Friday, July 31, 1998
Her mothers daughter
'Art and soul
flame of art
Her mothers daughter
PEOPLE ask me why do I sing my mothers songs? Why not? After all I am my mothers daughter. But the unfortunate part is that even when I sing my own compositions people say that they are Mammas songs, asserts Dolly Guleria, a renowned Punjabi singer and much better known as the daughter of the legendary singer Surinder Kaur.
Sometimes I think that the umbilical cord between my Mamma and me is still attached somewhere, when I hear everyone always comparing the two of us. I am proud to be my mothers daughter, but then Im also me, adds Dolly. Reminds one of what the English author, Rudyard Kipling had once said, Daughter am I in my mothers house, but mistress in my own.
Many, many generations in and around Punjab have grown up listening to Ek meri aakh kashni... in the full-throated voice of the Nightingale of Punjab Surinder Kaur. And the legacy of that rich rustic voice now continues, in its own right, in the form of a lusciously honeyed voice of Rupinder Kaur Guleria, better known as Dolly Guleria.
Born on the day of Baisakhi, the Indian spring festival, Dolly grew up listening to her mother sing, while nurturing the aspirations of becoming a doctor. I havent received any formal training from my mother. I would listen to her doing her riyaz and thus started singing, Dolly says.
Having had her formal training from the late Khan Sahib Abdul Rahman Khan, of the Patiala gharana, after her marriage to Lt Col S.S. Guleria, Dolly began her transitional voyage into the sonorous kingdom of music.
My dream is to keep the Punjab music alive. So I dont deviate from the basic objective of sober and melodious singing with rich lyrics of various selected poets. My main aim is to create heart-rending and soul-stirring compositions, she declares passionately. Little wonder, coming from a singer who selects her lyrics from the aesthetically satisfying poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Shamsher Sandhu, Nand Lal Noorpuri, and from the folk poetry compiled by Sarv Shri Randhawa and Satiarthy.
Along with cutting various cassettes in the field of Punjabi folk, devotional music and Punjabi ghazals, Dollys silvery voice has lent itself to playback singing in Punjabi films as well, such as Deson Pardes, Rab Diyan Rakhan and Main Maa Punjab.
Honoured with a plaque of Minar-e-Pakistan among other numerous mementos during her goodwill and exchange visit to Pakistan in November last year, Dolly says, while commenting on the cultural wars that the artistes these days seem to be facing, Music flows in the veins of the people, so how do you distinguish between Indian music and Pakistani music, or music of any country for that matter? These are over-hyped issues and both countries need to find a middle path.
When I performed at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, people went wild dancing. Its said that if you can make the Lahoreans dance to your tune, then you are a success. That is the power of music.
When asked whether she has any plans of cutting a music-video in the near future and would she prance around in the video herself, like many other Punjabi singers, a bemused Dolly replied, I havent actually thought seriously on the subject for now, but I might someday. And as far as dancing in my video is concerned, I think I dance pretty well. But that certainly does not mean that I will make an exhibition of the same. I agree that music videos do show a lot of artistes swinging to their own music, but if music has anything to say it will attract attention even without the gyrations.
With a full-time job of being a loving wife and a fond mother of two sons and a daughter, Dolly enjoys singing for an audience that is close to me and responds to me. Her daughter, Sunaina, also accompanies her in singing sometimes.
With an attractive visage and an engaging stage presence, combined with a mellow and mellifluous voice Dolly completes the picture of a gifted singer in every sense. And to top it all she still is very much her mothers daughter. A fact that the fans of both Surinder Kaur and Dolly Guleria will always cherish.
THEY speak of it as the most simple of all materials, and yet the most mysterious of them all: glass. Simple because all that it takes to make it imagination and skill apart is sand and fire; and mysterious, because of the countless ways in which it behaves, or can be made to behave; distorting forms, creating illusions, standing things up on their head, bringing into being an infinity of images.
Man has known glass for close to 5,000 years there are images of artisans blowing glass in the temples and tombs of Egypt in the thims of the Pharaohs, and closer home one knows of Indian glass beads that go back to the third millennium BC. And yet how little one really knows oneself, or understands, came to me sharply when I went to see the other day a Museum of Glass at Hergiswil, in the neighbourhood of the exquisite little Swiss town of Luzern.
It was with a sense of anticipation that I went, having heard much about the Glasi, as the glass-factory there is affectionately called, it being the oldest hand-made glass unit of the its kind in Switzerland (founded in 1817), and having come to learn that the museum of glass attached to it had won prestigious European awards. What I saw however I was entirely unprepared for.
The picturesque location at the edge of the Vierwaldstatten lake, the spick orderliness of the environment, the crisp air, one could almost take for granted, for such is the very nature of this achingly-beautiful countryside. But the museum itself small in some ways, and certainly unpretentious leaves a deep imprint on the mind. For it does precisely what museums are meant to do: not merely inform but excite and enrich; expand the mind.
