ARTS TRIBUNE Friday, July 28, 2000, Chandigarh, India

Grand old man of Pahari singing
By Ramesh K. Dhiman

T is a cool and quiet Sunday morning. A cloudless sky overhead after a heavy downpour. A tryst with the living legend of Pahari singing, Partap Chand Sharma, at his native village, Naleti, whom I had admired since the days of innocence, adds beauty to the glorious July morning. To meet this grand old man of Pahari singing was like a pilgrimage.

Art from bounties of nature
By B.B. Nagpal

HOUGH man has for centuries destroyed the beautiful things that Mother Nature offers to him, those with an eye for detail still continue to create marvels out of the bounties offered by her.

Finger painting record
170-metre-long finger painting of the mighty Yangtze river is the longest of its kind in the world, the Chinese media has reported.

Dedicated theatrist from Kashmir
By Kavita Bhargava
HEATRE in Kashmir, perhaps, is as old as civilisation itself. Abhinav Gupta, who gave a new definition to “Abhinaya”, a form of art to express oneself through the medium of words and gesture, lived in Kashmir and even finds a mention in Bharat Muni’s “Natyashastra”.





Grand old man of Pahari singing
By Ramesh K. Dhiman

IT is a cool and quiet Sunday morning. A cloudless sky overhead after a heavy downpour. A tryst with the living legend of Pahari singing, Partap Chand Sharma, at his native village, Naleti, whom I had admired since the days of innocence, adds beauty to the glorious July morning. To meet this grand old man of Pahari singing was like a pilgrimage.

Reaching his home, I am escorted to the verandah of a modest, slate-roofed house by two tiny-tots, presumably his grandchildren. “Baba, tuhanjo milna aayo” (grandpa, he has come to meet you). A frail, ramrod straight lank, in off-white loose “kurta-pyjama”, supporting a conical Kulu cap emerges instantly and greets me warmly. His wrinkled face, sunken eyes and a ‘borrowed’ Mona Lisa beam tell tales of the trials and tribulations that he might have to live through.

Naleti, a small hamlet under Dehra tehsil of Kangra district, can brag about having produced celebrated Sanskrit scholar of the stature of Durga Dutt ‘Vidyalankar’, six-time President awardee, valiant soldier and a veteran of many battles like Lt Col Roshan Lal Sharma (retd), whose passion for “service to society” remains undying despite his failing health in the twilight of his life and, of course, Partap Chand Sharma, whose famous song: “Thandi, thandi hawa jhuldi, jhulde chilhan de daalu, jeena Kangre da...” had endeared him to his countless fans across the country.

Born to Pt Jhanu Ram and Kalo Devi on January 23, 1927, Partap’s, (“Partapu” to his fans and friends) life has been an enduring saga of struggles. A brief stint at studies in a Pragpur-based school at Dharam Sabha, he dropped out from Sanskrit “Pragya”.

Abject poverty that he inherited from his forefathers and, of course, responsibilities of the hearth and home, compelled Partap, then barely eight, to do all sorts of odd jobs to keep the kitchen fires burning. “At such a tender age, I had to crush stones and do ‘mazdoori’ for a living”, Partap recounts in resignation. This was not the end. Another spell of misfortunes awaited him. Partap was forced into a wedlock at 14, which brought in a trail of miseries. “My father suddenly passed away after a brief illness. The ancestral kutcha house that we owned caved in due to heavy rains. I saw with my naked eyes this edifice our dreams crumbling down, with no one around to console a family in distress and dire financial straits. We were like an oarless ferry tumbling in the deep sea”, Partap shudders as he tries to recapture the hoary past. But, God seems to have compensated him with a golden voice.

