Frozen moments
Nonika Singh

When a nephew decides to bring out a book on his aunt, he is likely to face the dilemma — how much of the private should come into public domain? And when the nephew in question happens to be India's leading conceptual artist Vivan Sundaram and the aunt none other than the legendary Amrita Sher-Gil, the artist who stirred (and continues to do so) people's imagination like none before, the book is bound to be an extraordinary endeavour.

Little wonder then, the book Amrita Sher-Gil: A self portrait in letters and writings', edited and annotated by Vivan Sundaram is already being hailed as a work of art. Released by eminent art historian Dr BN Goswamy on Friday evening at a function organised by Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi at Government Museum auditorium Sector 10, as Vivan also provided glimpses of his labour of love (besides his exhibitions on the Sher-gil family) in a lecture-cum-slide show, few would have disagreed with its artistic and archival value.

Brimming with Amrita's letters, reference points emanating from her correspondence and artworks, it is without doubt past reconstructed where the boundaries between the personal, social and political get interpolated. The nibbling queries — Am I exploiting the situation? Is it a personal indulgence? — were sorted out when he decided to give the full picture of Amrita with provocative moments intact.

Yet Amrita, the persona that has often clouded her superlative work, he thinks has been demystified in the final analysis. The book that records her dialogue with art critic Karl Khandalwala, her admiration for artist Jaimini Roy as well as her lament over the art scene does position her as an artist. Providing multiple entry points to readers, the book is likely to be of keen interest to both scholars and the layman.

Though Amrita was Vivan's mother Indira's sister, Vivan who was born after her death expectedly doesn't relate to her as an aunt. As an artist, however, he admires her painting skill and constant quest to seek knowledge and question things. Besides, he who has been defying conventional mediums and exploring new areas of expression via his installations does admit that he shares her everlasting desire to change.

Thus this alumnus of MS University, Baroda and Slade School, London, who stopped painting some two decades ago, says, "It is not whether the canvas tempts me or not. I am so preoccupied with other mediums like found objects, video, digital photography that I have little time to paint."

Is working with found objects as exciting? He nods and takes immense pride in the fact that he doesn't take but "makes" photographs. One of the first artists to bring digital into photography, the trigger to construct photographs came from the pictures taken by his grandfather Umrao Singh Sher-Gil whom he rates as a pioneer of modern photography, a view now endorsed by others.

Post Babri Masjid demolition and Mumbai riots he took a photojournalist's photograph, reprinted it in various sizes and presto, and created a seminal work that was quickly accepted as a genuine installation. Critiquing the idea of singular authorship, he came about a work created out of photographs of several lensmen like Ram Rahman and others. Changing notions of what art is, he agrees that few in India understand conceptual art for there is so little happening and even less being supported by institutions and museums. Conceptual art, he puts it, simply is one where the idea takes precedence over visual and requires zero skill. "The skill," he insists, "lies in re-interpretation of the material to make it a contemporary experience."

In the West, he feels, conceptual artists are privileged ones for as against painters there is a great curiosity about other mediums. On ideas often becoming bizarre, he says, "Well there will always be some art pushing the boundaries and may not be acceptable at that point of time."

In fact, as he goes about creating works out of bottles, shoe soles etc he is constantly redefining art. While in his last show 'Trash' he used throwaway objects, in future he is toying with creating what he calls "carrying and wearing sculptures".

Does he think his book on Amrita, which he has illumined with animated annotations, too is an installation of sorts? He smiles, "That would be taking things too far. Let us call it archive represented." Sher-Gil archive, he has created by way of an exhibition too.

The tempestuous Sher-Gil legacy, he shares, has not been difficult to carry. Yes it does determine his body of work as also his attitude, loads of which along with awesome talent he has inherited from both a scholarly grandfather and a celebrated aunt.

