Friday, April 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


A painter who worships nature in various moods
Rana A Siddiqui

Punam Gupta
Punam Gupta in love with natural beauty. 

She is a first-timer, yet she belies the stage. She is a sensitive painter, yet she does not use many colours. She is an accomplished flute player, yet few people know about it.

She is a progeny of a well-known painter, singer, writer and a top government official in Punjab, yet she never attempted to influence people. She knew her work would speak for itself. She is Punam Gupta, a Chandigarh-based, skillful painter of 44 summers, whose paintings and collages were recently exhibited at the India Habitat Centre.

Daughter of Santosh Manchanda, a painter of national fame, Punam studied painting at the Triveni Kala Sangam. However, she is largely self-taught. Her love for nature is clearly evident in her paintings and collages that liberally portray birds from the hilly regions.

The remarkable specialty in Punam’s work is the use of very few colours and yet create a subtle, definite and lucid impact. Take for example, her collages made from torn pieces of coloured papers, pasted at apt locations to effectuate a flying bird or a dolphin.

Her paintings also represent her passion for scenic beauty.

“Earlier, I use to paint landscapes and nature but the real beauty in my paintings was imbibed only when I saw the astonishing scenic beauty of the hills after I moved to Simla, following my marriage,” recalls Punam.

Here she captured lakes, dusk and dawn, blue moon, forest fall, storm clouds and sun colours and a lot more on oil, collages and water colours.

For Punam, who started painting at the tender age of three, this was her first solo show, though she had participated in a group exhibition at Simla.

Punam has also made portraits and sketches of various national leaders including the late Indira Gandhi. An illustrator and creative writer, Punam is now an inspiration for her two daughters, Diya and Damini, aged seven and ten. A family of artists in the making, perhaps.

Art awards

Camlin Ltd., a pioneer in stationery and art materials in India, recently presented its 2nd Northern Region Art Exhibition Awards for different art media among professionals and students at the Lalit Kala Akademi.

The awards, presented by the eminent artist, Krishen Khanna, included 4 winners each in the professional and student category.

While winners in the professional category received Rs 25, 000 each, students got Rs 5,000 along with art materials of the same worth. All winners now qualify for the national selection to the ‘Europe Art Tour’, a coveted scholarship by Camlin that covers visits to the famous art galleries, libraries and art schools in Paris, London and Amsterdam.

Here, they will get an opportunity to view and study original paintings of veteran and contemporary art masters.

The exhibition and sale of the winners’ creations are on view at the Lalit Kala Akademi till 20th April.

Moreover, the Indian Council for Child Welfare announced its awards for National Painting Competition, 2001 for 25 children.

These child artists were given topics like picnic, circus, house, friend, cartoons and caricatures, Gujarat earthquake, bazaar scene, etc to test their imagination.

The competition was conducted at the state level in the various age groups of 5 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 16. There were two categories for the mentally challenged children between the age groups of 5 and 10 as well as 11 and 18.

The awardees will receive a silver medal, certificate and cash prize as well as financial assistance to complete their schooling up to class XII under the scholarship programme of the council.

Souza passes away

F N Souza, the eminent painter known for his bold, unabashed style of painting, died at the age of 78 in Mumbai on March 28, 2002. He leaves behind three daughters and two sons.

The founder of Progressive Art Group, Mumbai ( 1974), and a recipient of the coveted Kalidas Samman ( 1998-99), Souza’s work were well received amongst connoisseurs for their lucidity, honesty and daring attitude.

Film on brides

A shot from the documentary ‘Brides of Hyderabad’.

Spare half an hour this Sunday (April 21, 2002), to watch the documentary by K.N.T. Sastry on ‘Brides of Hyderabad’. The documentary, tracing the sale of young girls by their poor parents as brides to the aged Arabs visiting India, will be aired on DD1 at 10.30 pm. The documentary traces the stories of three women, sold in marriage and then abandoned. It contrasts their stories with that of Ameena, an adolescent bride, rescued by an airhostess several years ago.



Songs sound like jingles today: Jagjit

“Forget me not,” says Jagjit Singh, the singer with a mellifluous voice, in his recently released album. In a glittering function recently held at the Crown Plaza Surya, Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. released the latest album of Jagjit Singh, appropriately titled “Forget Me Not”.

