A few moments with Raghu Rai
India's best-known photographer Raghu Rai who was in the city at the invitation of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi feels that beyond time, space and styles creativity is a very individual journey
Nonika Singh

His photographs may have become the iconic signature of the times he has captured, yet India's most celebrated photographer Raghu Rai doesn't believe in signature styles for "styles can be so boring." Rather, taking a cue from Khalil Gibran's wisdom, he quotes: "My images are life's longing for itself." In the city for a lecture slide show organised by Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi on Wednesday evening at Punjab Arts Council, the gifted lensman not only made viewers privy to his fascinating "The Journey of a Moment in Time" but also delighted them with his homespun philosophy that like his pictures appeals directly and profoundly. A brief synopsis of what the man feels and believes in.

A photograph is worth a thousand words: I too grew up on this cliché but today I think that thousand words is a lot of noise. All great art like a maestro's piece of music must restore the silence within us.

Capturing a moment in time: I feel it is not enough. More so in a nation like India where multiple realities, religions, cultures and even many centuries and civilizations co-exist at the same time, your viewfinder must take in more than one moment.

Transcending the physical reality: No doubt in photography we can't trifle with reality for while history can be re-written photo-history can't be. But within that given reality there are so many possibilities of experiencing it differently, of moving beyond to have a real 'darshan' of what we see. 'Darshan' is seeing things in totality and about realising that pretty images soon become antiquated.

God is the ultimate creator: These days I am focusing on clouds, trees and rocks. Not that I am tired of human beings. I think that nature has played that extra note. There is this supreme energy around us as and as I go around chasing clouds, I can see the magic of its beauty that changes by the minute.

Sacred space between photographer and the object: A photographer must respect this space, which can be violated if he takes one step extra. Similarly, if he takes one-step less he may not be able to do justice.

Miles to go on forever: Since the time when I took my first picture with a borrowed camera, my passion hasn't waned a bit. Today I wish I could freeze India, which is my world, in one shot. Since that is next to impossible my quest and thirst for experiencing this country continues with the same zeal.

A picture must tell a story: Stories have been told and retold. Creativity is about capturing human energy and expression. Only that will ensure that images will live the test of time.If you have any doubt that his images won't, just check out his exhibition.


See through the master’s eye

In case you missed Raghu Rai's lecture fret not. His exhibition of photographs on display at Punjab Arts Council's art gallery will provide just the right window into his creativity. As testimony of his amazing felicity to lend an extraordinary quality into ordinary moments, clearly here are pictures and compositions that only a masterly eye can see. Be it the 1966 photograph Traffic at Chawri Bazaar or the 2004 shot, Wrestlers under Howrah Bridge, the unusual compositions are breathtaking both in dimension and detail.

Whether his third eye freezes on celebrated men or ordinary mortals, his innate ability to portray the intrinsic essence of his subjects manifests in more ways than one.

Boring things inspire me: Nida
Mapriya Khurana

Isn't television today all about standardisation of the stereotypical? Don't all the programmes look the same? Let alone serials, don't all characters on various channels look cloned?

"Almost all the characters on television wear the same kind of clothes, but for this serial we have five designers each giving a different look to the five main characters," designer Nida Mahmood, in the city for the promotion of upcoming serial Meri Toh Lag Gayi…Naukri on UTV Bindaas, the stylist and character duo of Nida Mahmood and Ayaz Ahmed do a touchwood on the channel's foray into fiction.

The show revolves around young protagonists who lay interns against the set-up of a television production house. Think three difficult bosses, five equally difficult interns, out to take revenge on each other. Adds Nida, "I style the character Ayaan Walia, who's fun loving and just wants to have fun and doesn't want to work. In fact, he's doing everything possible to get chucked out."

Did styling him came just as easy? She says, "It is for the first time that I'm doing this because the character was interesting. I've done an entire range of t-shirts inspired by the character. In fact, even when he goes for his interview, he wears the t-shirt that says, "I don't even pretend to work'."

Ayaz Ahmed chips in his bit, "Interestingly, on the personal front the first internship for them wasn't that tough." Shares Ayaz, "Whatever work and jobs I've done so far, they've been good." Radio and Roadies is what would best describe him, even though he's not into either of them anymore.

As for Nida, she smiles, "My first internship was good, but my first job was horrible. It was hard working with him and he didn't even give me credit." Taking time off to not participate in any of the upcoming fashion weeks was a conscious and as she puts is, "a difficult decision." "I've been busy with so many other projects. Have been designing for the NDTV's Trunk Show and just finished with a World Cup T-shirt line for Nike. I am also designing for the lead of the upcoming Hollywood movie PIA, a science-fiction based on androids." But yes, she continues to be inspired by things she began with. "I get inspired by ordinary, boring things." Sounds pretty much like her kitsch collections! manpriya@tribunemail.com

Manish Malhotra to promote Indian crafts at LFW

Celebrity designer Manish Malhotra, known for designing glamorous and stylish outfits for Bollywood actresses, has taken upon himself to promote Indian craft and craftsmen through his collection at the forthcoming Lakme Fashion Week, starting Friday.

"I have always been a part of fashion weeks in Mumbai. As it's Spring-Summer, the lines would be Indian contemporary evening wear because that's what my label is all about - glamour and grandeur," Manish, who has titled his collection Indian contemporary evening wear, he said.