His late father was great music-lover. He would perform at religious gatherings and other musical soirees. This greatly inspired young Partap to pursue a family tradition heart and soul. He narrates: “I started singing barely at five. I used to sing at my school functions. My teachers and classmates would be excited to see me croon at local fairs and festivals and other cultural programme. I had my first encounter with a sellout audience in 1962. It was the bone-rattling chill of January. The occasion was the Republic Day. I was crushing stones at a little distance away from the host Government Senior Secondary School, Pragpur, where the cultural function was in progress. I was insisted upon by a fellow stone-crusher to witness the programme. I gave in to his fierce curiosity. We walked up to the school. The teacher in charge of the cultural programme, Mr Bhag Mal Rana, wanted me to sing a song that might well synchronise with the occasion. The self-composed song that I rendered on the occasion was “Din azadi da aaya, jhanda Hind te jhulaya, Bapu langoti waleya...”, which evoked thunderous applause, besides a cash award of Rs 18, then a hefty sum, from teachers.”

Partap recalls nostalgically, “With the active help of Durga Dutt and Sushil Chand ‘Rattan’, I was inducted into a musical group founded by Prof Chander Worker under the protective patronage of the Department of Public Relations, HP, at Kangra. Initially we were two singers, a tabla player besides a group leader. We were paid Rs 85, Rs 80 and Rs 150, respectively. This offered me an opportunity to work with Master Shyam Sunder, a consummated violine wizard. I groomed

under his stewardship and learnt the rudimentaries of composing Pahari songs and scoring haunting tunes on Iktara. The unstinted cooperation extended to a ‘fledgling’ singer like me by Professor Worker, the then DPRO, cannot be forgotten”.

He says his two songs: “Thandi, thandi hawa jhuldi, jhulde chilhan de dalu, jeena Kangre da....” and “Je tun chaleya Nefa naukri, merey gale de haare lainda jayan, naina diya lobhiya... ” became very popular among the rural audience. Partap who continued to be associated with the State’s Public

Relations Department for over two decades, got the first break on the Shimla station of AIR in 1968. In 1984, Partap was invited to perform at the Jalandhar Doordarshan. The songs that he belted out were well received even by the non-Himachali audience. For a period spanning over 10 years, Partap worked for the Department of Songs and Drama Division, Government of India, at Chandigarh. And, then, there was no looking back for him.

For his single contribution to the enrichment of the traditional Pahari singing, the Himachal Sahitkar Parishad decorated this illustrious singer at a function held at Dharamsala, followed by the Kangra Lok Sahitya Parishad, which honoured him at its annual sahitya-cum-cultural function, held at Dehra Gopipur on October 30, 1981. He was presented a pugree, a shawl and a cash award.

“We used to give our programmes in the remote villages of Chamba, Kangra, Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Nahan, Shimla, Kalpa, Jammu-Tawi and, of course, at the Indo-Pak border to promote the government’s public welfare scheme. I had the privilege of visiting each and every village of Kangra district. Scarcity of modes of transport in those days, would compel us to cover long distances on foot, with the musical instruments and brief beddings perched on our heads”, recalls Partap.

He says his serving various departments has proved to be a mere labour of love. “I received only false hopes, tall promises and lip-sympathy. What to speak of the government’s helping out a state artiste, it has played a cruel joke with me. One of my four sons was recently transferred to Pangi and another to Kinnaur. The third is in the Army and the fourth one doing a private job at Amritsar. Who is there to look after my crumbling self at 74!?”, laments the living legend of Pahari singing.

Partap, popularly known as “Dantarwala”, has penned more than 150 songs, including “bhajans” and immortal love songs of the region. Showing a set of his worn-out diaries Partap says he used compose these songs while tending his herds of cows, sheep and goats along the singing streams and khuds skirting Naleti. He would sit on a small hillock and listen to the musical rumblings of the waterfalls and passionate notes of the green hills. The sweet chirpings of birds would greatly inspire him to create something purposeful for posterity.

He feels uncomfortable at the very thought of plagiarisation of his original songs by certain unscrupulous singers and music companies, who made a good fortune out of it. On being asked if he never thought of resorting to a legal recourse. “No, no, this is not my cup of tea. I would never do that. But, they should not have done it. At best, they should have consulted me before dong it.”, says Partap. To yet another query whether he never thought of bringing out an album of his haunting melodies, he sharply reacts “I could never dream of such an exciting proposal. Two square meals a day had been my only concern. I never looked beyond it.”

