ART TRIBUNE Friday, January 7, 2000, Chandigarh, India
  Twin facets of an actress-painter
By Nonika Singh
When the woman in question happens to be single, has etched out stellar lead roles in several theatre productions(from Gargi’s Abhsariaka to Raina’s Grusha to the title role in Pratapi) and paints female forms with a passionate zeal, the tag of feminist can’t be far behind.

To the rescue of the sarangi
By Vandana Shukla
THE instrument was played for seven generations by the great masters of the Gwalior gharana. Sarangi, called the lute of a hundred colours (Sau-rangi), is capable of evoking all possible hues and shades of human emotion. The heart-rending notes of its strings are closest to the human voice. Yet, it is a dying instrument.



Twin facets of an actress-painter
By Nonika Singh

When the woman in question happens to be single, has etched out stellar lead roles in several theatre productions(from Gargi’s Abhsariaka to Raina’s Grusha to the title role in Pratapi) and paints female forms with a passionate zeal, the tag of feminist can’t be far behind. But Neeta Mohindra, an Amritsar-based artist, doesn’t endorse any ‘ism’. Perhaps, feminist stains are palpable in her work, but she says,“I am no braburning crusader who visualises a world sans the male of the species’’. Sure she is painfully conscious of the gender inequities and wistfully hopes and dreams of absolute equality and freedom for the gentler of the sexes.

In fact, her journey in the realm of lustrous colours and paints began with a quest’ ‘‘a reaching out for a little more’’.Herein only heads popped up reaching out for an elusive light symptomatic of spiritualism. Later, heads and hands split up both literally and metamorphically symbolising the alternate set of choices humans have in their endeavour towards eternal bliss. In “Reflections’’ (yet another series) hands groped for ladder (epitomising man’s innate desire to reach the top) but surrounded by an abyss. It was then that female form sneaked in, albeit fleetingly. Nevertheless, the affaire d’eamour with female figurine stayed on forever.

Besides, this talented artist is fascinated by nature. Like Indian miniature school of art foliage occurs repeatedly in her work. She explains,‘‘There is an unmistakable similarity between the grace of human body and nature.’’ The human face with long flowing hair look like ‘‘a fully blossomed plant’’. In ‘‘Femscapes,’’ the female from emerged as a fleshed-out character. The protagonist in ‘‘Femscapes,” which delights in a new spontaneous order and mirrors woman’s innate strength, is essentially urban woman with whom obviously the artist can empathise more. Portraying the dilemma of modern urbanised woman who, Neeta insists, despite her economic independence and educational background has failed to cross the threshold mark in her race for equality,she however captures her myriad moods — from melancholy to self-fulfilment to joyous, the multifaceted temperament of the woman. However, Neeta insists that her colour choice isn’t indicative of her own persona as she isn’t a peppy colourful being. Philosophical! Most certainly, for her mind is constantly churning.

With a PhD degree in fine arts behind her, this lecturer at Post Graduate College Amritsar rues that appreciation for this visual arts is woefully missing in her land of birth. She avers,“Art has moved on. But Punjabis continue to view painting as drawing room art and want still-life for their dining rooms, landscapes for the living lounge and want to embellish their bedrooms with portraits”. To spread awareness amongst the ignoramuses, she had often toyed with the idea of exhibiting her paintings, in open public places like say Sector 17 Piazza of Chandigarh.

But so far her work has found way into prestigious galleries like Triveni, Delhi, Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay, and Oklahama, U S A. Impressed and inspired by European art, she however confesses to be single-mindedly obsessed with an Indian i.e. modern day maestro M.F, Hussain. She gushes, ‘‘Why, the man paints so effortlessly just as if he is writing a letter!’’

Her own fountainhead of creativity springs forth from shared experiences and more significantly observations. For instance, during a trip to Bihar the images of desolate children undergoing the archaic custom of child marirage later froze on her canvass. In her new series,‘‘Centre stage,’’ she relives her own life in a way and celebrates the stage environment and rare anecdotes connected with years of association with the world of make-believe.

In 1976, she was smitten with theatre and has since acted in many plays and telefilms. Plus she plays hostess for a chatshow ‘‘Baithak’’ aired from Jalandhar Doordarshan. Three years ago she founded her own theatre group,‘‘Rang Toli’’. About ‘‘Centrestage ’’ she quips, ‘‘I am totally amazed when viewers come and identify plays from the paintings. For as always my paintings leave a lot of room for the imagination’’. Whereas theatre is a group enterprise and painting an exercise in isolation, ultimately both are about communication and reaching out. When asked to take a pick she muses, ‘‘Both are an inextricable part of me and satisfy different needs in me’’. Her recent exhibition in Chandigarh encompassed her twin facets which anyway coalesce into one. Top


To the rescue of the sarangi
By Vandana Shukla

THE instrument was played for seven generations by the great masters of the Gwalior gharana. Sarangi, called the lute of a hundred colours (Sau-rangi), is capable of evoking all possible hues and shades of human emotion. The heart-rending notes of its strings are closest to the human voice. Yet, it is a dying instrument.

