|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, January 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Pablo Picasso: a creator
Bid to revive Uday Shankar’s institute
Channel surfing continues
Pablo Picasso: a creator
The evolution of Pablo Picasso is as arresting as his works and a retrospective of the creations of the 20th century master is only appropriate for the first-ever Picasso exhibition in India.
"Works from just one phase of the artist’s life or those dealing with a certain theme would not have done justice either to the Indian viewers witnessing Picasso for the first time or the artist himself," says Dr Saryu Doshi, Director, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, who has curated the exhibition together with Marie-Laure Bernadac, Chief Curator, Museum Picasso, Paris.
The development of Picasso, the artist, was not a smooth trajectory. He went through very different phases in his creative life, and the three-month-long exhibition currently on in New Delhi’s National Museum has works representative of each phase, says Dr Doshi.
The exhibition, that will travel to Mumbai in February next year and will be open through March, is aptly called "Picasso: Metamorphoses 1900-1972", and has on display 122 of the prolific artist’s creations that include paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and ceramics.
Picasso was very prolific, artistically active from the age of 14 till he died in 1972, creating thousands of artworks, says Bernadac, admitting that 122 may provide with only an outline of the artist’s creations, but all the same depict how his style kept changing as he progressed in life.
There is an overwhelming melancholy in Picasso’s early works, but he goes on to become more and more cheerful except for the paintings made during the Spanish civil war in 1939 when he conveys his concern for the country of his birth.
The paintings made by him shortly after his arrival in France in 1900, where he lived till his death in 1972, speak of sadness, influenced by the trauma Picasso suffered in the suicide of a close friend.
Called the Blue Period, the initial phase in Picasso’s creations gave rise to paintings like "Portrait of a Man", where the colours are dark and gloomy and the expression is of angst.
The end is equally carefree and cheerful. Towards the end, Picasso seems to have broken free from all conventions to paint as he desired, says Bernadac.
"I want to paint like a child," said Picasso, which meant that he no longer wanted to follow any rules of any sort," she says.
The changes that Picasso went through also had to do with changes happening in his love life, says Bernadac.
"Picasso’s works revolve around the women in his life. With the entry of every new woman in his life, his style also underwent a change," she explains.
According to Dr Doshi, it is not clear whether Picasso’s love life changed because he had moved on to a different plane of life as depicted by his work or the change in his love life affected his style.
The first change, for example, happened in 1904, with the first glimmer of cheer entering Picasso’s work after he met Fernande Oliver who became his girlfriend, launching the next phase in his creativity, called the Rose Period, which gave rise to paintings with bright colours like rose and ochre.
Another example of how his relationship with the women in his life influenced his work is the portrait of his wife Olga Kokhlova, characterised by aggressive colours like red and yellow, expressive of the tension in his married life, says Bernadac.
The period between 1906, when the Rose Period was concluding and Picasso was gradually moving towards the Cubist movement, and 1927, when he was on the threshold of the Surrealist movement, had the leader of modern art at his most artistic, says Dr Doshi.
Despite the influence of the Cubist movement, which broke sharply with tradition and was characterised by abstraction, Picasso’s works could never become very abstract.
"Picasso never really became abstract. He believed in his works having a subject, in having a distinct message to convey," says Bernadac.
The "Bather" series of Picasso’s paintings is a good example of how his paintings never became completely abstract. The "Bathers" retain their humanness despite having transformed into object-like figures.
Bernadac goes on to say that Picasso was a "creator" and not merely an "artist". "Give him anything and he could create an art form out of it. He was restless as an artist and needed an outlet for his creativity at all times," she says, pointing at "The Bull", a sculpture Picasso made out of a bicycle seat and the handle.
Picasso gave vent to his creative urge through poetry also. Writing in French, in a style that critics have termed as spontaneous and unmindful of conventions, the versatile artist decorated his poetry with drawings.
