an estimate of INR 1,10,60,000 – 1,89, 60,000.

Love Sculpture by Robert Indiana

Lot no. 30 is a rendition of famous ‘Love Sculptures,’ by Robert Indiana. First executed as a painting in 1965 and being displayed at a solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery, it became a career-defining piece for the artist. Inspired by his Christian Science church upbringing, Indiana created hard-edged paintings stacking each letter on top of the other in an angular, slightly tilted manner. He would then go on to use the image for various other mediums including the iconic sculptures and stamps known around the world. The image was also selected to be the Museum of Modern Art’s Christmas card, becoming wildly popular. In 1970, he created a 12-foot tall steel sculpture with the same word for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, followed by ‘Ahava’ in Jerusalem and ‘Amor’ in Spain. This work will be offered with an estimate of INR 3,16,00,000 – 4,74,00,000.

(Siddanth Shetty, Vice President, Business Strategy and Operations, AstaGuru Auction House)

ALSO READ-Kalakar Arts launches “Tale of Tawaifs” musical series of four musicals

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Kalakar Arts launches “Tale of Tawaifs” musical series of four musicals

Jalsa, the first musical in this series will be held at Bhartiya Bidya Bhavan, London on 03 December 2022.

To celebrate female pioneers in Indian classical music , – Kalakar Arts launches a new series of four musicals “Tale of Tawaifs”.Indrani Datta, Classical Kathak Dancer and  Choreographer narrates the historical production.

Chandra Chakraborty, North Indian Classical Vocalist, composer & Director, Founder & CEO from Kalakar Arts UK

– A trailblazing London based arts organization has sought a perfect balance between heritage and entertainment. Kalakar’s Tale of Tawaifs series of musicals carry lyrics, dialogue, dance and drama that will transport the audience to a bygone era of artistic endeavour and romance. Jalsa, the first musical in this series will be held at Bhartiya Bidya Bhavan, London on 03 December 2022.Tickets available.

The organisation’s repertoire has been expanding and since the last few years they have launched and toured several productions including Saraswati – Daughter of Tansen, Akhtari – the musical based on the incomparable Begum Akhtar and various other solo and ensemble recitals. The organisation has made a name for celebrating Indian classical heritage and in particular female artistic achievements. Kalakar Art’s core team is primarily female and consists of practitioners who are simultaneously advancing their artistic and corporate work.

Kalakar Art’s new production is centred on the historic ‘tawaif’ culture who was a class of professional courtesans which originated in the Mughal era and began declining in the Victorian era. The Kalakar script development team led by Chandra have devised the series “Tale of Tawaifs” focusing on eight real life personalities to be presented through four new lavish classical musicals. The first in the series is “Jalsa”, an evening celebrating the pioneering achievements of Gauhar Jaan, the Gramophone Girl (born of Armenian heritage) and Indubala Debi, the Sangeet Samragyee who was closely associated with the National Poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam.

These infamous female artists each had to forge their own path against multiple sources of social and economic repression which came in the form of gender, class and racial bias. The ‘tawaif’s’ education and training often happened as a mixed result of both luck and circumstance depending on their sponsors and teachers or gurus who were willing to teach them. More than a hundred years ago, forward thinkers like Indubala saw education as vital to social and emotional emancipation which led her to helping many destitute children of Rambagan. Despite the public adoration and wealth showered on these female artists many of them faced isolation and neglect in their final years.

“Presenting these musicals, telling the stories through acting, singing and dance is my way of acknowledging the contribution these famous musicians have made in Indian Classical music” says Chandra Chakraborty, director of the production. “They were the pioneers of expressing the emotions of music through a dance movement called “bhao”. I am bringing that tradition back on stage. The audience will love every scene; they will be thrilled to hear the stories of success, fame, betrayal and so much more. I am so pleased to have the cream of Indian musicians in the UK joining me on this production along with Amy Freston, a famous Opera singer from Opera North,” she added.

Meera Vinay, Head of Indian Raga London and Executive Producer, said, “It’s a bold and earnest attempt to portray the life of extremely talented female musicians. I applauded Chandra and extend my full support.”

Shaheen Mitul, Backstage manager, stated “It is an honour to be a part of this unique musical Jalsa which celebrates the legacy of Gauhar Jaan and Indubala Devi”.