The reasons are many. Apart from a general lack of dedication and desire for quick gains that is common to all fields, what made its disappearance faster than expected was the policy of re-introducing harmonium as an instrument of accompaniment by AIR. Sarangi had become the only instrument of accompaniment once the harmonium was banned in the 1930s. Yet, it remained less popular with the singers of western India, and in the post-Independence era it was mostly the musicians from western India who dominated the scene in the vocal music. Once harmonium was allowed a re-entry, as an instrument of accompaniment, sarangi was doomed. Artistes could not survive on solo performances.

Secondly, it is a difficult instrument to master. There are no frets, so the player has to learn through hard work and practice where and how to find notes on a piece of stretched animal skin called “taant”. The instrument has 40 strings of tune according to the requirement of the raga being played. Bleeding, painful fingers are a norm in the initial days of learning.

Yet, a few gutsy young boys are trying to postpone the death knell of sarangi. There is Murad Ali who has already earned a name for himself in the field. A new face that is emerging with an instinctive understanding of music is Fakhruddin, son of renowned harmonium player Mahmood Dhoulpuri who tried to play the harmonium closer to sarangi. Harmonium is an instrument of bars which makes it difficult to produce the intricate devices of vocalists like “meend”, “murki” and “gamak”, which are easily reproduced on the strings of a sarangi. Mahmood, who got harmonium the status of an instrument of solo performance, himself played sarangi in the initial years, but switching over to harmonium was a matter of survival.

Fakhruddin says, it was his grandfather Ustad Rafua Khan, himself a sarangi player, who took a promise on his death bed from him that he would not let down sarangi, unlike his father. So, the young boy took out his great-grandfather’s instrument, learnt it at home for the initial eight years and then set out to find masters who could make him achieve his grandfather’s unrealised dream. First, to his ancestral home town in Rajasthan, Dhaulpur, to Ustad Badal Khan then to Ustad Bashir Khan of Dobra and then to Ustad Wazir Khan of Agra. He also got training under Ustad Abdul Latif Khan of Bhopal who also happens to be his grandfather’s brother. Presently, he is preparing himself under the guidance of Ustad Jahoor Ahmed Khan of Bundu Khan’s gharana of Delhi.

When all youngsters are safely fitting into their father’s boots, why is he trying to choose a difficult path, playing harmonium could have been so secure being Dhoulpuri’s son, he answers naively, “Sarangi bajane ki koshish to unhone bhi ki thi, sambhal nahi sake”. (He also tried to play the sarangi, but could not persevere).

Fakhruddin does not have a formal education worth mention. When asked how does he keep a record of the intricate system of ragas and taals, he says he imbibes it instinctively, “Sab Allah ki den hai”. Without any training, he repairs the instrument himself. When he played a solo at Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan last year, the masters took note of him. Playing on the concluding day of Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan, he said, “the last two days exposed me to different styles of gayaki; this is my learning ground.” Who can stop him with such a natural inclination for music and the strength of a simple promise.Top


by Amita Malik

Humiliation of the Indian media

MISHANDLING of the electronics media is one of the worst fall-outs of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Airbus. This is in marked contrast to the way the media was handled with professional competence during the Kargil war. The question on the lips of every media watcher during the anxious days of the hijack was: “Where are the Indian media?” They had to beg, borrow and steal from CNN, Reuters, talk to the Airport Traffic Controllers at Kandahar, get information and comments from Pakistani journalists from across the border, and the willing, eager and anxious Indian media got stalled at home.

There has been mention of the difficulty of getting across to Kandahar without visas from the Taliban. That correspondents had to go to Dubai or Saudi Arabia and then make a tortuous journey via Iran. But I have reason to believe that at least one satellite channel which spoke to the Pakistani authorities was told there would be no problems with transit visas. And the Taliban, which was anxious to reinstate itself in the eyes of the world would possibly not have put hurdles in the way of satellite channels willing to take the risk, like Zee and Star News, which also go to many other countries across the world. Even the UN Representative might have helped.

However, the best opportunity was when the first 50-plus Indian negotiators team went to Kandahar. Presumably they went without Taliban visas and could easily have accommodated a TV crew. I am sure the channels would have agreed to a pool arrangement. A Doordarshan crew could have gone more easily, being still recognised as an Indian government channel, and been given the use of the satellite telephones with the negotiators to file stories from an Indian angle. I believe that two correspondents from a satellite channel and a trusted TV agency were almost in the plane carrying the External Affairs Minister to Kandahar, but were turned down. Thus it was the government itself that putting hindrances in the way of Indian correspondents although most modern governments in such situations treat their national media as part of the team and every facility is given to them.

