|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, February 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
An officer with a flair for painting
Bravo, women of Maharashtra!
An officer with a flair for
Mr Gurcharan Dhaliwal, programme co-ordinator of the Rajasthan Canadian Cultural Organisation, visited India recently to present "Honesty Award" to Kiran Soni Gupta as she expressed her inability to go to Canada on the invitation of the society because of deep passion for development projects assigned to her as District Collector at Sriganganagar. Since the partition of the country, a woman had for the first time been posted as Collector in the strategically important Sriganganagar district having an international boundary of about 200 km with Pakistan. Before the fencing of the border, the area was considered to be a paradise for smugglers and militants. A majority of the dreaded militants had confessed to the Punjab Police that they had been crossing the border in this very district for carrying out operations in Punjab. A comprehensive survey conducted by the Canada-based organisation found her fit for the award, keeping in view her hard work, integrity and commitment to development and social work, Mr Dhaliwal said.
Kiran was a student of class V in Sacred Heart Convent School, Ludhiana, when she received three prizes from the chief guest, the Divisional Commissioner, and asked her father, Mr H.L. Soni, a senior advocate, and mother Nirmala how one could become a Commissioner. The same day she decided to qualify for the Indian Administrative Services at the appropriate time. Her parents instilled in her the best of values of life. Kiran graduated from the Government College for Women, Ludhiana, took her master’s degree in sociology from PAU and set a record of scoring 4/4 grade point average. She obtained her PhD degree from HAU, Hisar, and a degree in law from Delhi University. She was an ICAR fellow also.
She realised her potential and love for art in her school days. It is, however, through the brush and paint that her creativity and sensitivity find best illustration and expression. Despite having no formal training in art, she has produced a number of works in different art forms and styles. Her works very vividly reflect not only her conviction and clarity on issues relating to women, children, poverty, development and environment, but also her keen sense of observation, humility and, above all, an abounding faith in God and service to humanity and mankind. Ranging from sketching, pen and ink works, she has given new horizons to art forms, both traditional and modern. Fun with colours, experimentation and creativity, all combined, have given her work both depth and impact.
Since joining the IAS in 1985, different assignments provided her an opportunity to travel the country and abroad and also to stay amidst nature in flora and fauna as diverse as the rain-drenched tropical forests and beaches of Kerala and the scrub lands and deserts of Rajasthan. She has beautifully portrayed this in her fine landscapes in oil, stained glass, knife paintings, water colours, besides mixed media. The iconic influence of the spirituality and mythology of her surroundings is reflected in her Tanjore paintings. Her association with eminent artists led her to some of her best etchings, woodcuts, linocuts, lithographies and calligraphies. Her interest in art was also shared by Mr Madhukar Gupta, a colleague, whom she married. Marriage changed her cadre from Kerala to Rajasthan, Mr Gupta too is posted as District Collector in Rajasthan now. However, to keep her originality, she prefers to be addressed as Kiran Soni Gupta instead of Mrs Gupta. Even when she received the phone call at her Jaipur residence that her next assignment was of District Collector at Sriganganagar, she was busy with knife painting. Since that day, she had not been able to do justice to her hobbies as the present assignment was more challenging. She finds barely half an hour for getting ready in the morning, but is very punctual about meditation and introspection, besides taking care of her school-going daughter and son. She has not been able to continue writing articles on various issues for national dailies. Rarely does she spend less than 12 hours in her office on any week day.
Kiran wants people to be more cooperative. The government should be redefined, she says, adding that the role of the government should be of a leader and facilitator. People need to be educated; they should be given creativity, People expect too much. To come up to that, officers should develop a habit of visiting villages regularly, besides urban localities, to get a feedback at the grassroots level. The system is there; if sarpanches, panches and councillors work as the watchdog, rising above petty political differences, it will be easy to check the lapses, she opines. social auditing is the need of the hour. The government should be lean and thin. Each one of us should understand that life is like a blank cheque, how much and when you have to encash it — this matters. Everyone gets an opportunity in his/her life; was must develop a sense for appropriately using the same, she asserts.
Zakir Hussain still going strong
Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain has enthralled audiences around the world for the past three decades with his performances packed with ingenuity and vivacity which can only be associated with "the ustaad" who has been nominated yet again for this year’s Grammy.
"Remembering Shakti" by his group "Shakti", is in the reckoning for the coveted award confirming that the formidable 44-year-old is still going strong.
From being the greatest exponent of classical tabla of his time, experimenting with fusion, western music, working with diverse artistes such as George Harrison, Micky Hart, Joe Henderson, to composing music or acting in movies, he has done it all.
But for the thousands of his fans inside and outside the country, it is the magic which his fingers unfurl when they strike the percussion, that makes him a class apart. And perhaps "the ustaad" agrees when he says I think am a better tabla player. Though I have never campaigned or tried to promote myself an actor, I do act when I am offered something and when I have time.
"But I am better behind a tabla where it is safer," says Hussain who gave his first international performance at the age of 12.
Son of the legendary Ustad Alla Rakha, Hussain became the youngest percussionist to be awarded the Padma Shri in 1988 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991.
