Friday, May 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


Sedition charges framed against Okhla Councillor
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
Charges of sedition and causing communal disharmony were today framed against the controversial MCD Councillor from Okhla, Asif Mohammad Khan, by a Delhi court.

The police had chargesheeted the councillor, who won the civic polls from behind the bars, for allegedly pasting and circulating posters to create enmity between Christians and Muslims after the September 11 attack in the US.

Additional Sessions Judge C. K. Chaturvedi charged the accused on three counts, ranging from sedition and inciting communal enmity to defacing public property by pasting the posters of Saudi-born terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden.

Khan pleaded not guilty to the charges and accepted to face the trial. While framing the charges against the councillor, the court said the accused attempted to excite contempt, hatred and disaffection towards the Government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee.

An attempt was also made to promote feeling of enmity between Islam and Christianity, which was likely to disturb public tranquility, it said, adding the accused also defaced public property by getting the posters pasted in Okhla area.

Khan was arrested on September 28 and since then he is in judicial custody. 


Young art frat show love for tradition and spirituality
Rana A Siddiqui

Shivani: Up-and-coming
Shivani: Up-and-coming

Rashmi Rai going places.
Rashmi Rai going places.

This time it is the young art fraternity whose works are drawing attention in the Capital. Interestingly, most of them are first-timers, who are not full-fledged artists. They pursue different professions simultaneously. This band of young painters may not be very definite about what actually they want to paint, but their works have one thing in common — the love for tradition and class and even the spirituality that the elderly might have been missing in present generationss’ rush for a hurried art. The example can be witnessed at Lalit Kala Gallery, where a group show of young artists is showing.

In ‘Pradarshan’, a group exhibition here, you will find a first-timer Shivani, who is a young painter of 23, and also a fashion designer. She uses POP, a kind of soil to delineate her “feeling that all human beings are composed of ‘panchbhoota’ – the five element (fire, air, water, soil, sky..)

She portrays ‘Om’. She places the word at the sanctum sanctorum amid chaotic thoughts that she makes out of the soil, coloring it dark black, gold and brown – all seem to be protruding out of canvas.

Her landscape, a painting titled ‘Loneliness’ and others are traditional in nature and serene in temperament – a quality mostly missing these days.

While Santras, who is professionally an architect and interior designer, is more drawn towards painting figurative because he believes in “realistic works, which human beings can relate themselves to”.

Santras’ works have one specialty: he paints kites of vibrant shades against dull faces of human beings, especially women. Interestingly, his women are not beautiful. “I paint ordinary woman, just next door – too busy with the chores of life to take care of herself. And the kites they stare at are a symbolic of various colourful aspects of life they tend to ignore being busy with the business of life,,” informs this young ‘Best Furniture Designer Award’ winner at JD Annual Awards 2000.

Mughal art.Here you also have Jenson and Nina Kakra. For a layman, Jenson’s abstract painting, only in two basic colours of black and white, would mean just a wild brush being slid over a canvas and even nothing. But for him, it is a way-out from monotonous figurative where I would get struck with an image. I used to play with colours a lot. But now I don’t want to complicate my paintings with too many of them. Hence, colour palette is minimalist. “My paintings don’t say anything. It makes you feel – the beauty of movement that is automatic, not forced. It leaves you with a spiritual feeling,,” explains this young artist from Chennai, who has various exhibitions to his credit as also fellowship from the Ministry of Human Resources and Development in 1998.

While Nina, another young artist’s paintings are revolutionary – in ink, paper and pen. She sketches women against the backdrop of newspaper headlines, bloodshed and rampant chaos that brings you closer to the real life and drives away from the flights of fantasy.

In the same gallery you will find Rashmi Rai, a postgraduate in Business Administration, whose exhibition of Mughal art, stained glass and relief work is showing here. ‘First Light’ as the title of her exhibition goes, also displays a blend of folk and modern art on canvas. “I have used a variety of mediums to show the rich cultural heritage of our country,” she explains the reason for fusion. Her Mughal art consists of traditional jewellery designs on marble with coloured glass stones.

The designs vary from a pair of peacock to the musical instruments in a limited though carefully chosen coloured gems. Her stained glass has various scenes from the Indian rural life. “If we look at the rural lives of our country, there is so much to pick up and show to the world. I am sure nothing can be more beautiful in the world than our traditional world of art.

Its rich legacy has inspired me to work on novelties, including traditional gift items on zardozi, which I plan to come out very soon,” says this 29-year-old first-timer, who gave up her plum job in an MNC for her love of art. The exhibitions are on till May 6.


Artists join hands for Gujarat cause

In God we trust,” says the painter Mohd Shakil while another artist Josh P S dedicates his work to the “silence of people, who became fading numerals in the historical documents under the name of holocaust.” While Nina Nakra can feel “benign souls sunk in peace.” But we see Saba Hasan most rebelling, as she serves her “menu for the comatose: Bodies served here at cut throat prices carefully cleansed as per Newton’s Law and the Butcher’s Rule: Shot down. Lynched, strangled, raped, carved, roasted, electrocuted and hacked. She puts a note down… all dishes with lies, corruption, stupidity and greed as extras….

