Friday, February 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


Women of today painting a vivid picture of topical themes
Rana A Siddiqui

The artistic trio: Bharti Singh (in red), Sarla Chandra (in brown) and Reeta Jhunjhunwala (in blue).
The artistic trio: Bharti Singh (in red), Sarla Chandra (in brown) and Reeta Jhunjhunwala (in blue).

It’s the women who dominated the world of art this time, be in a trio, a group or solo. They have left an imprint and a fan following.

There are varied themes which they have painted — nature, mythology, abstract and wildlife. “The earlier impression of the women artists was that they could paint only softer themes but now they have excelled in almost all topical themes that we can explore under the sun,” says Renu Modi, a curator.

True, the themes are different and also their expressions. There are works of three women artists, Reeta Jhunjhunwala, Bharti Singh and Sarla Chandra (currently showing at the Lalit Kala Art Gallery), who have recently formed an artist association of their own. The association that helped one another and explore new realms in art. Realms in which the divine has dominated in one way or the other. Reeta Jhunjhunwala is a Kolkata born and bred artist. The current display of her works was only about divine - of man and beyond. While a few of her paintings show life in Benaras, or mildly Kalighat paintings as we call it.

Rita’s gods and goddesses, viz: Laxmi, Shiva and Hanuman paintings are picture-perfect. A winner of Soviet Nehru Award in 1969, a finalist at the 35th Grand Prix Internationale de Peinture de Deauville and 21st Grand Prix of cote d’Azur, Cannes, France and many such feathers in cap, Reeta, in all her paintings, captures the rare glimpses of gods in meditative moods.

While Bharti Singh, though a self-taught artist and also an environmental activist, captures the mysteries of life under water. Her shades of colours are brighter than usual and her canvas too smooth. Like others, she does not mind sharing the secret of her unmatched calibre. “I endow a little flame to the colours while I paint. Though it always carries a risk of catching fire or overdoing it, but one has to be extra conscious to produce something new and perfect,” says this artist, who had around 25 exhibitions in India and abroad and whose works on wildlife are her strong points. “I had earlier painted a series on birds. Now, it is a series on life under water through which I also try to convey a message to the people that they should not pollute waters by throwing garbage inside it. It disturbs the harmony and balance underneath,” she informs.

While for Sarla Chandra, a lover of Indian mythology and culture, woman is the source of inspiration and creation. In this exhibition, she has come out with a unique style of painting on Hanuman series on gold and silver foil on paper and metal embossing. ‘Maya’ is the title of her series of paintings on different gods, goddesses, rivers and nature show Vasundhara, Ganga, Radha, Lakshmi and Durga in symbolic narratives. She also paints Triveni, symbolising her association with Sarla and Bharti. She has around 35 solo exhibitions at various international centres in London, Washington DC, New York etc. A solo exhibition of Poonam Sahi, entitled ‘Frames within frames’ at Lalit Kala, showed her sensitivity to capture women in her best or worst moods — the shades of which were explained through all possible bright colours. This week, New Delhi also saw the works of contemporary artists from Santiniketan at Lalit Kala and ‘Gallery Espace’, curated by the famed artist Jogen Chowdhury. As a refreshing and welcome change, all the paintings had one thing in common —- an attempt to break free from the traditional and oft-repeated world of Bengal art. Though they still retained the purity of the past that helped them explore a new world of art.. While the works of Kingshuk Sarkar showed a sharp resemblance with Picasso’s figurative, Joydeep Sen Gupta’s works are an attempt at juxtaposing myth with reality to “bridge the gap between tradition and modernity,” as this promising artist puts it. There are others like Mithu sen and Mahula Ghosh, whose works show an attempt to capture the present world in its unbound beauty especially in a meditative form of art—the abstract. Thus, it was the ever-craving, restless minds of the artists and their journey to a never-ending search for aesthetics that sent feelers throughout the Capital this week.



A beautiful dream that remains a mirage

The world in dreams always swims in a rosy mist. It remains a happy hunting-ground till one confronts the reality. A man till he really discovers himself, labours under the delusion of being the best in the world. An anonymous writer rightly says about this social animal: a man has three characters—the first that he exhibits, the second that he has and the third that he thinks he has. All these characters and a lot more were successfully derived out in ‘Swapan Sundaram’, a satirical play, conceived and directed by a promising budding director, Uday Singh Baghail at the LTG Auditorium recently.

The play revolves around an educated but unemployed poor man, who comes to a metropolitan city from a remote village in search of his dream. The quest throws him on a pathway, fine enough to sustain his dream better. It is a huge, air-conditioned footpath, a place equal to a palace in his village! And then he gets trapped by adverse circumstances, yet foster his fantasy of becoming an affluent yet a compassionate being. He does not want to view the world with a critical attitude. He also hopes of transforming this ‘hellish world’ into a heaven —with his compassion and riches. At last, the day of the fulfilment of his dreams dawns in the form of a ‘Mahashakti’— who makes him travel down to his four previous birth where he sees himself as a Mogul, a brahmin, a hangman and a shudra. Regretting the misdeeds in his earlier births, he becomes all the more desirous of living a generous life provided he had money. The Mahashakti promises him the wealth and disappears.

He gets a bagful of money next morning, which he unknowingly throws on the ground. The greed of collecting glittering coins makes him sweep them fast into a bag. In the process, his ideology of living as a noble human being undergoes a drastic change. He is in a tearing hurry to run away with the bagful of money but a beggar stops him, pleads for some alms. This man, proud man, consumed with hatred, shouts at him, “chal hut, bhikari kahin ka…” The beggar falls and so do the curtains making the audience realise (through a voice over) why this world is not as beautiful as one’s dreams!

A simple philosophy of life conveyed through hilarious comedy, pricking dialogues and an apt backdrop of a footpath. The audience broke into peels of laughter during the conversation between man and the Mahashakti. Madhavendra in the role of Daulat Ram, the protagonist, passed muster so did Shakir Vasi, the Mahashkati and the backstage voice by Ramakant Rai made the play all the more impressive. It is a welcome change from the usual and oft-repeated plays these days. The audience made their way to exit, repeating Kau Kala Kashi, pet words that the Mahashakti spoke to announce the approach of his three powers.

Rana A Siddiqui



This dancer does a Sudha Chandran

Remember Sudha Chandran? The lady with magical feet. The famous dancer of ‘Naache Mayuri’, whose classical dance broke records. Admirable all the more, for one of her feet is artificial. She is now playing a vampish mom in the serial ‘Kahin Kisi Roz’. After Sudha performed on stage, many aspiring dancers, especially the physically challenged, might have tried to step in her shoes. But all cannot become a Sudha. And not all have the same degree of disability. It’s been long since any other dancer performed with false feet or rather taught those with learning disabilities. But Prity Patel did it last week. Many know her as an accomplished dancer and a choreographer from Manipur. For several years, she has been working tirelessly on Indian classical dance forms with therapeutic relevance, especially for the physically challenged persons. She is now committed to teaching Manipuri dance with expressive therapies. Recently, she gave a heart-rending performance at India’s United States Educational Foundation. Indeed, she gave a ray of hope to those she danced for.


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