Shree Ganguly, the Poet an actor, said “Tale of Tawaifs- Jalsa” gives a voice to the women performers of past centuries, the Tawaifs who defied social norms for the sake of art and self-expression. It’s an honour to be a part of such a well-researched project. Truly, it was a pleasure to work with Kalakar.”

Gairika Mathur a reputed Oddissi Dancer who is part of the production said, “With such a stellar cast I am privileged to be a part of the musical grandeur.” Sangeeta Lahiri Srivastava an eminent Vocalist, shared, “I will be performing as Janki Bai Chappan Churi. I can’t wait to share the stage with so many great musicians and my Guruji Vidushi Chandra Chakraborty ji.” Satarupa Ghosh also a Vocalist, said, “I am privileged to perform as Gauhar Jaan in this musical. Jalsa will bring to life the stories- trials and tribulations and the music of these famous courtesans.”

In today’s modern world is the ‘tawaif’ culture buried deep in the stone walls of mahals and forts? Alas this ancient profession still exists in a real and digital form albeit without the presence of the noble patrons. An evening visit to certain parts of Kolkata’s Rambagan (where Indubala lived most of her life) or some of old Delhi’s historic lanes illuminates the stark reality to the enquiring visitor.

On this occasion our enquiring visitor was none other than Chandra Chakraborty herself who ventured under the arches of Delhi sultanate period and the cobbled lanes of holy Benares to unearth the triumphs and griefs of these incredible female voices. Each and every question on this intrepid research trip supported by the Delhi Police and Benares based music and academic elders succeeded to unlock the treasure trove of songs and stories lying dormant. Post research script development has transformed the research discoveries into a dynamic creative conversation for the heritage conscious and cultural seeker.

Artists include:

Chandra Chakraborty- Director of the production and performing as Indubala

Satarupa Ghosh- Gauhar Jaan

Chiranjeeb Chakraborty- Gaurishankar Mishra

Dr Vijay Rajput- Kalishankar Mishra

Sangeeta Lahiri Srivastava- Janki Bai

Indrani Datta and Gairika Mathur- famous Nautch Girls Pyari and Malka Bai from that time

Shantanu Goswami- Maharaja of Datia

Amith Dey- Amrit Keshav Nayak- lover of Gauhar Jaan, background music and harmonium accompaniment

Shree Ganguli- Madhumati

Amy Freston- Opera singer

Manash Chowdhury- Kazi Nazrul Islam

Erik Schalander and Jocelyn Lightfoor- Narrators

Aniruddha Mukherjee- Tabla accompaniment

(Additional inputs from Rahul Laud)

 For more information visit www.kalakararts.org

ALSO READ: Kalakar Arts UK presents musical echoes of Sita and Draupadi

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HERMANNHESSE: “Siddhartha” and quest for Spiritual Identity

Although it was many years before the publication of Hesse’s Siddhartha (1922) this masterpiece was to be derived from these new influences…writes Dilip Roy (A Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society UK, Dilip K Roy is a researcher on cultural subjects)

It is a well known fact that in the last two centuries Germany’s contribution stands far greater in the field of Arts, Literature and Science than the whole of Europe combined. Germany has been the hub of literary tradition for centuries, whether it was Romanticism or Expressionism whilst remaining at the forefront of intellectual activity. The number of Nobel laurates produced also rank high. Among the few German names such as Goethe, Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner whose  influence was felt on the whole generation of artists, musical composers  and  literary writers of the modern world.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German poet and a novelist who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1946 for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style (Nobel Citation 1946) Hesse pursued an existentialist course in his writings, frequently alluding to psychoanalysis and Buddhist philosophy. His characters are often outsiders in search of purpose and spiritual depth and are trapped in societies filled with misunderstanding and ruin. Although he won the Nobel prize in literature, most of his novels failed to make impact on the readers until SIDDHARTHA appeared in 1922 which catapulted Hesse to international fame for in Siddhartha, Hesse captured the truth of the spiritual journey in a way his self awakening. The book Hesse’s ninth novel was written in German, in a simple lyrical and poetic style.

Gaienhofen was the place in Germany where Hesse’s interest in Buddhism was re-sparked. Following a letter to Kapff in 1895 entitled NIRVANA, Hesse had ceased alluding to Buddhist references in his work. In 1904, however, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and his philosophical ideas started receiving attention in Europe and Hesse discovered theosophy and Schopenhauer’s philosophy renewed his interest in India. Although it was many years before the publication of Hesse’s Siddhartha (1922) this masterpiece was to be derived from these new influences.