Together the father-son duo are given the credit of taking tabla out of the shadows of being an accompanist instrument. Expressing optimism at the future of the artform in the country, Hussain says, "A lot of encouragement is being given to youngsters and a new crop of artistes is coming up and will definitely make name for themselves in future."
Refuting the claim that the new breed of tabla players are not being able to make a mark in the field, Hussain says it is unfair to expect new artistes to get the same recognition and attention as soon as they enter the field.
"For 22 years, even we had to travel in third class compartment in trains, sleep on newspapers. It is only now that after you have watched me for so many years, you know of my ability, that I have been able to receive this kind of attention and recognition," says Hussain.
"It take times as artistes have to work through the rankings and then reach a stage.
"For some there is promotion, but that too can only hold for a while. Ultimately the artiste has to perform and it is only his skill and perfection which can sustain him," he says on the upcoming artistes who are being backed by their parents in making a place in the field.
Though originally from the Punjab Gharana, Hussain is known for picking up liberally from other schools of music be it the Lucknow, Benaras or any other which appeals to him.
"It is not something new," says Hussain. "During the ages, music exponents do take inputs from other gharanas if they find it appealing and ustaads are even recalled with reverence for doing so."
"Those musicians were simple people with no such hassles or restrictions," he adds.
"We perform whatever the audience likes and demands," says Hussain, whose album Planet Drum with Mickey Hart was awarded a Grammy for the Best Music World album in 1992.
You don’t need any proof to understand Hussain’s passion for tabla and music. And it is this "fanatic" love which forces him to retort candidly when questioned on the criticism of the "commercialisation" of art.
"It is not the exploitation of art, but aggressive marketing. But my ultimate aim is that the artform should be heard.. It should survive... And if somebody doesn’t like it, it is their problem," he says. PTI
There were three top women politicians slugging it out in Uttar Pradesh alone and a very powerful one in Tamil Nadu. There are women stars making speeches in support of candidates. There are women spokespersons and commentators on the TV screens. Women are covering wars and elections. One would think that the world belongs to women. But a very important seminar held recently in Delhi brought to light the conditions under which women work in the media. For years, as a cinema columnist I have asked why women stars do not object to the exploitation of their bodies on the screen and agree to do so-called film "dances" which are nothing but ugly athletics with blatant sexual suggestions. Not even our top stars, some of whom have been and are MPs, seem to protest about the exploitation of women on big screens, and now small screens and the fact that they are paid fees which have no comparison with what men stars are paid. One does not even hear a murmur about, although, if 10 top courageous women stars went on strike, they could bring the cinema industry to a standstill.
However, the worm does occasionally turn and I was delighted to see a small news item in the journal of the National Commission for Women and all the more so because this form of protest is from the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, and Maharashtra, and Mumbai in particular, have long been the strongholds of both cinema and television in India. I make no apologies for quoting the item in full.
"The Maharashtra State Commission for Women has instituted the ‘Duryodhan Award’ for bad films and advertisements and the ‘Rakshasha Award’ for films propagating violence. The awards will be given out for the first time on March 8,2002. The portrayal of women in poor light, proragation of customs like dowry which are derogatory to women, eulogising patriarchal values, promoting gender insensitivity and eve-teasing, unnecessary rape scenes and comodification of women’s bodies will be qualifying factors for films, tele-serials and advertisements to win the trophy. The idea of giving awards to producers of objectionable films, advertisements and teleserials was conceived at a workshop on the Portrayal of Women in Media organised by the Commission earlier this year". This sort of booby prize was long overdue and I am sure the controversy about India’s highest rated serial on Star TV featuring a pre-natal test to determine the sex of the unborn child, will be one of the contestants. Bravo, women of Maharashtra.
In a week when BBC’s Mastermind India is projecting its third volume of questions and answers on TV, I was appalled to find a very serious factual mistake getting by in the programme telecast the week before. A contestant who was asked which was the first colour film by Satyajit Ray replied "Ashani Sanket", which Siddharta Basu accepted and gave full marks for. Satyajit Ray’s first colour film was quite definitely "Kanchenjunga" and if the nearest contestant suffered as a result there should be some method of correcting such mistakes, which are admittedly rare but have occurred before and are none the less serious in such a prestigious programme.
I have now watched three episodes of "Commando" by the Alva brothers on the BBC and found the last episode, with a fake commando attack on a tank, preceded by some tracking through the jungle and bad roads quite interesting. As far as the gruelling training is concerned, I find Nana Patekar did not do a bad job, of course, with the cooperation from our armed forces, in his feature film "Prahaar". But then, fact is stranger than fiction and one is glad, "Commando" combines the rigours of training with human interest in the characters of young trainees and avoids the gruesome close-ups and monotony of doctors and cases in hospital.
The periodic elections which are covered so meticulously by all our channels become all the more depressing when all that is discussed are caste wars, violence, criminals fighting elections and the egos of the netas who hold forth in interviews. One looks in vain for the real issues of poverty, electricity for small industries and big ones like the Varanasi textile industry, pure drinking water, education, better roads and the real basics of everyday life which are not referred to by the netas and film stars but by the real sufferers, the voters who also periodically mourn the unfulfilled promises and their age-old problems. That is when the field reporters of various channels do their best to highlight the voices of the angry and disillusioned voters. But then, do netas watch such programmes, let alone act on them? Unlikely.