A long wait

The city beautiful is still looking for the coveted place it deserves on UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage List’

Capitol Complex, Chandigarh. Photo: Vinay Malik

On the occasion of 'World Heritage Day' today, one wonders when Le Corbusier's Chandigarh, a marvel of urban architecture in synchronisation with nature, finds a place in the coveted 'heritage' list of UNESCO.

A list that includes the likes of Paris, on the banks of river Seine; Cairo, with its famous mosques, madrasas and fountains, and Ibiza, with its unique cultural and historical legacy.

Paris on river Siene

"Chandigarh is a marvel of modern architecture and a strong contender for inclusion in the world heritage list.

On the recommendation of Government of India, a dossier is being prepared, which will be submitted by this year end," says VN Singh, nodal officer, Le Corbusier Centre-19.

Designed by famous architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is one of the very first cities to be created on a raw piece of land and is an epitome of urban planning.

Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, Egypt

"A completely realised project of Le Corbusier, Chandigarh definitely has to be on UNESCO's list of world heritage cities," says Sangeeta Bagga, who's PhD thesis "The Significance of Chandigarh as an Architectural Heritage City of Modernity" is a study of three heritage cities - Tel Aviv, Le Havre and Brasilia. "Chandigarh has much more to offer than any of these cities, which are in the list," she says.

"Capitol Complex, low-height buildings that provide a view of the hills from every terrace top, its gardens — there are hundreds of points that go in favour of the city beautiful. There is no match to the way Corbusier has designed the buildings here, which make optimum use of sunlight and air. These are superb examples of sustainable architecture," says Pradeep Bhagat, principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture.

Ibiza, Spain
Ibiza, Spain

But then, with heritage status comes a lot of responsibility. Avers Bagga, "It's easier to get that status, but difficult to maintain it. Once the city is on the heritage list, we need to gear up in terms of legislation, management, planning and accommodating tourists. If not maintained UNESCO's can delist us."

"The administration is already maintaining the city well. Once we get the heritage status, we need to stick to the master plan as visualised by Corbusier, and the city administration is more than willing to do that," says VN Singh.

"The heritage status will help in maintaining the city better," offers Bhagat. "The idea is not to turn it in to a museum, but conserve the rich heritage," he signs off.

Class apart
Ashima Sehajpal

Director Jag Mundhra was in the city with Rohit Roy and Jennifer Mayani to promote his upcoming flick Apartment

Do we still need a confirmation on how big brand Bollywood is in the West? One need not census the audience or count the box-office collection there, "The mere fact that Warner Bros. Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Media Studios are investing in Bollywood films says everything," comes from Jag Mundhra, a director.

And there's no scope of his being subjective, considering the fact that he has 36 movies to his credit, including the international projects, Provoked, Backwaters, Bawander—the Sand Storm still when before a certain shot, Rohit Roy, playing the male lead, advises him to shoot another one before it, he welcomes the suggestion.

"I have done enough work in the industry to feel insecure. If the suggestion from the actor is worth it, I put it into practice," just as he did while he was shooting for the film, Apartment, to promote which he was in the city on Saturday, along with Rohit Roy and Jennifer Mayani, who has done an item number in the movie.

Like the majority of his projects, Apartment, is also based on a real issue, "Issue of people from small towns struggling to pay rent in big cities. They then begin to put up with people they have no clue about."

Rohit Roy has been in the city since the past 20 days. Why? A fact he doesn't want to reveal. But he has something to say about the flick for sure, "Despite the story revolving around two women, I had a substantial role to play and enough screen presence."

The 'real' subject was chosen for the 'reel' after a reality check. "I used to hold meetings with the cast and crew of my films in cafe. There, people from different backgrounds, regions and strata approached each other and wanted to share their apartments to cut down on the rent," says Mundhra.

The storyline of the movie is based on how a small-town girl, played by Neetu Chandra, begins to share an apartment with Tanushree Dutta, who plays an air-hostess, and Rohit Roy an advertising agent, who are in a live-in relationship. Neetu's character is schizophrenic and she begins to infringe in their personal space. The movie will release this Friday.

