|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, May 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Committed to printmaking
ART & CULTURE
English comedy her forte
FROM stage performances as a schoolgirl in East Africa to a successful theatre director here, Nimma Dandona has come a long way. Some of her hit plays are "Enemies", "Mr Samson" and "Spinsters of Lushe".
Married to an Army officer, she has been guided by her love for theatre for the past over 30 years. Her husband understands her passion and has been a source of encouragement for her. That is one of the reasons why she has acted in a skit in an Army function five days after becoming a mother.
Nimma now heads the Dilman Group, which has nine members. She has also set up a studio at her house in Sector 10, Chandigarh. She is a guiding force for young aspirants, whom she grooms with great care. Only those who are keen to act and have the urge to perform are taken as artistes. In her opinion, youngsters have the potential, but their parents tend to stifle it.
This theatre artiste believes that the city has a vast audience for English plays, adding that the audience among the services is very sophisticated. According to her, since English is not our language, plays have to be adapted to enable the viewers to have a proper understanding. She states that when an Indian makes an error in pronouncing Western names, he or she is mocked at, but this is not the case if some Westerner does the same with Indian names.
Comedy has been her forte in her long innings as director and actress. She has had an attempt at tragedy, during the staging of "The Three Wishes", way back in 1978. The sobs of the audience during that performance is what has dissuaded her from having another go at tragedy.
Nimma rues that theatre has lost its sanctity. The atmosphere now is like that of a mela, she adds. It has no sponsors and the viewers have literally to be begged to watch, she claims. Building a rapport with the viewers is what she stresses, which begins the moment they step inside the theatre.
She has even made a foray into Hindi plays, with "Vyaktigat" being the latest one. She has also been associated with the play "Ek Mod Par", written by Dr Laxmi Narayan Lal and adapted by Vijay Tendulkar. She has been the secretary of the Overseas Students Association at Punjabi University.
Her latest offering is the English
comedy "Loot", which will be staged at Tagore Theatre on May
22. Being organised by the Global Cancer Concern India, the proceeds
of the show will be utilised for the welfare of cancer patients. This
organisation, with former President Venkataraman as its
patron-in-chief, has been working nationwide for terminally ill cancer
Committed to printmaking
THE Government College of Art, Chandigarh, is the nucleus of artistic activities of City Beautiful. This institution is now in the golden jubilee year of its inception. The institution has very clearly stated its role in the growth and development of art and its education. In continuation of this spirit, the college recently organised an exhibition of graphic works by some Jaipur artists. They call themselves: "We 13 Printmakers". The name by itself suggests their commitment to printmaking. It is all the more heartening to note that more and more artists belonging to different states of India are now opting for printmaking and seriously exploring its creative possibilities in registering artistic expressions. The involvement with which these Jaipur printmakers have worked, shows their concern for identity.
The city of Jaipur is more known for its forts and palaces. Rajput painting is known the world over for its exquisite portrayal of Rajput life and landscape. Folk and tribal art is another distinctive feature of the Rajasthan. In the midst of popular and thriving tradition, these Jaipur artists are asserting their artistic zeal in giving expression to contemporary sensibility and spirit. And for striking a balance between tradition and modernity, the state established Jawahar Kala Kendra in the 1990s. The predominance of the state administration in the functioning of the kendra has deprived the autonomy so essential for such institutions to progress. Nevertheless, it is a centre of art and culture. It is another matter that the kendra has not been able to give the impetus to art and culture as was anticipated. However, there is a well-equipped printmaking workshop where artists interested in printmaking come and work.
Among the interested ones are the 13 printmakers from Jaipur who got together and resolved to work together in the graphic workshop. Vidya Sagar Upadhyay, convener of the printmakers, hoped that this effort would win an important place for Rajasthan on the national art scene. The present exhibition is the culmination of this spirit. Working together, sharing views and showing concern for each other’s work is the main uniting factor of the 13. Though each printmaker has chosen his own technique and subject matter, yet an invisible thread unites their approach to printmaking.
Living and working in Jaipur these printmakers are: V.S. Upadhyay, Dileep Singh Chauhan, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Sharma, Deepak Kumar Khandelwal, Yogendra Singh Naruka, Vivek Kakra, Raju Saini, Naresh Kumar, Suresh Gotwal, Gori Shankar Soni, Mohan Lal Jangir, and Manish Sharma.