Visitors are led into the museum in small groups, for there are no open galleries here, no extensive halls. One enters a small room, in the centre a circular table-like structure made of glass, atop which, along glass grooves, runs slowly a glass ball, by itself as if in perpetual motion, its movement tracked by a thin, sharply focussed light. As one watches, fascinated trying to take in suggestions of circularity, of the passage of time, a recorded voice begins to lead the visitor into the history of glass making, placing within it the history of the factory the two artfully joined together. The pitch is perfect, the acoustics of the rooms flawless. Suddenly another corner of the room lights up, discreetly placed machines projecting on to small, framed screens synchronized images, tracing the development of glass across time. Silvers of history from Egypt and Greece and Venice are heard; images of exquisite glass-work flash upon the screen; the recorded voice tells you persuasively of trade-guilds and punishments meted out to artisans leaking secrets out of their workshops; priceless objects move before ones eyes as if placed upon revolving discs.
And then, suddenly, noiselessly, a door, unseen in the dark, opens, and one is propelled into other rooms where other things unfold, each segment perfectly focussed: the commentary brief and crisp, the visual elements skillfully balanced. More recent developments swing into focus: the history of glass-making in the Black Forest of Germany, the considerations of easy transportation while locating factories, the coming in of mechanisation, the impact of the wars upon the glass industry.
But not everything is told in terms of flat, projected images. It is somewhere between a hall of mirrors, a cabinet of curiosities, a theatre of illusion, that the museum falls. Real objects, shot with history, mix with two-dimensional sights.
Suddenly, a window would noiselessly open up to reveal a dusty truck that had clocked a million miles carrying glass bottles during the war, some of them still lying tied up in it; then another dark room lights up, revealing the working desk of some former director/designer of the factory, everything in perfect place, from a modest, scratched table and overflowing shelves filled with glass to a bunch of heavy keys, a pair of spectacles resting upon an open ledger, a half-eaten apple, a thermos-flask.
One hears of glass-blowers also playing upon wind-instruments in the evening, of workers striking for higher wages, of the troubles faced by the factory, the tough competition offered to small factories making glass with hand like the Hergiswil Glasi by increasing mechanisation.
In the final lap, the courageous story of Roberto Niederer is told who struggled, and finally managed, to keep the factory alive, with the help of old glass workers, at the critical time when it faced closure and oblivion. It is his vision that comes across, enlivened with glimpses thrown in of old furnaces and teams of craftsmen at work, blowing glass that attracts thousands of visitors to the place, month after month, season upon tourist season. There is a sense of pride that one picks up all over the place, a feeling of triumph in the face of adversity.
But if this part of the museum is exciting, the other part, an exhibition entitled Phenomenal Glass is absolutely magical. For here there are aspects of glass experimental, playful, illusory, scientific that can keep the visitor, old and young alike, glued there for hours; musical instruments made of glass, distorting mirrors, skeins of glass-thread, sounds amplified by or completely blocked out by glass, even a green forest where, shrieking with delight, children wander abut listening to a recorded fairy tale, chancing upon hidden objects, live and adventure. Here, one can almost pick up the sounds of minds as they snap and crackle, stretch and expand.
Why not here?
Carrying flame of art
AMRITSAR is the only district of Punjab which has its home for art and the honour for this coveted achievement goes to Padamshri S.G. Thakur Singh who envisioned the movement of art in the state of Punjab 70 years ago. In his artistic journey, he was ably assisted by artists, art critics, art historians, art lovers from all corners of the country. To my mind what the Bengal School of Art did for creating art consciousness among the people of Bengal, this home of art has done, in Punjab under the presidentship of Thakur Singh who was a legend in his lifetime. He died in 1976, but the spirit still lives on.
The home is functioning under the name of Indian Academy of Fine Arts founded in 1928. Organising art exhibitions and recognising artistic merit on all-India basis is one of the oldest and most important activities of the academy. The Thakur Singh School of Art is another wing of the academy helping the aptitude of both the young and the old to develop into artistic talent.
I have had the privilege of having an intimate view of 615 works of art by 315 artists received for the 64th All-India Exhibition of Art 1998 as the chairman of the Selection and Judging Committee. It is a tough task to adjudicate a work of art, especially when you are one of the four-member committee. The task becomes even more difficult when one is confronting an exhibition of all-India dimension.
Nevertheless, the adjudicators after a marathon session of discussions and deliberations on each and every work of art entered in the exhibition unanimously selected 193 exhibits for display and eight artists for the award of cash prizes. They are Shekhar Wanaskar (Nagpur), Hara Kanta Baro (Guwahati), Ajit Lakra (Patna), Prasanta Kumar Parida (Jaipur), Jagjit S. Jass (Hoshiarpur), Rajinder Patwari (New Delhi) and the S.G. Thakur Singh Memorial Memento has been awarded to Sujit Kumar (Patna). In addition 10 highly commended certificates were also awarded to the artists.