However, he expresses gratitude to Atul Gupta, of the Brijeshvari Mata Cassettes, who has decided to bring out two albums of his popular songs. Of these, the one titled “Jhulde Chilhan De Dalu” has already reached music lovers. Another, not yet named, will be shortly available in the market informs Partap with a flicker of hope on his face.

The songs that Partap has composed are a winsome blend of melody and muse. When rendered in his dulcet voice, these songs create a rural metaphor. His rare style of singing has enriched the traditional Pahari folk singing by maintaining the rustic simplicity. Some of his songs are autobiographical which reflect his deep sentiments.

Some of his songs which have become very popular in the Himachal hills are: Gori nikli andre te, bijli chamki ambre te, Do naaran, do naaran ve loko lashkdiyan talwaran..., Kaalua majdoora o dera tera doora’ o kadi ghar auna...., Naale par biyahein jaana, which biyahein nachna gana, cha naache da...., Chori, chori pandi chithian...., Drekan taan fulian bani thani pardesia veera...., Jaage gariban de bhag mitra, and Pakhruye di run-jhun layan gulabo goriye.... Top



Art from bounties of nature
By B.B. Nagpal

THOUGH man has for centuries destroyed the beautiful things that Mother Nature offers to him, those with an eye for detail still continue to create marvels out of the bounties offered by her.

Bringing art to life out of old mirrors, marble or even parchment or stamp paper may not be everyone’s idea of creativity, but Rohini Mohan felt that even these articles offered enough possibilities to fashion items that only highlighted the natural effect.

And renowned connoisseur of art, Dr Karan Singh, who inaugurated an exhibition of R’s works recently described the young artist’s work as “fascinating and innovative”. He also appreciated the use of ancient motifs from Sanskrit and mythology, including Hindu gods and goddesses, and recited some lines eulogising their beauty.

A total of 65 pieces were put on show at the day-long exhibit, Utkrist Kriti, at the Art Gallery of the India International Centre annexe. The pieces were sold for prices ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000.

These included “Darpan”, 26 pieces done on mirror. Describing the technique, Rohini told UNI that small pieces of art were painted on parts of the mirror where the silver had been carefully scraped away. Thus, the impression created was one where the part of the mirror left untouched helped to heighten the beauty of the work of art, by forming a silver background.

In the second segment of the exhibit, Kanak, different pieces of jewellery like ear-rings, necklaces, rings and anklets were embossed on marble and then painted in gold, silver, reds and greens, with small beads or glass to embellish them.

A third section had some miniature “pardouzi” paintings done in stone colours (black, greys and so on) on handmade parchment showing ragini in different moods and forms. These show sari-clad women involved in different pursuits like painting, relaxing and so on. The soft lines also showed the intricate use of individual strands of the paint brush.

The last segment, Itihas, presented an interesting and innovative format: small paintings etched on old stamp or court fee paper from Rajasthan (some of Raja Sawai of Jaipur). The papers still carry centuries-old notarial stamps, and some writing in Urdu in faded ink. The painting etched showed motifs of Mughal kings, soldiers, royal hunts and riders on horseback. These paintings had then been embellished in Italian frames (large glass frames with a decorated ribbon-like borders) — UNITop


Finger painting record

A 170-metre-long finger painting of the mighty Yangtze river is the longest of its kind in the world, the Chinese media has reported.

The painting, which is 0.4 metre wide, is the longest of its kind in the world, Xinhua quoted the Shanghai office of the Guinness Book of World Records.

The painting was done by Xiao Zenglie, a famous finger painter from the city of Pingxiang in east China’s Hiangxi province, Xinhua said.

The unique painting depicts more than 160 historical sites along the Yangtze, China’s longest river. — PTI



Dedicated theatrist from Kashmir
By Kavita Bhargava

THEATRE in Kashmir, perhaps, is as old as civilisation itself. Abhinav Gupta, who gave a new definition to “Abhinaya”, a form of art to express oneself through the medium of words and gesture, lived in Kashmir and even finds a mention in Bharat Muni’s “Natyashastra”.