At the time Hesse was composing his famous Novella “Siddhartha” around 1920 he wrote the following words:

We are seeing a religious wave rising in almost all of Europe, a wave of religious despair and many are speaking of new religion to come. Europe is beginning to sense that the overblown one sidedness of intellectual culture is in need of correction, a revitalization coming from the opposite pole. This widespread yearning is not for new ethics or a new way of thinking, but for a culture of the spiritual that our intellectual approach to life has not been able to provide. This is a general yearning not so much for Buddha but for a yogic capability. We have learned that humanity can cultivate its intellect to an astonishing level of accomplishment without becoming master of its soul.  

Despite Hesse’s wider interest in the world’s religions, no other spiritual discipline apart from Christianity influenced his life and work more than BUDDHISM. Many of his novels his characters became centered through developing an awareness of themselves and their own behavior with a kind of mindfulness that transcended the intellectual content of Buddhist philosophy. Hesse was struck by Buddha’s life a spiritual training of the highest order. It is in this discipline that we see reflected in Hesse’s writings and his own psychological struggles. His most influential work “Siddhartha” is arguably also his most optimistic work. Like the Romantics and Transcendentalists who had preceded him, Hesse was not interested in conveying the traditions that inspired him. Hesse’s use of invented term “Yogaveda” and went on to create his own exotic blend of Eastern spirituality a synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism. As Hesse grew more familiar with Buddhist doctrine he began to understand the subtleties that moved him out of his acute depression. For him the speeches of Buddha were “a source and mine of quite unparalleled richness and depth.”  He wrote in his diary:

 “As soon as we cease to regard Buddha’s teaching simply intellectually and accept with certain sympathy in the age-old Eastern concept of unity, if we allow Buddha to speak to us vision, as image, as the awakened one, the perfect one, we find in him, almost independently of the philosophic content and dogmatic kernel in his teaching, a great prototype of mankind. Whoever attentively reads a small number of countless speeches of Buddha is soon aware of a harmony in them, a quietude of soul, a smiling transcendence, a totally unshakable firmness, but also invariable kindness, endless patience.”

A very notable German composer of operas and tone poems, Richard Strauss (1864-1949) set three of Hesse’s poems to music in his Song Cycle “Four Last Songs” for Soprano and Orchestra was composed in 1948 a year before the composer’s death, the songs were rendered in a Wagnerian style has become very popular among the lovers of classical music.

Richard Strauss

The word SIDDHARTHA is made up two words in Sanskrit. Siddha (achived) Artha (what was searched for) which together means “he who has found meaning of existence.” The ultimate goal or Moksha. Siddhartha is also Buddha’s original name.

Siddhartha has been published in almost all major European and Indian languages also Hermann Hesse Society of India was established in 2005 under the auspices of the Government of India at Tellicherry in South India birth place of Hesse’s mother which in many ways contributed for attracting Hesse to Eastern thought and culture.

ALSO READ-Oppenheimer and influence of Vedic Philosophy

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Sushma Soma: Classical space can amplify issues

The piece ‘The Elephant’s Funeral’ which emerged after a pregnant elephant was fed a fruit packed with firecrackers…writes Sukant Deepak

The setting could not have been better. The aesthetic Guleria Kothi on the ghat in Varanasi. The balmy afternoon sun… Just before the performance, there was a buzz among those who had come to attend the recent Mahindra Kabira Festival presented by Teamwork — ‘Did you get a chance to listen to her album ‘Home’?’

Even for those who were googling, Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma’s performance did complete justice to expectations, her vocals carrying everyone smoothly to an otherworldly space in the city of twisted labyrinths lost in the ambiguity of time.

Soma, born in India, who grew up in Singapore was four-years-old when she started learning music at the insistence of her parents who wanted her ‘connected’ to her roots. She may not have been very enthusiastic at that point in time but things changed — slowly but surely — especially after she spent half a year in Chennai, under the tutorage of Lalitha Shivakumar and now RK Shriramkumar.

For her, the classical space can amplify contemporary issues and concerns — like the piece ‘The Elephant’s Funeral’ which emerged after a pregnant elephant was fed a fruit packed with firecrackers.

Although admitting that it is not easy for a youngster not from a family of musicians to mark in the classical music world, the vocalist says her journey has taught her it is not just about classes but also about being in an environment that nurtures that side of an individual.