A majority of the printmakers are young. Some of them are studying in MFA. Etching, intaglio, serigraphy, woodcut, lino-cut are the techniques employed by them. The range of images include abstraction, semi-abstraction and figurative. Textures created are akin to the nature of the technique used. At places more than one technique has been combined to innovate aesthetic effects.
I must confess I was pleasantly surprised and honoured when, in the early days of Surabhi, I got a letter from R.K. Narayan in Mysore. "Dear Amita," it began, "I entirely agree with you that Renuka Shahane smiles too much in Surabhi." Surprised that R.K. Narayan watched TV programmes at all, but Surabhi being a cultural programme must have attracted him. And I was particularly touched that he had taken the trouble of writing to me and supporting me, because a minor controversy had cropped up over this smiling business. One reader wrote to say that there was enough gloom in the world and that even excessive smiling lifted the gloom. And Siddharta Kak told me that Renuka had got so demoralised that she had decided not to smile when we eventually met. She did smile, and very sweetly, and we had a good laugh over it.
I saw something of R.K. Narayan when he came to Delhi, with Shankar Nag, the director of one of Doordarshan’s more imaginative commissioned programmes, a serial of Narayan’s Malgudi Days. Young, vibrant. Shankar Nag was tragically killed in a car accident a little while later and now, Narayan too is gone.
There could not have been a happier combination. Shankar’s casting, locales and direction of everyone, from children to older people, was flawless And not a nuance of Malgudi was missed, including its cricket team, which went by the endearing name of MCC (Malgudi Cricket Club). The serial was a joy from start to finish and when I interviewed R.K. Narayan, he seemed quite happy with it, which he had not been entirely with Dev Anand’s version of The Guide, Pearl Buck, Dev and Waheeda Rahman’s performances and Goldie Anand’s direction, one of his finest, notwithstanding. Many preferred the Hindi version so I presumed Narayan saw only the English one. During the interview I asked him about his meeting with Greta Garbo in New York. But that is another story. I only hope Doordarshan won’t miss the bus, as usual, and will re-telecast Malgudi Days with proper advance publicity in the press and on screen, as soon as possible. Viewers would love to see it again.
And publicity is one of DD’s worst faults, combined with a genius for scheduling its best programmes at the worst times. Perhaps the worst sufferer in this respect has been one of India’s most enduring, stylish and brilliant television producer-personalities, Saeed Naqvi. How he got the first exclusive interview with Nelson Mandela when he came out of prison, how he got some generous satellite minutes from the BBC (DD of course had none) and got through to Delhi, only to be told by a moronic DDG that she could not take it without the permission of the DG, the Secretary, et al.is now one of DD’s most shameful episodes from ancient history. So it was put on days late. Naqvi has done more coverage of Indian peace-keeping forces with the UN, sometimes from dangerous trouble spots, than any Indian, he has interviewed everyone from Castro to Gorbachev down the years and discovered little nuggets of India abroad, such as children in an Irish school learning Sanskrit. But these epoch-making programmes are put on at unearthly hours in the morning and night without any press publicity (contrast how Karan Thapar’s PRs get things to the press in advance). I had to ask for the tapes of two brilliant programmes by Naqvi last week. On Tagore’s birthday he took us to Tagore at the tomb of Persian poet Hafiz at Shiraz, to Bangladesh singing its national anthem by Tagore, to Prague, where a boulevard is named Thakur Va, and a professor at Charles University, which has a department of Bengali Studies, said every educated Czech knows about Tagore and how the famous composer Janacek had been inspired by Tagore in one of his compositions. Then, to Lake Balaton in Hungary and his statue near the sanatorium where Tagore went with lung trouble. I wonder how many viewers missed this programme which would make every Indian proud.
Then Naqvi’s interview with
Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammed, with some searching questions by Naqvi
which elicited shrewd answers about Indian politics (in Malaysia
governments change, but foreign policy does not, in India policy
changes with governments) had many fascinating insights into how
others see us of great interest to our policy makers and political
analysts. It should have been on at prime time instead of those boring
panel discussions on DD. But of course it was not and languished in
some forgotten corner, as usual.
HONGE NA JUDA HUM (Tips): DCS is an England-based music group usually producing bhangra albums. For the first time, it has ventured into Hindi dance numbers. The Punjabi influence is strong all through, with dhol (by Jasa), dholak (Parv) and drums (Juggy) dominating.