Many theatrists have moved out of the state and carved a niche for themselves at the national level. Among them is Mushtaq Kak, the director of Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, New Delhi.

The only theatre director from the Jammu region to occupy such a prestigious chair and second from the entire state (Bansi Koul from the Kashmir valley had been the director of Sri Ram Centre), Mushtaq Kak is among those theatrists who are so dedicated that they devote their entire life to their art.

For a theatrist who had already carved a niche for himself, the directorship of SRC was a chance factor. A friend Ravinder Koul, also a theatrist and cultural activist, had organised a function at India International Centre, New Delhi, on behalf of his organisation, Himalayan Cultural and Research Foundation, in the memory of Hans Ostro, a Norwegian theatrist who was among the six foreigners kidnapped in the Kashmir valley later beheaded.

Kak who presented his play, “Pratibib”, at the same function, caught the attention of renowned litterateurs, including Vijay Tendulkar, Shama Zaidi, JN Koushal etc, who were greatly impressed by his performance. After the function was over they just told him to meet them any of the days. But Kak returned to Jammu soon after. True they say, hard work never goes unrewarded. And rewarded he certainly was. After a year or so, he received a telegram from Sri Ram Centre for an interview for the post of artistic director. The rest is the history.

Born in 1961, Kak has directed 50 plays in different languages across the country in zonal as well as national theatre festivals.

He was selected to attend a 30-day directors’ theatre workshop organised by Sangeet Natak Academy conducted by Nemi Chand Jain where he got a chance to work with directors of national repute, including Habib Tanveer, B.V. Karanth, K.N. Panikar, Vijaya Mehta, M.K. Raina and Anamika Haksar.

Kak has also conducted seven theatre workshops for adults as well as children and produced plays like “Andher Nagri”, “Lotan”, “Pratibimb”, “Evam Inderjit”, Sewa Ser Kanak”, “Raja Urubhangam” etc in different languages.

Besides the best director award for the plays. “Andha Yug”, “Pratibimb”, “Mallika”, (“Ashad Ka Ek Din”), he also has to his credit the Fellowship Award from the Department of Culture, Ministry of Human, Resources Development, for “In Search of Drishya Kavya in Indian Contemporary Theatre” and production awards from the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.

Astonishingly, Kak who made his debut in 1981 with a Punjabi play, “Pookhi Pookh”, with Amateur Theatre Group (ATG) of Mr Rattan Kalsi, his first play as a director was a disaster. Kak recalls that the play, “Aadhi Raat Ke Baad”, was written by famous playwright Dr Shanker Shesh. Incidentally, this play, for which he was the producer, director and set designer, was being presented at Abhinav Theatre in the annual state drama festival.

Everything seemed to be going on smoothly when the director, who was also the lead actor, forgot all his dialogues. Remembering that moment, Kak says: “I went on repeating the dialogue, ‘unn pachas hazar rupiyoin ka kya hua?” As he could not remember the remaining dialogues, he made an exit and returned with a script of the play to read all dialogues from it!

Immediately after, he went to Pathankot to participate in the All-India Drama Festival where he not only got the best production award, but also clinched the best director award for the play “Janta Pagal Ho Gayi”.

The renowned theatrist however does not see a bright future of the theatre movement in Jammu and Kashmir. Theatre, he says, has been reduced to presenting street-plays for departmental propaganda, except for a group or two that are using it as a drama form. The materialistic aspect, selfishness and the trend of “sponsored propaganda” through theatre, have been responsible for making its future bleak.

Kak says the most tragic thing that has happened to theatre in the state is internal bickerings and petty politics. Nobody wants to see any theatre group prospering and getting recognition. Even the theatrists themselves are responsible for this state of affairs. “How can they suppress their voices just for seeking outside recommendation of their plays or getting Rs 5,000 for a sponsored performance in various government departments?” he asks.

