118 years of trust
Chandigarh, Friday, December 4, 1998
Villain with human touch
By Nonika Singh
“CREATIVITY — a high-flowing word coined by highbrow intellectuals — be damned. Acting is just another means of livelihood”. Ramblings of someone with a ringside view. No, this outburst flows straight from the lips of TV and Bollywood actor Avtaar Gill, aka Kaader Bhai of “Nukkad” fame.

'Art and Soul
by B.N. Goswamy
The art of showing art

Strong script is the key word
By Rama Sharma
THE Amateur Dramatic Club, Shimla, made a first-ever serious attempt to re-discover its role, for which it was established in 1887, i.e. to promote amateur theatre in Shimla. The club organised a week-long one-act play competition recently and made sure that the youth was fully involved in the event.


Villain with human touch
By Nonika Singh

“CREATIVITY — a high-flowing word coined by highbrow intellectuals — be damned. Acting is just another means of livelihood”. Ramblings of someone with a ringside view. No, this outburst flows straight from the lips of TV and Bollywood actor Avtaar Gill, aka Kaader Bhai of “Nukkad” fame.

To vindicate his assertion, he adds, “As an outsider, all you can see is the glossy slick end product. Acting is sheer sweat and grime — facing the harsh lights, reflectors, endless litany of takes and retakes. Glamour is not even the icing; it is a figment of the imagination, media hype.”

Sure. Haven’t we heard that before, so what keeps the members of “histrionics club” going?

Avtaar answers, “Most of us are misled by success stories. If AB could make it, why can’t I? What we fail to realise is that for every single success story, there are lakhs of ‘never-could-make-it’ examples.”

Incidentally, decades ago this Jat from Ludhiana — never mind his bald head; he happens to be a full-blooded sardar — brought up in “sapnon ki nagri” too suffered from similar delusions of grandeur. Only when he expressed his latent desire to join the select world of arclights, his friends laughed off the idea and told him point blank: A Sikh can never be accepted in filmdom.

So off went his lustrous locks. Chagrin of a visibly incensed father was compensated by a best actor’s trophy in his debut performance itself.

Hanging around in the theatre circle for a while, he was associated with the Indian Theatre People’s Association (IPTA). Only recently he figured in an English play “Touch and go”, but question him about his dedication to the drama form which most actors swear by and the repartee follows in his acerbic best. He says, “All this humbug about I will dedicate my life to theatre is sheer hypocrisy. It is a vocation for out-of-work actors who have no alternative. Tell me where is the money in theatre?”

But are monetary gains the ultimate guiding force? The forthright answer is, “Of course, I don’t give a damn if my role is reduced to a naught at the editing table. As long as the producer is paying my fees, it’s fine by me.”

But before you dub him a clever gold-digger, hold on. For Mahesh Bhatt’s “Janam” he worked for a paltry Rs 80, barely enough to cover his petrol expenses. But then Bhatt has been the quintessential angelic godfather and had given him his first major break in Anil Kapoor-Amrita Singh-starrer “Thikana”, as the lead villain — “heroes are so staid, repetitive, one-dimentional characters”. Alas ! The film failed to do what “Sholay” did for Amjad Khan.

As the film bombed, dreams came crashing down. But under Bhatt’s benevolence, this protege was repeated in every film of his — be it a “Kaash”, “Aashiqui”, “Daddy”, “Junoon” or yet to be released “Zakhm”. However, Avtaar’s dream role, a la Paresh Rawal’s in “Sir”, has so far eluded him.

Of course, “Nukkad” in 1986 did resurrect his career as Kaader Bhai became a household presence. On the small-screen he continues to delight his viewers. His personal favourite at the moment is the part of an underworld don in “Shatranj”. Only this don attired in a “desi” garb has a soft vulnerable dimension to his personality.

In fact, villainy with a human touch has been Avtaar’s forte, a part he has played once too often with panache. Remember the jumbling badman of “Dil Hai ke Manata Nahin” who couldn’t even shot straight?

With innumerable films up his sleeve, having worked with prestigious banners from David Dhawan to J.P. Dutta, pitted against Bollywood’s gliterrati, surprisingly the actor’s feet remain firmly on the ground. He remarks, “I might go ga ga and hail character actors as the epitome of versatility and histrionic ability, but the stark reality is that character actors make little difference while selling a film. Hence, we are dispensable and can always be replaced by others willing to work for lesser money. Life even today is an uphill struggle.”