Jag Mundhra.
Jag Mundhra.
Photos: Parvesh Chauhan

Known for making women-centric movies, Jag considers it a challenge in the male-dominated film industry, "Provoked, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, was a women-oriented film too. It's a hard task to pull an audience to the multiplexes in such cases, but at the end people do look for sensible cinema."

Since Apartment is about a woman encroaching upon the space of others, some steamy scenes are expected. Says Jag, "Sex sells, but only if it is an integral part of the script. As long as you can justify it, the audience will not object."

He accepts the fact that the film has some inferences from Single White Female, "Apartment is thematically identical, but the script is different."

And finally, who else would be able to define how different is the audience of the West from that of the East? "There, people do look out for logic in every movie. In India, entertainment forms the basis still." Thus, Mundhra's next project is a comedy, Naughty at 40, starring Govinda. And we expect it to be a thorough entertainer!

Relics from the past

An antique furniture exhibition has beautiful chests, tables, mirrors, cabinets and four-poster beds on offer

Photo: Parvesh Chauhan

A slice from India's rich past is on display at the antique furniture exhibition at Hotel Aroma-22. Ornate four-poster beds, chests, mirrors, sofas and tables procured from West Bengal, Gujarat, southern India; interiors from Haryana and Punjab find a place in this exhibition by Arvind Bhalla.

"We have turned antiques into things of everyday utility without tampering much with them, in a bid to retain the authenticity," says Arvind Bhalla, Sakshi Exports. So a 'jharokha' from an old 'haveli' of Rajasthan adorns a mirror, a huge door in brass and wood becomes a dining table top and an old doll's cabinet turns into a glass display dresser with lighting inside - all without diminishing the beauty of the antiques.

Carved 'jharokhas' have been turned into coffee tables with the glass tops that protect the antique pieces and yet bring out the exquisite work. The ornate frame of an old door turned into a bookshelf; wooden chests in Burmese teak, looking glass in wood with small boxes for cosmetics and accessories, marble top wooden tables - are few of the unique items on display.

"Our stuff is in wash finish, which helps retain the original character," offers Bhalla.

Interestingly, the furniture bears the stamp of their rich owners from the past in the form of names, which can be found in the ornate carvings.

The range starts from Rs 5,000 and goes up to lakhs.

(On till April 18)

Right notes
SD Sharma

Only a blessed few — like music maestro Kaivalaya Kumar Gurav — are ordained by the almighty to accomplish more than their contemporaries and rather enlighten them about the magical powers of music.

Hailed as the pride of Kirana Gharana, made famous by the likes of Pandit Bhim Sen Joshi and Mashqoor Ali Khan, Kaivalya Kumar is in the city for a classical vocal recital under the aegis of Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi and Indian National Theatre at the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan-27.

Born in Belgaum, Kaivalya secured his masters degree in music after being initiated into the art by his father, guru Pandit Sangmehwar. "But I am more of a self-taught artiste. A vigilant and inquisitive performer keeps learning throughout life. As for as music goes, the sky is the limit," he says.

Kaivalya holds the rare record of being the youngest vocalist in India to secure A-grade of AIR and Doordarshan and that too in the very first attempt, which virtually announced his arrival on the Indian music scene.

A proponent of 'guru-shishya' tradition, he runs a gurukul at Dharwad where 25 students learn classical music. "In fact, most of the gurus and musicians ignore scientific elements such as the importance of practising 'prayanam', which is vital in moulding the voice," he opines.

He adds that imparting perfect training in music, as per the code and conduct enshrined in the 'natyashastra', is indeed a Herculean task.

"During my 30 performances in the US in 2005, I have demonstrated the magic of our music. Next week, I am leaving for Boston for a four-day trip with the same purpose in mind," he signs off.

