|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, May 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
culture threatening Indian culture: Birju Maharaj
Not even an infant, because infants are pretty mediasavvy these days, would have swallowed Doordarshan’s little fairy tale that it would not be able to carry the debate on Gujarat in Parliament because it was short of channels.
to montage photography
Adit Agarwala is one of those few prolific photo artists who, having mastered the art of montage photography, are now engaged in not only further enriching this form of photography which requires sharp perception, immense patience and unusual skill, but also rendering selfless service for the promotion of photography as a medium of expression.
A recipient of the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (FRPS) in 1987, the Federation International de L’ Art Photographique (FIAP) also awarded him the distinction of excellence in photography, known as Excellence Federation International de L’ Art Photographique (EFIAP) in 1992 for his outstanding photographic works and immense knowledge of photography. Adit has to his credit about 400 acceptances of pictures and a large number of awards in exhibition approved by FIAP within the country and abroad.
It would be more appropriate if we say Adit creates pictures and does not simply click them. He makes montage photographs by using different negatives on his enlarger, but arranges them as a single photograph in such a manner that it gets a theme, has a story and above all, fulfills all the parameters of a real good pictorial photograph. His lyrical pictures reflect his sensitive mind and engross the viewer in such a way that one gets swayed by their overall impact. The artist in him is unusually sensitive as his pictures made with montage technique take one to a different world, beyond one’s imagination, but each of them has a message.
He says, "Montage photography is almost as old as photography itself. It was in the year 1854 that European photographer O.G. Rejlander used montage technique to make a picture with the help of 30 negatives and named his creation "Two Ways of Life". Since then this technique has undergone tremendous experimentation. As photography is an art of expression, montage technique provides ample scope to assemble different kinds of negatives and give them the shape of a single story-telling picture. He believes in experimentation and feels that digital technology has widened the scope of montage photography. He is equally apt in other darkroom techniques, may it be solarisation, bass relief or colour posterisation.
Adit was awarded the Royal Selangar Pewter Award at 44th International Salon of Photography held in Singapore. His pictures have bagged many Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and "honorable mentions" in several countries. He has won the Best Indian Entrant Award five times at exhibitions held within the country. He was awarded the Best Monochrome Set Award in Pakistan, a prize from the Asian Cultural Center for UNESCO (ACCU) photo contest, Japan, a special prize and diploma from Moscow photo contest in 1982. He is the only Indian to win the first prize in ‘photo journalist of the year’ contest, sponsored by the Photographic Society of America in 1989. The Lalit Kala Akademy and the Photo Division of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had awarded him "honorable mention" and prizes. He was awarded a cash prize of Rs 15,000/- by the All-India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi, in 1999. And above all, he himself has been member of a jury at many national and international photo exhibitions.
He is also a co-author of two books. "Learn Photography" and "Experimental Photography", published by the Photographic Association of Dum Dum (PAD) and has delivered talks on various aspects of photography at many photographic fora in the country.
Although Adit had formal education in photography at the famous institute of the Photographic Association of Dum Dum in Kolkata, being run by photo-artist of international repute. Benu Sen, he has been practising photography as a hobby and that too on purely non-commercial basis. It was in the year 1983 that he began to serve the institute of PAD as an honorary lecturer in photography. When he was transferred from the Reserve Bank of India, Kolkata, to Chandigarh four years ago. photo-enthusiasts of the region found his transfer as a boon for themselves. But his absence was missed by Benu Sen who also happens to be the Secretary General of Kolkata-based Federation of Indian Photography (FIP). Adit is also the Associate Editor of the official journal of the FIP, the "View Finder". It was Adit who acted as a coordinator for the 19th Conference of the Federation of Indian Photography organised in the city by the Photographic Society of Chandigarh in 1998.
As now Adit was available in City Beautiful, a few photo-enthusiasts of the city and neighboring Panchkula and Ambala started seeking his guidance to improve their photographic skills. This kind-hearted and soft-spoken photo-artist began rendering his services to all those who came to him, but in return he expected them to pursue the art of photography with the same dedication and skill, which he himself has.