"This is where we can draw a comparison between Picasso and Rabindranath Tagore who also burst into small scribbles of drawings while writing poetry," says Dr Doshi.
Bid to revive Uday Shankar’s institute
Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Jagmohan has announced a grant of Rs 1 crore for the Uday Shankar India Culture Centre established by the maestro in the idyllic location of Almora.
He announced this at a function held in New Delhi recently as part of the year-long centenary celebrations of the dance wizard under the aegis of UNESCO in association with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). His birth anniversary was celebrated recently.
"Uday Shankar put India’s cultural image on the map of the world. This is an effort on my part to honour the genius. I would like the entire tourism of Uttaranchal to revolve around the Almora centre," the minister said.
Inaugurating the photo exhibition on the legendary dancer titled "Celebrating Creativity" noted danseuse Sonal Mansingh said, "Uday Shankar was a "yugpravartak", who started a whole new movement in dance spanning decades and the world. He was responsible for carrying the message of Indian dance and culture to every corner of the globe."
Uday Shankar, who was born at the start of the 20th century, had no formal training in classical dance. Yet, his creative genius enabled him to extract the essence from various dance forms and present them in a unique style.
He led the renaissance of dance and music in the 1930s and introduced Western audiences to Indian culture through the performances of his troupe.
Amala Shankar, his wife and dance partner in many dance ballets said, "Every picture I saw brought back beautiful memories. Uday was a divine blessing sent to propagate the art of dancing."
She said he was a visionary and foresaw many of the issues facing the country today and depicted them in his film "Kalpana", either as a satire or as a solution 52 years ago.
Pt Narendra Sharma presented a choreographic work "Flying Cranes" by his troupe Bhoomika as a homage to his guru.
Dr Sunil Kothari, who has curated the entire exhibition, said they had received photographs from his admirers all over the world.
Channel surfing continues
Pity the poor TV columnist. Most of our sets go up to 100 channels, but take a channel here and there, we are condemned to monitoring at least 30. Very few for personal pleasure, most for captive viewing. Condemned as we are to eternal channel surfing, one cannot help noticing that the channels themselves are doing some surfing of their own, trying hard to decide who exactly they want to woo and how to set about it, TV ratings themselves having come under scrutiny, and columnists being among the elite viewers trying to guage what the common man wants from his idiot box.
Let us take Zee, since it was first off the block, an unashamedly Hindi channel with an international reach and Subhas Chandra in firm control. However, last year it was overtaken by Aaj Tak, thanks to its head S.P. Singh. Then up pops Rupert Murdoch with a chic international format and even something for the matrons of Karol Bagh and Dadar, with their beloved "Shanti Barbara" keeping them glued to their sets and discovering what fun incest, adultery and other marital dissipations can be, while the urban elite lapped up the international news, sophisticated international entertainment laced with a goodish bit of porn and here, believe it or not, was a more racy alternative to Ye Olde BBC. By now we had three distinct alternatives and Ye Olde DD was getting left behind by the satellite rat race and thanking its stars for its terrestrial grip and the fact that some of its earlier serials, religious serials and programmes like "Chitrahaar" still had their common viewer and even educated urban viewers reasonably were faithful to it. This format of viewership and programming continued for some years with some skirmishes between Subhas Chandra and Murdoch, early experiments with DTH periodic which failed, DD applying the "sarkari" pistol to the heads of cable operators to force them to show at least two DD Channels or else. To compound its foolisness, having failed with its Third Channel, with ambitions of an elite TV channel to compare with the BBC’s famous Third Programme on radio, DD rushed into an ill-conceived and even more badly executed News Channel, which was weak enough to begin with, but with cable operators wisely choosing the national and Metro Channels as their two compulsory channels, the News Channel became a refuge for Page 3 socialists with lavish distribution of anchored programmes to editors of National papers. But Editors are pretty canny people and their media columns continued to bash up DD when required, which was pretty often. And the head of DD news introduced such revolutionary changes as asking all newscasters to grow long hair, appointing her own daughter and sending DD’s best newscasters packing by insulting them by appointing mostly sub-standard anchors at fancy salaries in their place.