“That kind of home is extremely important. While that was not there, my parents enjoyed music. Yes, the nurturing part of it is tough, you need ‘that’ push. And I acknowledge the privilege that I grew up with,” Soma tells.

“All for collaborations, she feels the same help people like her to witness music from multiple lenses — what purpose is it serving and the connection it creates. And I want to explore the values of different music. It has been an interesting experience. Mostly, I have only worked with classical musicians and now it is with other genres too. It is important to ask — what is it doing to the music, what flavour is it creating? It can be fascinating for me to observe how I have created different narratives with different musicians and styles and conversations about this as well,” says the artiste, who was awarded the ‘Young Artist Award’, the highest honour for young art practitioners by The National Arts Council, Singapore, in December 2020.

Considering the fact government supports for arts in Singapore is “fantastic”, she attributes her growth to that fact. “The initial funding came from the council that supported the album. I think they recognise artists and that art needs to grow. While I am not in a position to comment on the government support in India as I did not grow up here, it is important that every government extends support to the arts. Not everyone grows up in privileged households. You also start thinking about music as a career only if can support the family. Of course, money is not the only thing, but let us acknowledge that the same gives you the freedom to follow your passion. The state must recognise talent and how they can help the person grow.”

Stressing that corporates have a major role to play too, the vocalist adds that there needs to be an evolved ecosystem where private players, as they do abroad, also contribute.

“Spending on art and culture is a way of giving back to society.”

When she was in Singapore, Shoma saw her gurus once or twice a week but things changed in 2005 when she came to India to learn.

“I would even eat lunch with her, it was not an hourly contract, and we were a part of each other’s lives. My current mentor welcomes me in the same way and it’s very sacred, we disagree and agree. There has always been a space for those conversations, to grow and learn and as well. Yes, I have read accounts of harassment. I hope there’s a space for people to get out when it is not healthy,” she concludes.

ALSO READ-‘Loal Kashmir’

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‘Loal Kashmir’

Conceived during the first wave of the Pandemic, the filmmaker got in touch with film professional friends as no shootings were being held and got working. Stressing that the movie is an amalgamation of stylized ideas, Jamal says it had to do with her mental and emotional space at that time…reports Asian Lite News

What happens to love in the time of conflict? Does it survive something like a complete communication blackout? Can conflict be seen through the prism of love, of longing?

Well, that is what Kashmiri filmmaker Mehak Jamal’s upcoming book ‘Loal Kashmir’ is about. The project started two years ago when she started collecting stories of love in the times of unrest in the Valley.

“The respondents were moved by the concept, after all when it comes to Kashmir, the overpowering narrative is always conflict. Also, love can be taboo to talk about sometimes. Personally, to look at the larger situation in Kashmir through the lens of love was peculiar and gratifying…”

Born to a Kashmiri father and a Maharashtrian mother, Jamal moved to Bengaluru for college in the year 2012 and graduated from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology with a specialisation in Film in 2016. In fact, her graduation film got her selected as a film fellow at the Dharamshala International Festival Festival (DIFF) some years ago.

This time, at the recently concluded DIFF, her first non-student Short ‘Bad Egg’ was screened.

In the film, Zoya receives a disturbing call from her mother — her sister Zara has gone missing during the pandemic. But, Zoya is not rattled enough. She’s hiding something, all of which leads back to the fateful night of a party. Throughout the film, Zoya interacts with her surroundings as if she is re-calibrating with them.

Conceived during the first wave of the Pandemic, the filmmaker got in touch with film professional friends as no shootings were being held and got working. Stressing that the movie is an amalgamation of stylized ideas, Jamal says it had to do with her mental and emotional space at that time.

“It is a psychological drama thriller, and that is something that I have always been interested in. There is always an urge to draw the audiences to experiences and tell them a ‘secret’, slowly giving them hints but not completely revealing till the ‘right’ moment. We had fewer resources, days, and people, and I wanted to make something that would work in that. The characters are twins, I also created them because I find twins very cinematic.”

‘Bad Egg’, which premiered at the Indian film festival in Germany and won the Audience Award was also shown at the Indian Festival of Melbourne and in Kerala.

Talking about the format of Shorts, she says it has a grammar of its own and when writing one, it is easy for her to see the end. “It allows me not to tell the audience everything and ask a lot of questions. If it was a feature, I would have to answer all the questions. I have the liberty to tell the story to the point I want to. You can play with the structure.”

Considering she is from Kashmir, is there not a certain internal pressure to work on stories from there?