It was in the year 2000 that the information group of phot-enthusiasts, who had been seeking his guidance, named their group, Friends of Photography (FOP), with Adit as its founder president. This Chandigarh based group organised an all-India exhibition of photographs in the city in 2001 under the able guidance of Adi and it received a record number of 2550 entries. Much to the astonishment of other organisers of similar all-India photo salons. Adit has set a new trend by asking the members of FOP not to submit their entries for the all-India exhibition organised by them to ensure a fair judgement. This gesture has received tremendous appreciation. This exhibition was organised basically to apprise the admirers of photography here about the kind of photography being done in other parts of the country. Also, his stress on group activity set yet another trend of inviting pictures of prominent photo artists of the country for display here alongwith those of the photographers. Interestingly, Adit himself has never held his solo show so far because he believes in group activity and competition.
He says that as Chandigarh has ample potential and facilities for the promotion of photography, including a well-established Arts College, which also teaches photography. Lalit Kala Akademies of Punjab and Chandigarh, a number of art galleries and photo labs, photography should flourish here in this congenial atmosphere, "But the situation appears to be to the contrary", says Adit, adding if we go by the national or international-level exhibitions being organised by major photographic organisations under the partronag of FIAP, Photographic Society of America, FIP or India International photographic council, we find a meagre representation from the city. The reasons for such a poor response may vary from lack of guidance and interest in such exhibitions to the economical factors."
When asked about the formation of a
number of camera clubs in various towns and cities, he said,
"Over the years only a few of them have survived. Many such
camera clubs either vanish after a few years or fail to make the
desired impact because the promotion of art of any form needs
sincerity and dedication. Photography has a very vast scope for
experimentation and the rapid advancement in technology has opened new
vistas of hope for photo-enthusiasts. Those who are sincere to
themselves and keen to learn must shun their ego and misconception
that they know a lot. They must continue the process of learning. make
as many pictures as they can and compete with others by sending
pictures for national and international-level exhibitions as it would
enable them to evaluate their works. This is the message, which Adit
has for the promising photographers.
culture threatening Indian
Indian art is far too profound to be overwhelmed by predatory influence, says Pandit Birju Maharaj, and its assimilative strength will show its overriding vitality in the face of a threatening cultural chaos inspired by the incongruous western influence.
And the doyen of Kathak does not mince words to express displeasure with the trend. "It is a fight between the ‘pop’ culture which is threatening the essence of our culture and our own art through which we can help our children retain peace and harmony,"says the Padma Vibhushan awardee whose unmatched contribution to Kathak has earned him an iconic status in Indian cultural scenario.
‘Fusion’ has left no Indian artform untouched — be it painting, music or dance. For the artiste, who is known for his improvisation and experimentation with the danceform, Birju Maharaj says emphatically that the basic character of the artform must remain unaffected.
"Modernisation of art is welcome, but it does not mean distorting it. Art is like a human figure created by God. Just for the sake of changing it you won’t just pull out the nose and place it somewhere else. You can only beautify it by ornamenting it or adding some colour," he says.
"An artiste has to mould his creation according to the realities of the time he is living in. My choreography is only reflecting this principle. The struggle of the common man as he copes with the system, the problems in the society, these are all reflected on the characters," says the great inheritor of Lucknow Gharana on the variations depicted in his performances.
"While the changes in times may be reflected in the artform, the basic character remains untarnished. The expressions remain unaltered but are now seen in a different perspective," he says.
In other words, argues the maestro, appreciation of art is essentially an interpretation of the undistorted forms to relate them to the modern times.
At a time when performers are speaking of the "liberalising " effect of Western culture on Indian artforms Pt Birju Maharaj is not hesitant to contradict the stand.
"I would say that our own artforms have nothing lacking in them. Then what is the need to take something from an alien culture."
"Indian art is rich in every aspect. What is lacking is thinking and imagination. But we have everything to face this onslaught from the West," says the creator of such dance dramas like "Phag Bahar", "Malti Madhav" and "Gobardhan Leela".
