ARTS TRIBUNE Friday, November 3, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 
From farming to sculpture
by Aruti Nayar
F
OR 52-year-old Abninder Singh Garewal, portraying the culture and ethos of Punjab through his ceramic statues, is a passion. In fact this sarpanch of Nanuke village in Nabha district was studying in Punjab Public School, Nabha, when, due to a bone disease, he was advised bed rest for three years. 

Audioscan 
Return of Anuradha
by ASC

ISHQ HUA (T-Series):
There was a time when Anuradha Paudwal would be on almost every album. Of late, she seems to have been going slow. Perhaps the murder of Gulshan Kumar has something to do with this. But after this long Sabbath, she is back with this album of non-film songs, which is quite a showcase for her talent.

Assamese films come of age
A
FTER years of slump, the regional Assamese films have come of age. The entry of professionals and big money is bringing the audience back into film theatres. The focus, too, has shifted. Instead of art films, producers are now venturing into commercial films.

SIGHT & SOUND

Too much talk,  too little else
by Amita Malik
W
HEN one looks at the overall picture of TV in India, one wonders why there is so much yapping all the time, to the exclusion of the performing arts. And I do not include cinema in performing arts because it has swamped the small screen from the beginnings of TV.

 
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From farming to sculpture
by Aruti Nayar

FOR 52-year-old Abninder Singh Garewal, portraying the culture and ethos of Punjab through his ceramic statues, is a passion. In fact this sarpanch of Nanuke village in Nabha district was studying in Punjab Public School, Nabha, when, due to a bone disease, he was advised bed rest for three years. It was this forced immobility that made him turn to painting in order to divert himself. He painted landscapes, horses and still life in oils. For the son of an Army officer to choose a vocation apart from the services (unlike two of his brothers and father ) and agriculture, was a departure. “My health could not withstand exertion,” says Garewal who has the sensibility of an artist. Perhaps that is why he chose to dabble in the world of art and aesthetics instead of flaunting muscle-power like a true-blue Punjabi.

From painting to progress to sculpture and ceramics seemed natural . He feels, a farmer has a natural bond with the earth. It was in 1971 that Garewal, for the first time ever, made a statue of clay which cracked. At that time he was in Mhow and still remembers walking through a jungle to a village to the house of a sculptor to take tips in making statues.

During his visits abroad, he would bring back ceramic statues and figurines, while his colleagues (loaded with clothes and jewellery) mocked at him. What really troubled Garewal was that while in the West great care was taken to preserve the cultural heritage through objects d’art and knick-knacks, Indians were apathetic and not inclined to preserve their culture. If you could have small statues of cowboys, wood cutters and Chinese or Buddhist prototypes, why not ones showing Punjabi culture in the same way? Once this thought occurred to Garewal, he decided to give shape to it.

After Garewal came to Chandigarh in 1990 and saw the ceramics unit owned by a friend in Dera Bassi, he decided to put his idea into practice. His friend viewed ceramics only as a commercial proposition, while Garewal wanted it to be more than just making pots and vases. So with just one Bengali worker, he set up his own unit, named after his village. Incidentally, Nanuke won the Best Village Award during the tenure of Siddharth Shankar Ray. This fact is something Garewal is extremely proud of and does not mind functioning from Chandigarh to protect the interests of his village.

In addition to the usual ceramic objects — decoration pieces, vases, flowerpots, mermaids and statues of Venus — he decided to fulfil his passion and depict Punjabi life. He claims, he was the first one to make statues depicting Punjabi culture. So you had Nihangs, a woman spinning the charkha or churning buttermilk with a madhani and a Bhangra team in ceramics. In fact, meeting Garewal at his ceramics unit in Mohali is an experience. One cannot help admiring his zeal to promote Punjabiyat.

Garewal supplies his statues to government outlets (Phulkari, Weaver and Citco) and even exports them to avid Punjabis. In fact, due to a high rate of breakage of ceramic objects and the difficulty in transportation, Garewal decided to start using fibre glass. While ceramics requires baking of clay and plaster of paris in moulds, fibreglass liquid can be poured into moulds straight and dried. The process of making statues with fibreglass may be less cumbersome, but the finishing takes more time and effort. Fibreglass objects can also be transported with ease and are more resilient.