These are all anguished, sensitive painters, touched by the massacre in Ahmadabad. Together, they have joined hands to put an exhibition of their works along with many others in aid of Gujarat. At Gallery Freedom, Qutub Institutional Area, their group exhibition with self-composed poems titled ‘Ode to the Dead’ is showing till May 12. A visit is recommended.

Rana A Siddiqui


An actor turns director with a brave subject

Raja Bundela in action while directing his play.
Raja Bundela in action while directing his play.

Aashney Saraf: Steals the show
Aashney Saraf: Steals the show.

Does the name Raja Bundela remind you of anything? Maybe, a smiling face in a few TV serials and some small though strong role in films like Ankur, Vijayata, Shola aur Shabnam etc? The actor has now hit the big screen with a brave subject: religious leader and their exploitation of the gullible masses, especially in villages and how the political leaders and local goons use the religion to their personal benefit.

His small budget debut film ‘Pratha’ as producer and director, is due to release soon. The film made with most NSD students and freshers, revolves around a simple girl from a village, namely Leela, who marries Deepak, an educated son of the village pradhan, who comes here to marry her. But as he goes back to college to resume his studies after his marriage, his wife, an orphan being looked after by her maternal uncle is being sold to village Sarpanch to pay debt.

Her younger brother, an eyewitness narrates the story to Deepak, says that her sister has transformed into Goddess. Dumbstruck, Deepak rushes to the village only to find that she is being revered as the reincarnation of Goddess Choksa Ma (Godess Durga) in the entire village, who only gives a short ‘darshan’ to her devotees in the evening. She refuses to recognise her husband and brother. Deepak goes to the temple priest ‘Ninni Pandey’ (who is actually a dacoit and murderer turned a sadhu, killing the main priest of the temple) and expresses his wish to meet her in person but he is scared away by his henchmen.

Deepak smells the rat and tries to know the truth. Somehow he manages to rescue his wife, who tells her that she was being forced to drink opium to make her perform as ‘devi’. The sarapanch she is sold to, tries to molest her when she picks up Goddess’ Trishool and warns that she would kill him. Witnessing this Ninni Pandey starts screaming ‘Jai Ma Choksa’ and declares that the Goddess has reincarnated herself in Leela. In order to save her dignity, she keeps enacting as one.

The gullible villagers offer jewels etc to this devi, which is being collected by the priest and his associates. But the girl is caught again and sent back to the temple where Ninni Pandey attempts sexual assaults on her.

A local leader also comes into the picture, who tries to take the advantage of the superstition of the people. He gets crores of rupees sanctioned from the government to convert the temple into a pilgrimage and also erect hotels and resorts for his own benefit. The boy with the help of a responsible police officer tries to unveil everything but finds there is an entire racket involving police officials, politicians and respectable people of the village working arms in arms to draw benefit out of the superstition of the people.

The girl, now pregnant, is forced to take samadhi so that no one gets to know the truth of the temple. But the girl, taking one of Ninni’s associates in confidence, exposes the racket before the entire village. But in return, Ninni Maharaj, shoots her with her husband. But he also, along with his accomplice is beaten to death by the angry villagers.

Based on a true story of Bundelkhund, a district in northern UP, the film honestly tried to put the things as they were originally though the treatment meted to it is too dramatic and unrealistic by the end of the film. That even the local media plays a vital role in spreading superstition, is put across rightly.

The director tells you, “I belong to the area where it happened sometime back. But the villagers were always tightlipped about it. But after much wandering, when I met the girl’s brother. He narrated me the entire story that became the basis of my film.”

He agrees that his film is partly fact and fiction, as it was not a documentary but a feature film. “Both the girl and her husband had vanished from the village. I believe, the village priest must have murdered them. But in the film, I wanted to show the girl brave enough to expose the corrupt religious order that fools the gullible people for their own benefit. I want that the simple and innocent people should know that they are being cheated in the name of religion everywhere. Tell me what is happening at Vrindavan and Chitrakoot? “Maine apna sab kuch daanv par laga kar ye film banayi hai aur main bilkul sharminda nahin hoon ki maine dharam ke thekedaron ko expose kiya hai,” he says with a triumphant smile.

As for the star cast, Bundela tell you that he never wanted an ‘Amitabh-size’ overwhelming personality, who does not look like a poor, innocent villager, so he chose NSD graduate Deepak Tondon to do the role. (Deepak was seen in Mansoon wedding as tent wala, Tarmizuddin also). The heroine, Aashney Saraf, an American returned girl had no background of acting. (But she managed to steal the show from her counterpart Deepak). Bundela has brought in a Guru Dutt lookalike Rohitash Gaur (as SP in the film), Vicky Ahuja (as policeman) and Irfan as Ninni Pandey, who can be enumerated amongst best performers in the film.

The film’s asset is its music and background score by a debutant-duo Pallav Pandye and Amodh Bhatt. Though too stretched and dramatic by the end, it exposes the nexus between religious heads, politicians administration and police successfully.

Rana A Siddiqui

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