“Yes, it does feel obligatory. But I also quite vary about it. I am interested in telling stories because there are so many, and conflict is such a major part. Sadly, most narratives that emerge from there are seen through the prism of the media. I would like to tell personal stories that carry inside them multiple metaphors,” she says.

Now that the valley has a multiplex, and book readings and intimate music concerts at cafes have become a norm, the filmmaker asserts: “It is a melting pot of talent. And there are so many young people who are opening cafes and a solid music scene is emerging. It is high time that people from there tell their stories and create more art.”

ALSO READ-Never ending Kashmir love story

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‘The Paradise of Food’ wins Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature

“The Paradise of Food” is the fourth translation to win the award and the first work in Urdu. Khalid Jawed also received the Prize trophy, a sculpture by Delhi artist duo Thukral and Tagra, entitled ‘Mirror Melting’…reports Asian Lite News

Khalid Jawed’s “The Paradise of Food”, described as “a brutal and mesmerizing account of the contemporary body, home and nation told through the food and kitchen” and published by Juggernaut, was declared the winner of the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize For Literature 2022, India’s richest literary award for contemporary fiction by an Indian writer.

The winner was announced on Friday by JCB Chairman Lord Anthony Bamford virtually during the hybrid event where the trophy was handed over to the winning author by Sunil Khurana, Chief Operating Officer, JCB India, and Jury Chair AS Panneerselvan.

“The Paradise of Food” is the fourth translation to win the award and the first work in Urdu. Khalid Jawed also received the Prize trophy, a sculpture by Delhi artist duo Thukral and Tagra, entitled ‘Mirror Melting’.

The book was selected by a panel of five judges, including Amitabha Bagchi, Dr. J Devika, Janice Pariat and Rakhee Balaram. Jury members were unanimous in their praise for “The Paradise of Food”.

Panneerselvan described the book as a “celebration of human spirit, hope, loss, aspirations, and anxiety. It is a fine artistic achievement where aesthetics negotiates a difficult political trajectory that is haunting our country. The carnivalesque element makes this a modern fable”.

Said Janice Pariat: “This rare, beautiful book achieves, with exquisite, startling, singing prose, what few others have in recent and not-so-recent-years a microscopic yet epic exploration of humanity in all its ugliness and beauty, its cruelty and kindnesses, its silliness and wisdom. I was left amazed, enthralled, thrilled.”

Amitabha Bagchi said: “This singular and moving book shines a scintillating light on the violence at the heart of human civilization. The language contains several beautiful and unusual formulations that are a literary achievement by both the author and the extremely skilled translator. A literary landmark in a less celebrated genre of Urdu’s grand literary tradition, this work deserves to be widely read in India and beyond.”

Dr. J Devika said the book “works like a powerful ice-pick in the winter of the civilizational crisis that has engulfed the countries of South Asia. And it does this by mobilising the poetic powers of Urdu, placing liberation above nation-building, which we think is the work of a novel. The translation is perfect and inspired”.

Rakhee Balaram said: “A book of indescribable brilliance, (it) blazes a trail and redefines the contemporary Indian novel. Beauty and horror, sacred and profane, the book attracts and repels us as we turn each page. Our understanding of the personal and political intersect through the food and kitchen in the most unforgettable ways.”

Khalid Jawed is one of today’s leading Urdu novelists. He is the author of fifteen works of fiction and non-fiction, and is a recipient of the Katha Award, the Upendranath Ashk Award and the UP Urdu Academy Award. He is a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University.

Baran Farooqi is a professor of English at Jamia Millia Islamia University. She is the acclaimed translator of “The Colours of My Heart”, a selection of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

ALSO READ-Success story of first Muslim female neurosurgeon in India

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The bleeding border

It is often said that the Bengal Partition in comparison with that on the western border of India has not received much literary attention…writes Sukant Deepak

It’s a question that has continued to haunt till today, even after seventy-five years of the Partition. Cyril Radcliff, whose fateful line of demarcation divided the Indian territory into a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan, had never before been to India, nor had he the necessary skills for drawing a decisive border. But it was he who emerged as the destiny in the history of Partition that involved gruesome sectarian violence, persecution of minorities and wide-scale migration whose legacies (unfortunately) are visible even to this day.