"There has been a great improvement with so many young people taking to the classical artforms — music or dance. There is definitely a resurgence and the trend is likely to continue," says an optimist Birju Maharaj, who is also an accomplished teacher, musician, director and choreographer.
"This tussle between the East and the West will continue but we feel we have been able to arrest to an extent the trend where the younger generations were deviating from their own culture and traditions," says the talented artiste who gave his first performance at the tender age of seven.
Recipient of many national and international honours, the artiste is revered for his simplicity and devotion to art.
"I don’t believe in asking for awards or recognition. One has to continue doing his work with full dedication," he says.
"I have received so many awards at a very early age at a time when contributions of talented artistes did not get due recognition at the right time," says the disciple of the great Shri Achyan Maharaj.
Not even an infant, because infants are pretty mediasavvy these days, would have swallowed Doordarshan’s little fairy tale that it would not be able to carry the debate on Gujarat in Parliament because it was short of channels. And so it was that one saw a flawless relay of Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha until the last moment before the magic hour, when the Gujarat debate was set to begin, and Parliament vanished without a trace and was hastily, if prematurely, replaced by a silly serial about domestic life which was the ultimate insult to viewers. But as Indira Gandhi found out during the Emergency, it is very difficult to black out the media, in her case it was the radio, and the BBC was easily picked up even when Mark Tully was sent packing and so were other radio channels. In this particular case, DD’s rival satellite channels quite easily picked up Parliament from other sources. In the middle of the night, both Star News and Aaj Tak were showing, live, the PM’s speech in Parliament, complete with interruptions. DD meanwhile, was showing another silly domestic serial. And the loss was entirely DD’s and of those unfortunate people who do not have access to cable TV. This, I suppose, is what DD understands as public service broadcasting. Well done, though good and faithful servant.
Even less convincing was the alleged government excuse, that the Gujarat debate in Parliament could not be carried as it would arouse emotions. I ask you, when the whole country is undergoing emotions of the most basic kind over Gujarat, from outrage to compassion, whether pro or anti-Narendra Modi, why does the government keep up this pretence of autonomy for Prasar Bharati, which always seems to wait for his master’s voice, regardless of which party or parties are in power. In the immortal words of Indira Gandhi to a Station Director’s courageous question about AIR and DD’s during the Emergency credibility? "Snorted the PM: AIR and Doordarshan are government media and will always remain government media." Period.
From the political to the ridiculous. I watched some early episodes of "Dhadkan" with increasing scepticism, deciding to catch up with its later episodes when it would hopefully improve with time. After all, hospital serials suddenly became the done thing, with large borrowings from foreign serials on the topic, which were getting large audiences even in India. The "Alva Brothers’ Hospital", carried on the BBC, might have had its gory moments and monotony of doctor-commentators, but at least it was shot in one of India’s most prestigious medical institutions and was real and genuine in both settings and patients. "Dhadkan", on the other hand, is playing at hospitals with "doctors" looking more like extras (which they probably are) with medical situations being glossed over for silly chit-chat and affairs of the heart between the staff and, worst of all, loud melodramatic music dogging every step of the serial, like the CIA, and making mincemeat of whatever dialogue there is. And it is as weak as the script. The acting, I regret to say that the serial has not created even a suggestion of a "dhadkan" at least with this viewer.
Sometimes there are unexpected moments
of viewing pleasure, linked with adventures of universal interest, for
the compulsive channel surfer, as columnists have to be. It was great
fun watching on the BBC the second "space tourist" this time a
South African, who had invested two and a half million pounds to hitch a
ride on the latest Russian sortie into space. He had also undergone six
months of tests and training and was clearly enjoying every moment, even
though his mother had to shut her eyes and tremble with fear when the
spacecraft blasted off. He then spoke of his experiences and feelings
and plans for serious research to his family, to the BBC and had a cosy
chat, comparing experiences with the first space tourist, who was an
American. One had nostalgic memories of our very own Rakesh Sharma
telling Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from outer space that his first
feeling on looking down at the earth was:" Sare jahan se
achcha...." I wonder if he would have been able to say that now
from outer space, considering the shame of Gujarat.