Picks & piques
Unreal drama
Johnson Thomas

Just two films hit the marquee this week, both of indifferent quality and minor, almost redundant thrills. Phoonk 2 from the Ram Gopal Verma stable is yet another failed attempt to spook the audience while Milind Uley's Paathshaala, an Eros International Production, is a jumbled-up, confused attempt at social commentary.

Film: Paathshaala

Cast: Shahid Kpoor, Ayesha Takia, Nana Patekar

Director: Milind Uley

Milind Uley's film had topicality on its side. The education system in India was coming in for a lot of flak because of the high stress it generates by encouraging rote learning through unrealistic and impractical methodology, leading to a rise in the number of suicides among the youth.

Paathshaala attempts to be a commentary on the education system but the whole set-up is so fake and unrealistic that you just can't help but lose interest in what transpires on screen.

The film is so poorly written and directed that whatever the makers wanted to say gets lost in the jumbled-up incoherence of it's mish-mash plotlines.

Saraswati Vidya Mandir is the school that is on the cusp of change and Shahid Kapoor is the new broom, just recruited English teacher; Nana Patekar is the Principal and Ayesha Takia the multi-tasking specialist. She handles the ECW section, takes care of the canteen nutrition and is also the warden of the hostel. The school was once ranked number 1 for its quality of education, today it is number 4. New schools with better facilities and higher fees have long since overtaken it. The management therefore wants to either generate more income through improved facilities or just opt for re-development into a posh residential enclave.

The principal's job was to convince the teachers to co-operate with his efforts to generate more moolah for the school. He calls for a staff meeting and seeks their co-operation without explaining the reason. They are sent the revised plan and rates via email and they of course object.

They gather together and put up a concerted effort to impede that change. The script never develops after a point. In fact the entire set-up appears so fictitious and puerile that you just don't believe in it. There is much confusion in the narrative also.

The principal's mysterious decision is inexplicable and using it as a plot devise to facilitate a twist makes it appear manufactured. SVM is first introduced as a day school.

Then mid-way through the film we are introduced to its residential facilities. We also see parents flitting in and out at will. Now if SVM were a residential school, obviously it wouldn't be easy for parents to come to the school for every silly little event that happens there. No one in their right mind would put their children in boarding schools just round the corner and neither would schools take-in boarders who live close by - at least not in the real world.

Then the sudden transformation of the school into an extra-curricular activity specialist appears to be against the run of play. We see auditions for reality TV programmes, sporting activities designed to attract newspapers and a lot of discontent among students.

Everything is exaggerated beyond believability. Shahid Kapoor's presence also appears to be forced. He is an English teacher but the principal wants him to teach music as well. One moment he refuses the next he is seen strumming the guitar and warbling away to glory while the students dance around him.

Everything is so superficial and insincere that it is quite galling. Get real brother!

Missing fear

Film: Phoonk 2

Cast: Sudeep, Amruta Khanvilkar

Director: Milind Gadagkar

The first was a warning (that's what the ads say); the second is a joke (that's what I say). The RGV stable continues to recycle cheap thrills to gather small change. Phoonk 2 is one sure example of that policy. It's from the horror genre that RGV hopes to stamp his label on. The competition is now between him and Vikram Bhatt (remember Shaapit?) for the worst horror movie of the last decade.

The jury is still out. Both have begun making crappy C-grade films driven by a specific genre segment but lacking totally in genuine creativity or entertainment value. This film too had a contest to power its release. Ambulances were kept on the ready in the hope that at least someone would succumb to the marketing gimmick. But alas! It's a hard act. The film fails to drum-up even in the minor scares.

The spirit of Martha returns to scare the bazookas out of Sudeep's family, once again. This time she resides in a doll (borrowed from Child's Play). The evil spirit takes many forms thereafter, even entering the wife's body and threatens to wipe out the whole family. In fact if you watch the movie you would most likely want the whole family wiped out so that another sequel doesn't rise up from the ashes of this one.