“The Bleeding Border – Stories of Bengal Partition” (Niyogi Books) is an anthology of twenty-four partition stories written by both prominent and lesser-known authors from West Bengal and Bangladesh. The poignant descriptions of various forms of violence, tension and anxiety at the porous border of two countries make these stories disturbing reading. They delineate the ghastly communal riots at various places and the trauma and disruptions of memory caused by them, the exodus of the refugees’ from the then East Pakistan and their fierce struggle for survival in newly mushrooming colonies at unknown terrains, and above all, the nostalgia for an imaginary ‘desh’ (motherland) that defies cartographic barriers.

It is often said that the Bengal Partition in comparison with that on the western border of India has not received much literary attention. Some even go to the extent of saying that celebrated Bengali writers, more or less, remained silent’ regarding this cataclysmic issue. Thus, ‘Partition Literature’ has become almost synonymous with the writings of Saadat Manto, Bhisham Sahni, Intizar Hussain, Joginder Paul and others, and we often tend to ignore the contribution of the authors from the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country and Bangladesh.

This obviously speaks of a politics in the formation of canon particularly when it is evident that Bengal Partition fiction is no less powerful and appealing than its western counterpart. One may think of short stories and novels by the authors like Jyotirmoyee Devi, Pratibha Basu, Manik Bandyopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Prafulla Roy among many, from the side of Bengal, and Syed Waliullah, Hasan Azizul Huq, Rizia Rahman and others from the Bangladesh side. The list of authors of Bengal Partition literature is not only huge in its corpus but immediately relevant in the socio-political context of the present day.

The stories of this present anthology include some of the most striking and dominant themes of the Bengal Partition and its aftermath. One major theme is obviously the ceaseless movement of rootless masses in search of safe shelter in an ambience of generalised violence.

Bengal Partition literature offers more than a stereotypical discourse. It has a tremendous sense of contemporaneity and it addresses various issues with which the readers of the present day may immediately identify.

“The stories are representative of Bengal partition fiction in their poignant depictions of various forms of violence, agony and anxiety at the border’ which is porous and bleeds still,” co-editor of the book Joyjit Ghosh said.

“Most of the stories included in the volume have been translated into English for the first time. They are largely concerned with the human dimension of Partition’ and delineate the discontents and trauma of countless refugees’ when the Partition of the country was thrust upon them overnight. But they are nostalgic narratives as well, as they voice a craving for a desh’ that knows no margins or barriers,” co-editor Mir Ahammad Ali said.

On publishing the book, Trisha De Niyogi, Director and COO, Niyogi Books, said: “Sometimes all it takes to revisit your history is just relocate yourself in a timeframe long left with the narratives unheard, hushed down, or perhaps ignored. The Bleeding Border: Stories of Bengal Partition is a collection of Partition stories of those kinds on the eastern frontier—a rare assemblage. As a publisher, it is somehow our responsibility as well to unearth those unheard narratives and re-asses history as it is.”

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‘I only see human beings talking to me’

Stressing that it is important that stories from small towns are ‘revealed’, the filmmaker firmly believes that each person has a perspective, a gaze that is as unique as their nature, personality, and expression…writes Sukant Deepak

He recalls reaching home (Shimla) after winning the top prize at IDSFFK 2016 in Kerala for his short film ‘Papa’ and feeling extremely unsatisfied. “I had played it very safe,” he smiles.

That was the moment when he decided to go all out and tell a story that was bigger and bolder. “And I started writing ‘Amar Colony’. The idea was to expand on my short film,” filmmaker Siddharth Chauhan tells.

His debut feature will have its world premiere at the ongoing 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia (First Features – In Competition) and India premiere at the International Film Festival of Kerala next month. It was the first project from a local filmmaker of Himachal Pradesh to make it to NFDC Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Market.

Set in Shimla, the movie has multiple tales — a crippled widow who wants respect for her pigeon; a lonely pregnant woman who finds her solace in a tomato; and a devotee of Lord Hanuman who battles paranoia with a mace. Their lives come together at Amar Colony, a chawl in Shimla.

Quietly, a slum lives in the hills.

Chauhan wrote the first draft in seven days in 2016 and made a few revisions over the next few years – visiting the script after intervals until 2018 when it was selected to be a part of NFDC’s Co-Production Market. The project created quite some buzz there and reinforced his belief in it.

Stressing that it is important that stories from small towns are ‘revealed’, the filmmaker firmly believes that each person has a perspective, a gaze that is as unique as their nature, personality, and expression.