A visit to the ceramics fair in Italy was an eye-opener for Garewal, who was impressed by how every household had a statue. The prices of his statues range from Rs 150 to Rs 32,000. Of course the big ones are suitable for public parks, gardens, nurseries and marriage palaces. He wants statues of leaders and visionaries (Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Swami Dayanand Saraswati) to be installed prominently in public places so that people do not forget them.

The artisans working with Garewal are all from Bankura , Durgapur district in West Bengal. These Bengali artists have been make murtis for generations. ‘’That is why even the human figures they made looked like deities’’, says Garewal. They were taught by Garewal and his son to make them lifelike and natural. Just the drape of a dress, the curve of a smile make a world of difference, maintains Garewal.

As of now, the 18 Bengali workers and their families are his responsibility and even if it means rushing them to the doctor or going to West Bengal for a wedding, he willing does it.

It is again the love for Punjabi heritage that makes him keep a gadda, tangli and a plough in his house because “they will not be found one day and how will our children know what they looked like.”

He wants to make a lifesize statue of Florence Nightingale outside the PGI. He was so impressed by her devotion that he wants to inspire nurses with her sense of dedication and duty. He is willing to bear all the expenses but does not know how to go about it.

Garewal has a grouse that despite his effort to promote ceramics, he has not received any state award. 
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Audioscan 
Return of Anuradha
by ASC

ISHQ HUA (T-Series): There was a time when Anuradha Paudwal would be on almost every album. Of late, she seems to have been going slow. Perhaps the murder of Gulshan Kumar has something to do with this. But after this long Sabbath, she is back with this album of non-film songs, which is quite a showcase for her talent.

To make sure that there is enough variety, she has two separate sets of music directors here. Six of the eight songs have been composed by Nikhil-Vinay while the other two are by Lalit Sen. Similar is the variation in lyrics. Six songs are by Faaiz Anwar and one each by Lalit Sen and Rani Malik.

The title song boasts of a fast beat and is indeed the pick of the lot. In fact, released from the pressure of tailoring their music according to the storyline of a film, Nikhil-Vinay have done a good job in almost all their creations. There is a haunting quality to the background music in Teri kuchh baaten…

Lalit Sen has done equally good work in Likh ke mehandi …. as well as Choodi bhi jid pe adi hai …. 

If all goes well, some of these songs can gain as much popularity as those in films. 

AAGHAAZ (Tips): You have to say this about Sunil Shetty’s luck. His films may run or not but he gets to move his lips to some of the most hummable songs. This album is no exception. Of the six songs, at least five are promising.

Anu Malik sets the ball rolling with Mann tera mann … sung in style by Alka Yagnik and Babul Supriyo and closes it too with the instrumental version of the song. That shows that he sets maximum score by this song and he may very well be right. 

Sonu Nigam goes hip in Dosti ho gayee ray … in keeping with the tone set by Sunidhi Chauhan. But he is more sedate in Dil dil dil …. The latter has also been rendered by Hema Sardesai in a different version. Nigam changes gear in Aaghaaz karo ….

Kumar Sanu impresses in Dil ko pathar … (along with Alka Yagnik) and Nav nav lakha … (where he has Hema Sardesai, Sunidhi Chauhan and Rahul with him). 

Lyrics by Sameer are adequate.

PARDESI NUMBER ONE (Venus): You cannot exactly call Altaf Raza a one-song wonder, but it is a fact that none of his other songs has gained as much popularity as Tum to thehre pardesi… He has tried to cash in on that fame by filling this whole cassette with versions of that very song. In one he adds a few new ‘shers’ to the old hit. Then he sings it as Main hoon aisa pardesi…

The find of the album is Jaspinder Narula who sings Tera kya hai pardesi… in such a novel way that it is hard to believe that it is her voice. 

Since the album is basically a rehash job, the failure to give the name of the composer is justifiable. Lyrics have been penned by Zahir Alam, Ustad Rampuri, Jameel Mujahid and Quaiser-ul-Zafri. 

Assamese films come of age

AFTER years of slump, the regional Assamese films have come of age.

The entry of professionals and big money is bringing the audience back into film theatres. The focus, too, has shifted. Instead of art films, producers are now venturing into commercial films.

Assam has a rich tradition of films. The first Assamese film “Jyoamati” (name of a legend) was made as early as in 1935. But compared to Hindi films, the success rate of Assamese films has been rather dismal.

Till the 1980s film-makers made films, which fetched them laurels but no money. Those films targeted a very select audience.