So what’s his advice to millions of star-struck aspirants ? He smiles: “Welcome to the tribe, but only if you have the ‘janoon’. Decades ago he too was fired by the same obsessive zeal. Now the exuberance, the effervescence of youth might have mellowed down and substituted with irony and scepticism, but the talent remains intact. In fact, tampered with maturity it allows him greater flexibility and malleability to melt fluidly in a wide gamut of cameo roles.Top


'Art and Soul
by B.N. Goswamy
The art of showing art

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our work.

It is necessary to ignite enthusiasm, because it is enthusiasm we need most, for ourselves and for the younger generation.

— Pablo Picasso

LIKE so many others, I was in Delhi on the occasion of the release last month of Dashrath Patel’s splendid book, “Experiencing a Museum”. Published by Sarabhai Foundation, it is quite unlike any other book that you would pick up on a museum, for most of them are concerned with showing master-works from the collection, the riches of its holdings.

This is a ‘photographic essay’, the result of Dashrath’s ‘walk with a camera’ through that extraordinary institution, the Calico Museum of Textiles, and the evocative new galleries of Sarabhai Foundation, at Ahmedabad. There are no photographs of individual objects in the book, no insistent pointing towards the uniqueness of one work and the greatness of another, even though there is an ‘embarrassment of riches’ inside them both.

What he sets out to capture is the atmosphere of the museum, its sensuous ambience. In what manner the spaces inside and outside the museum work; how from one display area, views of other display areas suddenly, surprisingly, swing into view; how works are hung or placed with sensitivity to their function, colour, context scale; what it means to take in a dense host of objects in one gallery, and be face to face with a single work in another: these are things that he gently, imaginatively, draws attention to. Without the use of words, one should add.

One could say that it is to the subtle art of showing art that his photographic essay is devoted, a work that should be compulsory ‘reading’ for all those involved in museums, even for those who are even mildly interested in the enticing world of museums and displays.

Speaking of the experience that a museum can yield, I am reminded at this time also of an exceptional museum that I saw, earlier this year, on the outskirts of Basel in Switzerland. I had been to that town last year, too, and at that time the one question that everyone seemed to ask was: “Have you seen the Beyeler yet?” Not having read the name in print till then, and not being part of the scene in any case, I was not even sure of what I was being asked. Apparently, the Beyeler museum — I should be more accurate, and call it by its real name, the “Fondation Beyeler” — had just opened, and was causing a sensation.

The famed Beyeler collection of modern art — assembled over a number of years with a great deal of money, but an even greater measure of love, by Hildy and Ernst Beyeler — formed its core. But the museum was being talked about by everyone not on account of its collection alone, but of the structure that housed it, and the manner in which it was shown.

This year I got the opportunity. And I was moved. Away from the heart of the town, almost in the midst of lush green fields turned into lawns, stood this most elegant of buildings, low-key and spread out, seemingly so light that it could have been floating in the air. One went down a long, sloping ramp, through a bustling museum shop and reception desk, to enter the ‘galleries’, so to speak.

There were few walls, a great deal of glass, and so much natural light that the overpowering sensation in each gallery was of one being still somewhere in the open, part of the emerald green countryside. Everywhere one saw, there were works by familiar great names — Monet, Cezanne, Rodin, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Matisse, Picasso, Miro, Klee, Bacon, Brancusi, among others — but everyone, everything, had a space to itself, untrammelled, unobtruded space. What is more, nothing seemed to be hemmed in by walls, or architectural detail. One could see that each work was breathing its own air.

I have seen the great Giacometti’s work in many places across the world. But never before have I seen a Giacometti placed as here. Here, one could see those tall, attenuated figures, like some totems from a forgotten world, placed against glass beyond which, through their discreet interstices, one could see the greenery of the spacious lawns outside. A Giacometti here was partaking of space in the manner it was meant to, in fact creating an abstract space of its own.

The museum is designed, I should add, by one of the most celebrated architects of Europe, the Italian Renzo Piano. The horizontal glass roof he has created, resting on four solid walls, projects far beyond them and it is through the series of electronically controlled louvers on it which constantly changed automatically that, using the marvels of modern technology, he was able to be daylight in, without the sun directly falling upon anything in the interior. But, even more than this, his triumph lies in having created tranquil spaces, open and closed at the same time, balancing stillness with motion.

