|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, March 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
sensitive to seasonal changes
Ritu Sharma, a multi-lingual singing sensation, needs no introduction. This crooner appeared on the City Beautiful musical horizon like a pole star and carved out a niche for herself in the entire North India, Himachal to be more precise, where her folk songs: Amriye peeyula chadru rangayee de..., Mere hikruyein gurbur hoi..., Appu taan chali gaya lama jo... and Nikke-nikke bail rakhane... have become very popular among the rural folk.
Hailing from a modest Brahmin family of Saliana, an outpost under Palampur tehsil of Himachal Pradesh, Ritu has no background in music. "For me it was a God-sent gift served on a silver salver,"says she. "It was an unforgettable day for me when I had to face an impromptu audition test for admission to class VI opting for music subject, failing which I had to opt for Sanskrit, which I was least interested in. The audition over, the teacher in charge, Ms Ravinder Kaur, of GSSMS, Sector 37, Chandigarh, called me up and patted me on the back for having performed so well. I had rendered the National Anthem. This is how I was ushered into singing," confides Ritu. Ironically, Ritu, who was a bit reluctant to go in for the audition, became the star performer at all school musical soirees. Be it Hindi, Punjabi, Pahari numbers, ghazals or a rendition with pure classical base, this multi-lingual singer was at her usual best.
Ritu, who is pursuing her BEd after doing MA in music, she performed a solo at a cultural extravaganza hosted by Tagore Niketan Public School, which was well received. "Incredibly, I bagged the first position for rendering a Himachali folk number to an appreciative non-Himachali audience there. It was indeed a morale-boosting experience for me to pursue a passion heart and soul," Ritu beams as she recalls. She has never looked back since then. She represented the north zone at a cultural programme held in Andaman and Nicobar and romped home with the running trophy. She also performed at various shabad recitation competitions in and around the city hosted by the SGPC. "It was a soul-elating experiment with the divine,"says she.
At college also, Ritu kept her tryst with her first love — singing. Hers was a name to reckon with at various inter-college musical concerts. She was declared first at a music competition under the "geet-n-ghazal" category. She bagged the first runner-up position in classical (vocal) category at the college.
She was awarded the university colour in group singing at the XLI youth festival (1999-2000), followed by the first slot she bagged for solo-singing and shabad recitation (2000-2001) at PU Zonal Youth Festivals and the first position in "geet-n-ghazal" category at the college talent search competition. She participated in the picnic antakshri, musical game shows on DD-I and "Pechhe Guddiyan De" on Tara channel. She has also lent her voice in Dr Atamjit’s play, "Mein Taan Ikk Sarangi Haan". In yet another play, "Mohan Se Mahatma Tak", whose several stage shows were held in Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh, she sang soulful numbers and proved her singing prowess. She has also done playback singing for some TV ads. She has done polio eradication ads on the Shimla station of AIR. She was invited to render a Himachali number on the New Year’s Eve last year by the local station. She was one of the members of the jury at a musical competition held at Rajpura and Chandigarh.
Ritu, who is a star attraction at cultural programmes hosted by various apolitical associations of Himachalis living in Chandigarh and its neighbouring satellite townships, has given solos and duets at various other musical concerts. To name a few, "Mukesh ki Yaadein", "Geet Bahar", "Rafi Nite of Punjabi Songs", "Bhajan Sandhya", "Lata Nite", "Sangam", "Charkha Mera Rangla" and "Inder Dhanush" etc.
Pursuing a career in music, this singing celebrity has eight albums to her credit. Six of them — Antakshri (volumes I, II and III), "Mata ki Bhetein" (Nushan tere laal jhule...), "Mata ki Bhetein" (Mansa Ma ki Katha) and another cassette of bhajans likely to hit the music marts soon — have been released by Surbhi Music India. Two cassettes on Himachali folk songs: "Nachchdiyan Gandiyaan Dharan" and "Phulian Karaleen" have been released by PMC Audio Video Company. Two more unnamed albums dwelling on devotional and folk themes are ready for release.