The characters have little depth, their actions are pretty illogical and the narrative has very little tension. It's not as if there is no gore. In fact there is plenty of it - heads fly off, limbs are severed, skimpily clad girls are drowned and even the house-help are butchered.

But none of it raises any kind of fear. There is no build-up at all.

Even the raven which had a strong presence in the first has very little to do here. The revenge story is never explained so those who haven't seen the first will wonder why so much caw-caw about nothing. The camerawork and acting are pretty pedestrian.

Tarot TALK
P Khurrana

ARIES: You make an impact and shine like a star. Be alert and ready to grab your chance. Romance is interesting with the person whose name starts with R and V. Home atmosphere brightens; discuss your problems with your brother and sister. Tip of the week: Listen to your voice of wisdom. Lucky colour: White

TAURUS: Queen of Cups is in a combustible mood, so expect social plans to flare up. Be tactful; show that you are prepared to forgive and forget. Spendthrift spouse causes concern. Correspondence and travel are on the priority list. Tip: Be positive; you can make things happen out of the most unlikely circumstances. Lucky colour: Brick red

GEMINI: The Chariot brings you face to face with truth and priorities. Love stars bring your sweetheart closer. Friend's thoughtfulness touches you. No need to worry at work of place. An older family member will be source of inspiration. Tip: Don't reveal your plan of action to anyone. Lucky colour: Green.

CANCER: You draw 'The Fool' so, you feel free, unburdened and happy. Students should not brood on distance affairs. A letter or gift from person you are in love with will cheer you up. When going to meet your beloved, let your eyes and smile express your intentions. Tip: Do not be in the rush to spend. Lucky colour: Silver.

LEO: Ace of Swords pulls you in opposite direction when making a decision. Students enjoy campus life. Personal relations are satisfactory. You will get a good part time job of your satisfaction. Distant relation clamour for attention. Tip: You must share responsibility with others Lucky colour: Cherry.

VIRGO: Your card The Moon reveals you gain balance, perspective and clarity in relationships. Be flexible, alert and ready to grab the chance. Your beloved disagree with your new plans. A time for party, fun and a short vacation. Tip: Avoid loose talk at work as someone shall carry tales just when you are building fences. Lucky colour: Lemon.

LIBRA: The Wheel of Fortune blesses you with creativity in whatever you do. Students should not have any difficulty with their studies. Irregularities may come to the light. A sudden improvement in your fortune is indicated. Tip: Be careful not to alienate people with an arrogant approach or all your efforts might come to naught. Lucky colour: Royal blue.

SCORPIO: Strength gives you taste of freedom and release you from emotional restrictions. A short trip for pleasure later in the week cannot be ruled out. New jobs will dominate your days ahead. Intake of water in ample quantities would ensure a sound and healthy physical being. Tip: Take no chances as despite the assurance of people. Lucky Colour: Crimson.

SAGITTARIUS: The Hermit brings a change and mutation. You need to meet new people and explore new horizons. Avoid temptations and guard against any kind of addictions. The past is likely to catch up with you. Tip: Be careful not to go in too many directions at the same time. Lucky colour: Deep Red.

CAPRICORN: You draw Ten of Pentacles. Use your spare time productively. Tap your creativity. A comfortable week for girls indulging in fashion and modelling. You must not do anything to damage your reputation. Tip: Be cautious in your action and speech. Lucky colour: peacock blue.

AQUARIUS: The Ace of Pentacles leads to actualisation of personal and professional plans. Fulfillment flows from positive attitude. Love life sees a difficult phase. Models: the doors to fame open wide. Working boys and girls should not take any hasty decision regarding your job. Tip: Do not swing away from the course you have charted so far. Lucky colour: Golden brown.

PISCES: The Priestess infuses a gracious influence in your life. You will be giving the finishing touch to your current task. Love life is vivacious. Those completing their education may find employment opportunities. Tip: A positive and caring attitude heals old wounds. Lucky colour: Yellow.

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