Pulak Gogi, who has directed several successful films recently, says the mainstream cinema is the need of the hour as film industry as an entertainment media depends largely on the audience.

“In those years a group of intellectual film-makers produced films only for prizes and Indian panorama (section in film festivals). Yes, these films got appreciation and honours but these were confined to a particular group of audience only,” says Gogi.

Film-maker Ashok Bisoya, whose commercial love story “Jouwane Amoni Kere” (All done in youth) was a runaway success, says the big-budgeted commercial films could revive the Assamese film industry.

He blamed the poor quality films which led to the downfall of the local film industry. Bisoya said those films survived largely because of patronage given by Doordarshan, the state-run television channel.

Now, most of the Assamese films are copycats of Bollywood or Hollywood films. But, Bisoya defends them.

“You see, the education level has gone up, television channels have come and minors are growing up with all these developments. You just can’t go and show now the village and bullock carts. It will have to be, but it will have to be blended with modern things. So, we are not copying anything but just keeping up with the track,” said Bisoya. — ANI

Sight & Sound 
Too much talk, too little else
by Amita Malik

WHEN one looks at the overall picture of TV in India, one wonders why there is so much yapping all the time, to the exclusion of the performing arts. And I do not include cinema in performing arts because it has swamped the small screen from the beginnings of TV.

Most obtrusive of all, I think, are talk shows. What makes it worse is that there is no exclusivity. Matters have reached a stage where one of our top anchors is doing five chat shows, no less, on five different channels per week. I look forward to the day when he will forget on which channel he is performing and give away the show. On the best foreign channels, one recognises the channel by the anchor. Here, one recognises the channel. Our obsession with politics, sport and cinema makes the same people appear ad nauseum on every chat show. Much as one likes Shobha De, Khushwant Singh, all the retired foreign secretaries and generals, sociological experts, women activists and, heaven forgive us, our editors and journalistic colleagues, it does get a bit much at times. In fact, by the time our editors stop chairing chat shows or doing high-level interviews, one wonders how much time they have for their newspapers.

Some shows mercifully have sabbaticals. Question Time India takes a seasonal vacation but of late there have been too many chatterboxes filling in for Prannoy Roy, who is the star attraction in more senses than one. One show which is rapidly palling is Rajdeep Sardesai’s The Big Fight. The topics chosen are up to the minute which means every news show in town also has a bash at them, albeit at lesser length. Then the combatants he chooses are always Delhi-based, the politicians repetitive and the independent journalists are not only at times pretty low on the professional ladder, but not particularly articulate and hardly telegenic. Some have been repeated within days and are becoming a bore. I strongly suggest that The Big Fight takes a sabbatical, which will do it a world of good. And also get out of Delhi at times.

Then there is Vir Sanghvi’s Star Talk on Star Plus, which the blubs rather misleadingly describe as “hard talk” because Sanghvi is one of our most courteous interviewers which does not stop him from being incisive when required. In its craze for Hindi, Star has transferred the show to 7.30 p.m. on Sundays when it rightly belongs to prime time. To add to everything, the people Sanghvi has recently interviewed, including passe actresses and minor heroes are as boring as the familiar too people (not always to viewers) who run the gauntlet from Simi Garewal (who has also wisely taken a vacation) to Tavleen Singh and Karan Thapar to, Tu Ba Ru and Janata ki Adalat, which specialise in (the same old) politicians. One wonders if, like Question Time India and Mastermind India these chat shows could not travel to other parts of India and leave Delhi’s giltterari to stew in their own juice. 

With all these chat and audience participation shows, the main casualties are classical music (A.R. Rahman naturally out-paces Bhim Sen Joshi), in-depth talks by experts like the Reith Memorial lectures (both are left to AIR) fall by the wayside, victims of ads and TRP ratings. Significantly, both National Geographic and Discovery Channel have been a huge success in India and proved the need for serious educational and informative programmes, while award-winning films and documentaries fight for a place on Doordarshan, the so-called public service channel. Evidently no media barons are prepared to do the same on an Indian basis. 

A WARNING: While everybody is tearing their hair about sex (except those who watch Sun TV and some other South Indian channels after midnight) and violence (except for those who thrive on AXN channel) some dangerous ads are slipping past Sushma Swaraj’s eagle eye. Anyone who has watched the Wagon-R advertisement will agree that it is a blatant incitement to rash and dangerous driving with children in the car cheering it on while endangering human lives. The traffic authorities should rightly order it off the screen.
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