The entire picture is pathetic and even the Chief Minister is not ready to listen to the complaints, says Kak. The theatre movement, he feels, is being crushed in the state. With the annual drama festival suspended due to the financial crunch and the rent of Abhinav Theatre having been hiked to Rs 2,000, there can hardly be any hope in the new millennium.

Kak, in an emotionally choked voice, says though the government has renovated. Tagore Hall and Abhinav Theatre, these will remain empty if there won’t be artistes to perform on their stages. “Without any grants which have been stopped by the academy, the suspended drama festival, and the hiked rent for the Abhinav auditorium, how can a theatrist survive?”

In this state, everyone will have to carry his own cross on his own shoulders, he adds.


by Amita Malik

Changing from El to Zee

FROM time to time, the different TV channels operating to and from India hold a big bash where statistics flow as lavishly as hospitality. And each one quotes mind-boggling figures to prove that they have the highest viewership (DD wins hands down because of its terrestrial reach) and that they are the most popular, have the best programmes, are about to have epoch-making new programmes (usually old wine in new bottles) and, in the process, have a few nasty digs at their nearest rivals., with skyscraper graphics, as in cricket matches, to show that they alone have reached the top. Or are about to.

At all such bashes, as a hardened media watcher, and since I am hopeless at figures anyway, I feel I owe it to readers to give them the low-down on what interests at least media watchers most. And that is quality. The very fact that DD, with its programmes as uninteresting as they are and understandably the cable operators’ nightmare, has the highest viewership, proves my point.

The latest channel to hold a PR bash is Zee News and that the press was addressed by my old friend and colleague Deepak Shourie, whom I have known since his chocolate days, and whose charm and professional ability are well-known, makes my task a little harder. Because what I am looking for is quality, no matter how mass orientated the audience I would first like to list my main points against Zee and then come to the plus ones.

It is obvious to all media-watchers, and this point was mentioned also at the press meet, that Zee News seems to have as its main aim copying every programme initiated by Star News and its format without even minor alterations. Beginning with Good Morning Zee the one-man-one-woman team and its attitude a straight lift from Good Morning India, even its last election pattern picked up ideas like Campaign Trail, One Day in The Life of, and now with the format of its evening news slot, from Prime Time to the 9 o’clock news — well one does not have to look further. I tried hard to think of one really original programme on Zee News and could only think of Quote, Unquote. Even worse, although I have been watching the channel more than I did before for professional reasons, I cannot remember the name of a single Zee news anchor or newscaster, except Ruchi Sharma, because Ms Sharma has occasionally rung me up. Yet I can trot out names from DD, Star, Aaj Tak and the BBC. This facelessness, Mr Shourie assured us, is going to be taken care of. His remedy? to give them bylines. Well, that they already have but even with its wonderful line-up of the most good-looking, beautifully dressed newscasters in elegant saris, what they lack is both personality and training, and mostly training. Prannoy Roy used to fly down trainers from London, I have no idea if he still does. One need not go that for, but Zee’s anchors and newscasters have to have professionalism instilled into them by real experts and not those locals who have not even been able to cure the newscasters of looking jerkily and angularly at the monitor every time they finish a sentence. Similarly, Zee’s correspondents are hard-working but lack finish in everything, from grooming to interviewing.

I also think Zee News has to decide on its targets: Is it small-town Hindi India or Australia and New Zealand, its most recently announced international areas? Its knocking together its Alphas for news purposes is also a little confused, one feels.

TAIL-PIECE: The media coverage of the Concorde air crash and the way it was handled by the authorities ought to be an eye-opener after our Patna crash. The BBC and to a lesser extent CNN had experts, eye-witnesses and even helicopters lined up literally in minutes (so did Star News and then Zee at Patna, DD being last). But even more sobering for Indians was the way the French Prime Minister and the German Foreign Minister rushed to the crash site, the way the roads were immediately blocked by the police to keep out sight-seers, the immediacy with which fire-fighters and ambulances arrived and the speed with which they carried out their jobs. The reactions of British Airways and Air France, with the future safety of passengers coming first could not but make one feel envious.Top