They have some funky tunes to which plain and simple lyrics have been fitted. There are also two remix numbers, Chaudvin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho… and Aap jinke kareeb hote hain, wo bade khushnaseeb hote hain….
Call it the cultural difference or whatever, but the elementary lyrics have a strange freshness about them. Most of these have been penned by Shin, who is also one of the music composers for some of the songs. Since it is a dance album, music dominates.
The album has been introduced in India under licence from Kamlee Records of the UK.
PYAR KA PEHLA KHAT (Magnasound): At a time when popular ghazals of Jagjit Singh are being introduced under various permutations and combinations, Magnasound has adopted a different tack. It has come up with this album which had been earlier released as Face to Face. (That is why it is always safer to read the finer point.) So, if you already have that original album, hard luck; if you don’t, then this is a good bargain because it boasts of some of the finest ghazals of the maestro.
The ambience is set by the first title number itself. It is Pyar ka pehla khat likhne mein waqt to lagta hai, lambee doori tai karne mein waqt to lagta hai…. Most music lovers consider it one of the most accomplished renditions by Jagjit.
In between, there are such gems as Tumne badle hamse gin gin ke liye … and Sachchi baat kahi thee maine …. The album closes in style with Sheikhji thodi si pee kar aaiye….
How one awaits a genuine new offering from Jagjit Singh instead of such recycled stuff!
NAAG ISHQ DA LADDYA (Lucky Star): The Jawahar Wattal juggernaut rolls on. This time the music composer-director teams up with Bhupi and comes up with a Punjabi album each one of whose eight songs is tailor-made for the dance floor. Vigorous beats stand out in sharp contrast to the traditional lyrics that have been penned by Bhupi himself, his brother G.S. Chawla, Mukhtiar, S.S.Rahi and Sadhu S. Anchal.
Bhupi sings of tutan waale khoo and
the pind of Punjab. All that would appeal greatly to the
traditional listeners in Punjab. These may be unknown symbols for a
city slicker living in other states, but he will more likely be bowled
over by the upbeat rhythm. In short, Bhupi and Jawahar have both
flanks covered. Rest, as they say, depends on the listeners.
Beyween May 7 and 12 Documenta 11 and the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in collaboration with India Habitat Centre held an international symposium and a video film exhibition: "Experiments with Truth: Transitional Justice and the Process of Truth and Reconciliation".
The symposium is the second platform in a series of five platforms of public debates, symposia, film presentation, lectures and an art exhibition organised within the framework of Documental 11 in Kassel, Germany. Organised in five cycles, Documenta was founded in 1955 in Kassel in the post-war period. It has over a span of 50 odd years served as a bellwether for many serious tumultuous deliberations within the field of contemporary art. As an exhibition Documenta has traditionally commissioned a range of new works in the fields of sculpture, painting, photography, film, video and installations. The locus of this impressive art and intellectual expose was one of debate and contestation. It was a more cerebrally rigorous and methodologically adventurous exercise than the usual standard exhibition of contemporary art. During the week-long affair, the motivation and interest was bring the important artistic arena to which Documenta belongs into a communique with other disciplines and cities. The crux of modern philosophy met the postcolonial struggle, which Gandhi set into motion through this symposium. "Experiments with Truth..." succeeded to animate the intellectual and creative methods that underpin the social, cultural, political, judicial, religious and philosophical confrontation with one of the central preoccupations of the 20th century.
There were powerful visuals (internationally acclaimed documentries made by famous artists) substantiated equally with paper presentations by a host of scholars, artists, independent writers and media personnel. Representations of artistic experiences and expressions included Manthia Diawara’s "The Truth in Representation: The Rwandan Genocide in Film and Literature;" Alfredo Jaar’s "It is Difficult" portraying the agony that visual images suffer from in a saturated media landscape; Urvashi Butalia’s "The Persistence of Memory: The Search for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation" and Rustam Bharucha’s "Between Truth and Reconciliation: Experiments in Theatre and Public Culture."
Documentary films such as "A
Season Outside" by Amar Kanwar; "Borders" by Israeli
director Nurit Kedar; "Mirror to History" by Cristian De
Francia; "If hope were enough" by women’s Caucus for
Gender Justice; "Expelled" by National Coalition for Haitian
Rights were some of the emotive visual depictions presented in this
panorama of cinematic representation.