“Moreover people like me – who are born and brought up in small towns do not think in the same way as those in major cities. Shimla, my hometown is very unique as it is both cosmopolitan and very conservative. I think it has succeeded in influencing me in certain ways which I may not be able to pinpoint but I am certainly aware of. Stories from small towns have in them a unique character,” says Chauhan, who was at the recently concluded Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) held in a physical avatar after two years.

Talk to the young filmmaker about the interesting and impactful way silence helps the narrative in the movie, and he says that for him films mirror life and life is silent. “It never talks to me. I only see human beings talking to me and at times I wonder why? Are we incapable of communicating without words or just lazy? I see life communicating silently, and subtly. Since ‘Amar Colony’ was about life, Amar meaning eternal/immortal, I wanted to give it a life-like quality. I also feel it has a lot to do with my personality. Films are personal expressions and I do not talk much.”

Chauhan says that ‘Iceberg Stories’ magnetise him. “They are very simple on the surface but quite complex and profound. They make you think, imagine and wonder at the various possibilities. They are powerful and unforgettable. If you crash into them, you will certainly not remain unharmed.”

He feels that despite the hype, things have really not changed much for independent filmmakers in the country.

“I see more and more people summoning up the courage to juggle with this medium and also publicize their work. As a result, there are more number of films which are made, seen or known to the public but I doubt if anything has really opened up for independent filmmakers in India,” adds the filmmaker was drawn to this medium after he saw a scene from ‘Black’ being shot in Shimla.

Chauhan, who never went to a film school as he was never interested in ‘formal education’, says, “My academic journey has been quite disappointing, so there was no way I could allow the accident to repeat with the love of my life – films. I preferred to teach myself, learn by doing and by watching movies.”

The filmmaker, who was developing two scripts simultaneously caused him to burn, so he plans to take a break till this year-end. “I want to resume work on my next film from January 2023. It is a murder mystery set in a Himachali village,” he concludes.

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Sacha Jafri teams up with Artfi

Jafri’s artwork routinely sells for millions of dollars. “Journey of Humanity,” recognised by Guinness as the world’s largest art canvas at 1,800 square meters, fetched $62 million at a 2021 auction in Dubai – the third-highest auction price of a living artist’s work ever…reports Asian Lite News

Collecting art has historically been the privilege of a select few. The elite collector community has traditionally shaped the course of the art market and art history. Now, blockchain has created an opportunity for a game-changing paradigm shift. This shift will allow the decentralisation of traditional practices of art collecting, ownership, and enjoyment.

One of the top-five highest-selling living artists ever, Sacha Jafri, will team with Artfi to democratise fine art collecting through fractionalised ownership. Aspiring art collectors can soon own a stake in one of Jafri’s highly sought multimillion-dollar artworks, thanks to Artfi’s groundbreaking art investment platform.

Jafri’s artwork routinely sells for millions of dollars. “Journey of Humanity,” recognised by Guinness as the world’s largest art canvas at 1,800 square meters, fetched $62 million at a 2021 auction in Dubai – the third-highest auction price of a living artist’s work ever.

Commenting on the association, Sacha Jafri, said, “This collaboration with Artfi allows for a new way forward, combining technology with fine art. The democratisation of art is something I’m really excited about. This can connect my collectors all over the world to the ownership of one of my pieces. And as an artist, that’s a beautiful thing.”

Asif Kamal, Founder, Artfi, added, “This is the first time top-tier art will be accessible to everyone – the first-time art won’t differentiate between those who can spend a lot and those who can spend a little, For the first time, everyday people will explore, learn, appreciate, and possess incredible, priceless creations firsthand. We’re not selling you the image of the painting, we’re selling you this concept of ownership of a piece of the painting. We’re facilitating buying unique pieces of artwork.

In conversation with the iconic Sacha Jafri(IANSLIFE)

Artfi acquires works of art and creates 10,000 NFTs representing ownership of the physical piece. These NFTs include special royalty rights for the original minter. After the initial mint, these NFTs will trade on secondary markets, bringing greater liquidity to the fine art market. This will be the first time that retail investors can own a financial interest in Sacha Jafri’s most valuable paintings and earn royalties for their participation.

Royalties and Partial sale Opportunities in the fine art world are something never existed in the history of fine art, Artfi brings a unique proposition for artists, sellers, and collectors to give them opportunities to earn Royalties on each NFT transaction and the opportunity to sell 90 per cent of their art and keep 10 per cent lock in their wallet for future upside if they consign their artwork with Artfi.

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