Lastly came the dreadful fiasco at the airport when the planes carrying the hostages landed. Here, by that out-moded and self-defeating rule by which only Doordarshan is allowed to uplink, no other channel, Indian or foreign, was allowed to uplink visual footage from there. This resulted in the terrible situation whereby channels with all the equipment for visual uplinking were reduced to recording on tapes and then sending them by despatch riders to the studios, thus robbing them of all immediacy. But the worst disaster was Doordarshan’s monopoly of the TV coverage from the airport which was not only pathetic, but disastrous. It failed miserably, both commentary-wise and technically.

One poor man in a white suit recorded, his comments three times, but they were inaudible and both the mikes and cameras blacked out at intervals with blank screens or visuals without sound. As for the socalled commentators, they were a national disaster. With experienced commentators like Suneet Tandon and Komal G.B. Singh, DD, with a total lack of comprehension of the seriousness of the occasion, thrust inexperienced information officers, without a clue to the basics of running commentaries on hapless viewers. Without any descriptive power, without felicity of language and even proper use of mikes, Messrs. Akshay Raut and Rajesh Agnihotri kept on repeating themselves, shouting and screaming hysterically, persisting in saying “we are describing it as it happens” when in point of fact, most of the commentary came later with a tell-tale sign on the left hand sign of the screen, saying Recorded Earlier. I would like to invite Mr. Arun Jaitley to view the unedited footage and tell us why DD could not have used experienced commentators from outside or even professional reporters from DD’s regular staff, instead of this disgraceful exhibition of DD’s incompetence.

It is high time that government lifted its silly and self-defeating ban on competitive uplinking by other channels so that the rest of the world and viewers are treated with respect and not exposed to such unprofessional monopoly coverage by DD., which shames the nation.

TAIL-PIECE: Mr. Deepak Vohra, described Doordarshan (on Doordarshan) with characteristic extravagance and uncharacteristic diplomacy as: The Best TV Channel in The World. To which we would add: like hell. Top


by ASC

Like father, like son

TOGETHER: IN PERFECT HARMONY: The name of santoor has been synonymous with that of Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma. The lovers of music know that his son, Rahul, has also devoted himself to the perfection of the instrument which his father had personally modified to make it as rich and full of intricacies as available in other instruments like the sitar.

Here the father-son duo come together for the first time in, as the title suggests, perfect harmony. It features Rahul’s performace of raga Rageshwari and their combined performance of Rahul’s composition titled Wanderlust.

Rahul’s Rageshwari is a classic depiction of this Khamaj thaat raga sung in the early part of the night. On side A he performs it through alaap, jod, jhala and gat in Vilambit and Roopak taal (seven beats) while on the other side, he interprets it through drut gat in teen taal (16 beats).

“Wanderlust”, based on raga Charukeshi, is an ode to nature unfolding like a Kashmiri landscape. Accompanying them is noted tabla player Ustad Shafaat Ahmed Khan, using a throbbing theka in Keharwa taal, Deepak Borkar with the madal-tarang and Mari Komuru on the tanpura.

This jugalbandi is more than worthy of the series launched four years ago, which has already featured Ustad Allah Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt Kartik Kumar and Niladri Kumar, Dr N. Rajam and Sangeeta Shankar, Dr N. Ramani and R. Thyagarajan and Vikku Vinayakram, Selva Ganesh and Uma Shankar.

YAARI YAARI (Tips): Music composer Jawahar Wattal has this knack of picking up new singers and promoting them to the hilt. The man who elevated Daler Mehndi to the front rank is now working on Shankar Sahney and this album of theirs has some songs which can make it big.

The title song, Kudi kurmuri … and Kabutri … have pedestrian lyrics; music is also no great shakes but still these pack enough of oomph to sear the dance floors. It is really remarkable that typical Punjabi songs have now become the craze among the stiff upper lip crowd and one can dance western steps on the dhol beats.

Shankar sings with confidence and has even done the lyrics of one of the songs (Yaari yaari).

ROYAL SALUTE (Tips): Tips people have brought out enough cassettes of Jagjit Singh to have a repertoire of popular ghazals. They have put some well known ones in this collection. Among them are Maan mausam ka kaha…., Baat saqi ki na tali jayegi …, Ye kaisi mohabbat …, Nazar nazar se milakar sharab peete hain … and Aap aye janab barson mein … These have been combined with some little-less known ones like Tere nisar saquia … and Na kahe saqi bahar … to come up with this cassette. Jagjit has a devoted clientele which laps up his offerings in whatever combination. The album under review too should evoke good response. After all, it is vintage wine in a new bottle.Top