At the next stage of the rat race, everybody suddenly realised they had to go "desi" and everybody jumped in, BBC et al. The canny South had anticipated this and had started their own language channels in their rich and distinct languages and boo to Hindi. Since most were politically committed as well, it later led to such exciting TV wars as the now famous one between Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi. The BBC and CNN stuck to their own language, that is BBC English (with variations and Indian origin newscasters) and CNN in often undecipherable variations of the American accent. The BBC’s 10 p.m. programmes are classy and elitist while CCN’s lag behind, certainly in viewership. Star Plus did the reverse, partitioned itself into a Hindi Plus and ESS English News Channel, cutting down such popular programmes as "Good Morning India", introducing "KBC" in the nick of time, not to forget Ekta’s "bahu saas" serials. The sports and other channels had their own scams, National G and Discovery also introduced Hindi and at the time of writing "Temptation Island" and Neena Gupta’s feeble "insult quiz" seem to be poor competititors to "Shanti Barbara". There is lots more to the channel wars, more anon.
Tail-piece: Best new year round up by, of course, Prannoy Roy, as elegant in his cream "galabandh" as in his choice of words and masterly analysis of the national and international events of one of the most disastrous years in world history. Prannoy reigns supreme and congratulations to old colleague Sir Mark Tully, the Prince not of Kolecoata, but Tullygurge.
Alisha in her element
ALSIHA (Tips): It is not usual for any singer to name an album after herself, but perhaps Alisha can get away with it, considering that she is fully in her element here. She has released the cassette after a long wait and has indeed put her soul in it. Rarely does a private album have so many potential hits.
She has been helped in the task by roly-poly music director Sandeep Chowta, whose tunes are set to sear the dance floors. He also sings a duet with Alisha (Dhuan dhuan …). Alisha has herself rendered music in a few songs.
The weak link is the lyrics that do not sit easily on one’s lips. It is okay for Alisha to set her songs to tune, but she should not have dabbled in writing. Anyway, those penned by Nitin Raikwar are only slightly better. Perhaps the fast music will carry them through.
It has become customary to thank sundry supporters on the jacket cover, but Alisha takes this fetish a step further. Besides expressing her "deepest gratitude and heart-felt thanks" to the music composer, managers, relatives, makeup men and the media, she has gone on to thank even her astrologer. So will the album earn billions as he has predicted? That is a billion-rupee question!
PATEL SCOPE II (Times Music): Depend on Devang Patel to come up with absolutely ribtickling takeoffs on film songs. The singer of Meri marzi... type numbers has often parodied English songs. Here, he goes after the Bollywood ones with a vengeance. His brand of humour with references to "chaddi" and what not may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you can digest that sort of stuff, you will get to hear some socially relevant numbers too.
He shows the mirror to Indians through Don’t mind… focusing on what all we do with impunity (spitting, stealing spoons…). He also takes corrupt cricketers to task.
When it comes to parodying film songs, he gives a quirky twist to the whole thing. Remember Taal se taal mila…? Then you will also remember that the film starred Akshaye Khanna. When Devang sings it, it becomes Ganje, taal pe baal khila…. Similarly, Choori jo khanki raat mein… (whose video had Riya Sen) takes a Bengali hue and becomes Chaddi jo phat gayee….
Lyrics are by Vinay Dave and Devang Patel. Music has been programmed by Hycinth D’Souza, except Soch le bhai … and Ara ra ra… by Prasad Thakkar.
TERI KUCH YAADEIN (Lucky Star): Newcomers usually pick up easy to sing, straight songs. Not Shail. He has tried his hands at some high-pitched complex songs, which may or may not make it big but have put everyone on notice about his intentions.
There are eight songs and almost all of them are fairly long but the longest is the title song itself, which continues for full five and a half minutes. A close second is Dil ko churane waali… (5.21).