With viewer in mind

Wherever one went in the Beyeler, one could see a concern for the viewer: the desire to provide useful, accurate information, enhance his awareness of the art in every way possible. Complementing the large special show of works by Roy Lichtenstein, the celebrated artist who took his inspiration from coarsely printed, comic strips, thus, there were projections, on quite monitors, of a number of vintage films based on comic-strip heroes, and silent slap-stick movies.

And here? Once a viewer enters one of our museums, if he enters it, he is left entirely to his own devices, let loose inside without a clue, a little like — what should one say — a stray cow on a Chandigarh road?Top


Strong script is the key word
By Rama Sharma

THE Amateur Dramatic Club, Shimla, made a first-ever serious attempt to re-discover its role, for which it was established in 1887, i.e. to promote amateur theatre in Shimla. The club organised a week-long one-act play competition recently and made sure that the youth was fully involved in the event. Two categories, one for college universities and the other for amateur theatre groups, were created. Besides, a running trophy for the best play in each category, first and second best actors and consolation prizes were also awarded.

The groups selected for the competition included boys and girls from five local colleges and four Shimla-based amateur theatre groups. The curtain came down on the drama competition of one-act plays at Gaiety Theatre, Shimla. All nine plays presented by local colleges and amateur groups were a mixture of very good, good and mediocre variety.

The award-winning best play, “Bade Bhai Sahib” came from Government Boys College, Kot Shera. The play was a dramatised version of Munshi Prem Chand’s well-known short story by the same title. It brought out the underlying rivalry between two brothers to excel each other in studies. Sudhir as the younger brother got the second best actor’s award.

Another play which stood out was “Thank you Mr Vikramaditya” staged by H.P. University Evening College directed by Kamal Sharma, who also wrote the play. The play was about the economic exploitation of the illiterate, poor rural folk at the hands of the high and the mighty. Dev Raj Chauhan as pujari was flawless which got him the best actor’s award.

The play “Jagte Raho” by Government Boys College, Sanjauli, lacked a good script. Rupender Singh Chauhan as Kamaljeet, however, was awarded with the second consolation prize.

Of the two girls’ colleges, St Bede’s College blundered with choosing a play “Tamancha” with an unsuitable script. The young girls wasted their rich talent on Bollywood-style acting. The atmosphere of drinking, smoking and women-bashing etc did not go well with the audience. The only saving grace was Sulkashna as drunkard Kallu, which got her a consolation prize.

The Government College for Girls’ “Aurtein-hi-Aurtein” a Hindi adaptation of the English play “World without Men”, had all the ingredients of a good drama. But despite good direction and competent stage set, the play was a flop. Kavita Dhar, however, was awarded a special consolation prize for acting.

The amateur groups’ four plays were of a different class. Sankalp Group enacted “Question Mark” a hitting satire on contemporary political socio-economic scene in the country. Problems like corruption, unemployment, terrorism and other related issues were presented through racy dialogues and fine acting. The fast tempo made it a successful presentation. No wonder it was adjudged the best play and bagged the ADC’s Niranjan Dass Memorial Running Trophy. The play also bagged the second best actor’s award for Kedar Thakur as Sutradhar.

Navyug, a group of amateur artistes, presented a rib-tickling comedy “Chhatta Mez” about how office staff strongly resist the addition of the sixth official to their room, but do an about-turn on learning that the new arrival is a young girl. Nachtar Singh as the head clerk excelled in delivering a wonderfully Punjabi flavoured dialogue. He became the natural choice for the best actor award under the Amateur Artistes Group. The second consolation prize went to Noth Ram who acted the part of the office peon.

The play was also picked up for a re-run for high ranking Army officers visiting Shimla in connection with a session on defence strategies presided over by the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, and attended by the Army Chief, Gen V.P. Malik.

The other two groups, Muneer’s “Conjectivities” and Natraj’s “Dedh Inch Upar” were mediocre.

A veteran theatre expert G.R. Sood advised the artistes not to fritter away their energy and talent on incompetent scripts and go back for plots to the ancient classics or contemporary themes.Top

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