Ritu is averse to doing videos, the offers notwithstanding. "Honestly speaking, doing videos is not my cup of tea. The kind of craze prevailing among the new crop of singers is indeed disastrous. The hip-jerking, bare-all-dare-all dances by teen queens, with leering and jeering crowds jostling around, are corroding the very ethos," admits Ritu.
Ritu, an alumna of GCG, Sector 11, enjoys being in the midst of the green hills and dales and listening to the musical notes of humming birds sitting on a serene hillside. She never misses an opportunity to visit her native land in the heart of the Dhauladhar ranges. Among her other hobbies, Ritu loves sitting glued to her music system and listening to the best of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, her role models, and, of course, reading books on literature.
Asked if she ever faced problems
rendering songs in different languages, the songstress sharply reacts:
"No, no, I find all languages alike and can render in any with
equal felicity. Only the treatment and depth with which you perform
sensitive to seasonal changes
Sanjay Kaushal, a Panchkula-based lensman, is perhaps more conscious, than the average Chandigarhian, of the seasonal changes reflected by avenues of different kinds of trees planted along roads in City Beautiful. Over the years he has been capturing with his camera these seasonal changes ranging from full-bloomed avenues of gulmohar and amaltas to the withered leaves splattered on roads.
lensman is immensely sensitive to nature and his sharp sense of
composition makes his pictures lively and meaningful. His pictures
have bagged a number of awards in national and international
exhibitions, including the annual India Print Circuit. Sanjay has won
three Certificates of Merit for his pictures of high pictorial quality
in the recently concluded India Print Circuit, which is a series of
six international exhibitions. He is also a recipient of the first
prize awarded by the Chandigarh Administration in a photo show
organised on the theme "Nature and Environment" as a part of
the Rose Festival in the year 1999. He was awarded the Certificate of
Merit for his outstanding pictorial picture in the Ist All-India Salon
organised by Friends of Photography in the city last year.
Sanjay says nature welcomes photo-artists with open arms to capture her beauty, colours and moods. And unlike human beings, while clicking pictures of the nature, we neither hurt her emotions nor affect her privacy. "The face of nature keeps on changing from time to time and her moods impress me more than the moods of human-beings", says Sanjay. But his definition of nature is not confined to the strict parameters laid down by various international photographic organisations.
According to the Photographic Society of America, "Nature photography is restricted to the use of the photographic process to depict observations from all branches of natural history, except anthropology and archaeology, in such a fashion that a well-informed person will be able to identify the subject material and certify as to its honest presentation. The story-telling value of a photograph must be weighed more than the pictorial quality. Human elements shall not be present, except on the rare occasion where those human elements enhance the nature story. The presence of scientific bands on wild animals is acceptable. Photographs of artificially produced hybrid plants or animals, mounted specimens or obviously set arrangements are ineligible, as is any form of manipulation that alters the truth of the photographic statement.
Also, authentic wildlife is defined as "one or more organisms living free and unrestrained in a natural or adopted habitat."
These days Sanjay is busy shooting migratory birds at Sukhna Lake. It is not an easy task to take pictures, especially close-ups of the birds in the wild and that too without disturbing them. He has, however, succeeded in shooting real good pictures and admirers of nature in the city may one day see most of his pictures when he puts up his first solo show.
Sanjay says his passion for photography began in 1991 when one day he, accompanied by his father, left Panchkula for Manali and Lahaul Spiti on his scooter. Fascinated by the high mountains and meandering rivers, he took pictures at various places en route Keylong, Kaza and Rampur before returning home. Since then he has been to Ladakh twice, simply to capture the barren mountains and the life and culture of the people. He has also travelled extensively in Himachal Pradesh where he has captured landscapes depicting contour farming and terraced fields. His compositions of the landscapes of Himachal Pradesh have been captured while passing through zig-zag roads. Therefore, these are punctuated by the roof-tops of hamlets covered with farm produce left to dry in the sun or people working in fields.