The album is a tribute to the veteran poet, the late Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi ‘Sahar’, whose creations constitute eight ghazals in the album.

Ghanshayam, a singer, music director and Jagjit Singh’s disciple, has composed the music for the album. Singer Chitra Singh, Jagjit’s wife, was also present on the occasion.

In a nostalgic mood, when a few couplets from Mohinder Singh Bedi’s famous poems were read out, tears rolled down his daughter’s cheeks. In a lighter vein, Jagjit Singh tried to calm the atmosphere by recalling a humorous couplet on the Sardar community from the late poet’s diary:

Ashaar mere sunkar kuch rukh se gaye hain, Jaane jo lage the muje sardar dekh kar

On this occasion, Super Cassettes also announced two awards, Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi Award for the talented, up-and-coming poet and Jagjit Singh Award for budding ghazal singer.

While Chitra Singh refused to talk to the media, Jagjit Singh spared some time to interact with the media. Excerpts from the interview with the ghazal maestro on the occasion:

Why was the title of the cassette kept in English (Forget Me Not) when it could have been given an appropriate Urdu or Hindi title?

‘Forget me not’ is a beautiful lilac flower grown in the hills. This flower is so beautiful that no one can escape its charm. Appropriately, the title of the cassette is a reminder to poetry lovers, not to forget Bedi Saheb’s splendid poetic creations. Moreover, an English title has a universal appeal.

What is the USP of this album?

I think it is Bedi Saheb’s close to life poetry and Ghanshyam’s music. It has ghazals pertaining to all moods—love, sorrow, surprise, ego and a lot more..

What are the vital points you consider while choosing to sing a ghazal?

The language of the ghazal should be simple as well as decent. It should be close to life. The masses should be able to identify themselves with the same. It should have few important factors: a continuous flow of thought process, containing shades of emotions to touch the heart, surprise factor, philosophical or satirical elements and also musical value.

You have also sung a few Punjabi numbers like ‘kurti malmal di’. Why aren’t you singing such numbers now?

‘Kurti malmal di’, was just an item presented at a live concert. Singing such songs is not my forte. I like to sing something that people from all walks of life listen to with rapt attention and not dance on it. Moreover, if I sing Punjabi numbers, my audience would be limited and my reputation will be that of a Punjabi singer only. In any case, there are lots of Punjabi mundas to give you bhangra numbers.

Are you coming back with Chitraji ?

We were always together.

I am talking about an album together….

Not on the cards…We will, whenever the time comes.

Ghazal singing has become a fad now. What is your view?

That is why, the standard of singing has also declined. Songs sound like jingles. Singers don’t want to work hard. The tradition to learn classical music is passe. Earlier, a singer had to undergo a tough audition at the All India Radio. According to their merit, they would be labelled as A, B or C artistes. They would draw respect from all walks of life. There used to be a committee of learned people to approve poetry. Is there any such committee anywhere now which keeps the decency of the verse in mind?

Who is to be blamed for this state of affairs?

Media, primarily electronic media, that creates a star overnight. Also, our social system which is fast getting enveloped by the western culture. Our education system also has great loopholes. Have you seen any syllabus teaching Guru Nanak, Surdas or Kabir in true spirits? From where will our children learn `sanskars’?

If you talk of music companies, they will sell anything that is given to them. Few recording companies have any literary background to decide on the merit of an album. Whose responsibility is it to see what is given to them? It is not necessary to stoop to a base level just for commercial purpose.

But, the singers also compromise on the merit of songs?

Many times, I have refused to sing songs having no literary value.

How does a video album of a cassette help the singer?

It helps the sale of the product by a good margin. Earlier, if one lakh cassettes of a ghazal singer was sold in a month, he would feel great. Now, on the day of the release itself, Super Cassettes has launched 2,50,000 cassettes. Now, can you see the difference? It helps both the singer gain popularity and the music company make profit.

What made you sing for the Prime Minister’s ‘Meri ikyavan kavitayain?’

Not for the man himself but for the poetic caliber in him. I did not sing for the Prime Minister, I sang for the social and satiric elements his poems contain.

Earlier, you mostly composed your own music…

New talents must be given a chance. If we don’t do that, who will?

Are you composing music for any film?

I am composing music for a film called ‘Leela.’ It is a serious film. I don’t remember its star cast.

Rana A Siddiqui


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