The response from the artists community of the country to this exhibition held recently was truly impressive. This also shows how much faith they have in the art activities of the academy. This is a healthy sign for any art organisation.
The exhibition gains all the more significance in the wake of the non-functioning of the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi for the past one year.
The participation by the artists of all shades and hues working in the different corners of the country gives the exhibition a national character. The variety in artistic expressions manifest the versatility of the Indian artist who is aware of its own rich cultural heritage and also of the art happenings taking place all over the globe.
The most heartening feature of the exhibition is the work done by a large number of young and upcoming artists who hold a promising future for contemporary Indian art. The academy deserves all praise and commendation for carrying the flame of art with conviction and commitment to warm and illumine the hearts of artists and art lovers all over the country.
CHANDIGARH has always been an attraction for one and all. Recently we had amongst ourselves a renowned designer Mona of Monapali fame. She and her sister Pali are Calcutta-based designers who have made a name for themselves for reviving and experimenting with art forms. There is no attempt at flamboyance and like vintage wine, their outfits are full-bodied yet mellow. It is this quiet, understated elegance that have Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai, Tina Ambani, Shabana Azmi and Hollywood stars like Patrick Swayze to Art Mallik wearing their label.
The two designer sisters, Mona Lamba and Pali Sachdeva, both with different backgrounds one a teacher and the other a lawyer as fate would brought them together are still to reach the pinnacle (according to them). A striking feature of their creations is the mixture of methods tie and dye with embroidery and print-all incorporated into a single garment to make an elegant product.
Their collection speaks volumes about their innovative creations. The whites have been aesthetically exploited to express their styles. A-line silhouettes dominate in the three distinct thematic collections of Mukaish, chord and petals. Breathtakingly beautiful, each piece is an exquisite example of balanced designing. The white on white cambric collection has a unique soft appeal, where floral motives abound. Applique work, thread, stone bead and zari embroidery has been used for embellishing patterns.
Then their collection of maintenance free cotton wears in straight and clean lines, especially designed for working women deserves special appreciation. The whites woolens, silks though not easy on the purse ranging from every day to ultra festive are mix n match of embellishing techniques ranging from Punjabi gota work to Persian zardozi.
In choice of fabrics, Mona and Pali do not restrict themselves to the use of single fabric instead weaving strips of different textiles are used together to create a new look. Beaming with innovative ideas, they draw their inspiration from the rich folk heritage of India. They take credit for having developed a special fabric as zari net, which they used on some of the salwar suits with detailed bead work. Another innovation, a blend of wool and silk, has been made into an unusual fabric with a striking finish. Not only that, they have to their credit embroideries with (believe it) gauze bandage stitched onto soft cotton in a leafy pattern. They brought out the Shibori collection based on the traditional Japanese art of tie and dye.
They have worked with the widest range of fabrics and claim to be the first to introduce kantha embroidery. They source their textiles from different corners of India it could be from the villages of Gujarat, Orissa or Tamil Nadu and is given a brand new look by them. They were the first to put folk art on clothes. They were the first to put Madhubani on saris and salwars and also were the pioneer to fuse two three techniques in one garment. Such has been their variety and innovation combined with a beautiful blend of colours that even late Rohit Khosla commented: Pulsating with energy and full of innovative ideas is how one could describe the outfits of Monapali .... many of their ensembles use traditional techniques like hand block printing, hand embroidery and so on with a startling effect. Not surprisingly, it has been copied by a number of designers throughout the country.
The popular cable channel Star Plus featured the two sisters. Besides they were invited to exhibit their collections at the festival of India in China in 1994 and the Femina Miss India 93 contest had their ensembles on the ramp as part of the programme contest. Eleven years in this trade and with three boutiques in Calcutta, Ahmedabad and Delhi, umpteen fashion shows, the sisters have not become complacent about their success. Mona confesses that her dislike for synthetics is so strong that she does not use any in her line. She is also very eco conscious and has strong dislikes for synthetic dyes. They do their own dyeing and handle the garment right from start to finish. No wonder that each of their collection is a fascinating array of colors, fabrics, silhouettes and embellishments.
An eye for perfection ensures that each piece is flawlessly finished. Constantly innovating, the sisters have used unusual mediums and accessories at times. An example of which can be seen in a button patti which has steel hooks stitched on with the undersides showing so as to form an unusual pattern. Their clothes dont speak of one single line of thought they are a blend of colours and techniques fused to form an exquisite outfit. Materials like crepe, satin, jacquard, mul-mul along with velvets are given an unusual finish that is not only striking but also stunning.
Such has been their innovative creations that that they have made their line the most copied of designer wear and the sisters have learned to take it in their stride. They attribute their success to Gods grace.