Sanjay’s pictures are not
influenced by any ace photographer, but each of them reflects the
pictorialist in him having his own style. Although Sanjay’s pictures
have been accepted and awarded in a number of photo exhibitions
organised by various photographic organisations and camera clubs in
the country, he is yet to hold a solo show. His pictures have been
exhibited in the city too, not only in the exhibitions organised by
the Chandigarh Photographic Society, to which he belongs as a joint
secretary, but also in all-India photo shows held here.
I think I would make compulsory viewing for every politician, beginning with Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the 15-minute interview by Barkha Dutt of nuclear science Professor Bandukwalla and his daughter. Living in a predominantly Hindu locality in Ahmedabad, the professor and his daughter were saved in the nick of time by Hindu neighbours as his house was ransacked and destroyed. His neighbours were threatened with physical assault and in this touching interview with the nuclear scientist and his daughter, engaged to be married to a Hindu boy, shines the voice of reason, vision and humanity. The point I am making, and I shall document this, is that the politicians who are trying to persecute the media are totally out of touch with what is the job of the media, how valiantly the Indian media have performed in the highest traditions of professional reporting and what a splendid response there has been from viewers, who have remained glued to their sets while the ugly events of Gujarat and the biased, selfishly politicised responses of the state government unfolded before their eyes. The camera, they say, does not lie, and here was living proof.
Even more ugly was the assault on the media, including physical assault, which accompanied the relentless exposes by mediapersons like Rajdeep Sardesai and Nalin Mehta, Bhargava Parekh, Umang Sohni of Zee News and Dibang of Aaj Tak, to name just a very few experienced reporters out of many others who did splendidly and were harrassed. Let me give specific examples. It is hardly a secret that the Gujarat Government has brought pressure on cable operators to stop showing Star News. This is exactly what the Pakistan Government has been doing, although the Prime Minister has said they are a dictatorship and India is a democracy. At the time of writing, several places in Gujarat still cannot get Star News which raises the question of freedom of information. Physical threats to mediapersons covering Gujarat, anonymous telephone calls threatening violence, pressure from top politicians at the Centre and from inside Gujarat itself, have now become commonplace. Viewers had anxious moments watching Nalin Mehta, accompanied by a hostile crowd, still relentlessly and fearlessly speaking on about the unspeakable. And there were many others like him.
Dibang of Aaj Tak, on the other hand, had the mortifying experience of Bajrang Dal members snatching away the tape he had just shot and then destroyed and, for good measure, they called him "an ISI agent", an accusation also hurled by the rioters at other patriotic mediapersons doing a good job of work as well as their duty. Then it was the turn of Zee News, which had the most bizarre experience of the lot. In Ahmedabad, their reporter Bhargava Parekh was beaten up by rioters and his camera smashed up. Their other reporter Umang Sohni, reporting from Godhra, was in time to see the Army arrive in Mora village and he got some good bytes from the Army about how they had rescued the villagers. As Sohni was about to leave, the SP sitting there said his DIG, Mr Vipul Vijay Singh wanted to see the tape. After seeing it, the reporter was told "you won’t get this tape back". And he just confiscated it. Then started a long saga for the recovery of the tape. At first the DIG denied having the tape. After protests to the Home Secretary and then the Chief Minister, the tape was indeed returned after two days, but with the interview with the Army and some vital visuals erased. But this did not prevent the channel from getting anonymous threats on the telephone, just as other reporters and channels have been getting throughout.
This was bad enough, but the support such threats to the media got from the ruling party was worse. This has led to the march from the Press Club in Delhi to Parliament (before they were stopped) by top Editors of national and regional papers, members of the Press and media, all too ironically reminiscent of a similar demonstration against Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous Freedom of Information Bill.
I began by mentioning the interview with Professor Bandukwalla, the nuclear scientist, who lived to tell his harrowing tale, thanks to his Hindu neighbours. The voice of sanity with which the Professor ended his statement has had a tremendous all-India response.