He has taken 45 girls from veteran actress Shabana Azmi's NGO Mijwan Foundation for Girl Child to work for his line. He is predominantly using light colours, suitable for summer nights.

"I have adopted 45 girls from the Mijwan Foundation for Girl Child, who will be working with me for one year. They have done the chikankari embroidery (for my clothes)," he said.

Talking about the use of Kashmiri embroidery in his collection, he said: "I was in Kashmir for the film 'Rockstar' recently and I found Kashmiri embroidery very inspirational. So, I decided to use a lot of Kashmiri work in my new clothesline. Basically this collection is very Indian and it celebrates Indian crafts and Indian cuts." — IANS

Date with kathak maestro
I learnt bharatnatyam from Hema Rajgopalan before I took a strong liking for kathak. Thereafter, I devoted 10 years to learn its nuances. — Jaysi Chandra
SD Sharma

Although I left Chandigarh as an infant to migrate to the US, all this while I have remained rooted to Indian ethical values and its rich cultural heritage," shares Jaysi Chandra, renowned kathak dancer. "I learnt bharatnatyam from Hema Rajgopalan before I took a strong liking for kathak. Thereafter, I devoted 10 years to learn its finer nuances," she adds.

In the city for a performance on the invitation of Pracheen Kala Kendra, she shares her views.

On City Beautiful

"I have been visiting the city to get rejuvenated. Every time you find something new. Now the city boasts of the Tagore Theatre with a galore of cultural events and Pracheen Kala Kendra's sangeet samroh as well as baithak programmes," says Jaysi.

On time-management

"Though musical arts and medicine both have healing powers, practising both together is an arduous task," she says while giving full credit to her parents who helped her handle both the aspects.

On performances

"Besides Radha-Krishna myths, my dance compositions are replete with socio-cultural themes like 'soldier'. I have performed in the US, Cuba, Gibraltar, London and others countries, but four performances in India, before an intrusive audience, were a real test."

Kathak Vs Ballet

Kathak generates emotional fervour with gestures conveying a wealth of meaning, while ballet sometimes exudes mechanical virtuosity.

Amjad Ali Khan to enthral
SD Sharma

The Third Chandigarh Arts and Heritage Festival 2011, scheduled to take-off on March 25, promises it all - dances, art workshops, musical nights and interactive literary sessions. The annual extravaganza organised by the Chandigarh administration is being eagerly awaited by city folks. "The festival aims at establishing Chandigarh as a global destination for arts and cultural tourism," says Ram Niwas, UT home secretary.

March 26

Padma Vibhushan Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with sarod Virtuosos Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan will perform on the day. They represent the sixth generation of the illustrious Senia Bangash lineage. The maestro, who has given a new dimension to sarod playing by blending tradition and modernity, has received global recognition.

Carrying forward the rich legacy and the tradition of excellence maintained by their father, the younger Khans - Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan - will also be the star attraction. Hailed as The Coming Masters by New York Times, they have won laurels at concerts held around the world.

March 27

Kolkota-based classical vocalist Ustad Rashid Ali Khan, the foremost exponent of Rampur-Sehaswan gharana, will regale the audience on the second evening. Rashid Ali Khan is also popular among youngsters for his song Aao Ge Jab Tum Saajana from the movie Jab We Met.

March 28

A bharatanatyam performance by Vani Ganpathy will be the main attraction on the third evening. Under the tutelage of Guru Kalyanundram Pillay at present, Vani has also appeared in a few films. In addition, Doordarshan and BBC London have telecast her TV serial Rich Heritage, which is based on Indian classical dances.

March 29

On the concluding day, a historical play titled Chanakya by Manoj Joshi will be staged. Joshi, who has acted in as many as 60 films, began his career with Marathi films and Theatre.

In addition, the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi would be organising an artists-camp-cum-workshop as a part of the festival from March 25-30 at the Government Museum and Art Gallery-10. Mumbai-based artist Atul Dodiya will be leading the workshop and give a lecture on March 28 at 5.30 pm.

At Tagore Theatre from 6:30 pm onwards

Love for the old
Umesh Dewan

From crockery, cutlery, dinning table articles to the picture of 'Zamindars of Punjab (1816)', which adorns the wall of Victoria Albert Museum in London, AS Sekhon has a rich collection of antique household items that have been bequeathed by his forefathers.

Born in a family of 'biswedars' of the erstwhile Patiala State, Sekhon, a resident of New Officers Colony, Patiala, proudly talks about the antiques. Among the collection is a walking stick gifted by Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India, to his father Siasat Singh, in 1938, and a two-centuries old sword of Charhat Singh, his great grandfather.

Other items include intricately woven metallic shoulder epaulets belonging to Sekhon's grandfather, who was in the 2nd Patiala Lancers (Army of Maharaja Patiala), which adorns one wall in his house. Then there are other weapons and accessories. Sekhon has also started his own personal collection by buying art pieces from England. Portobello Street at Nottinghill Gate in London is his favorite place from where he buys most of the stuff. Says Sekhon, "It is very satisfying that I am able to pursue my passion for antique collection" he says. 

Future of Corbusier’s city

This workshop made me aware of so many new facets of the city I am living in," says Harshit Singla, a fourth year student of Chandigarh College of Architecture-12 and participant, University of Washington's India Programme.

The final review of Globalisation & the Modernist City, a heavy tome and result of collaboration between CCA and University of Washington discusses almost every issue related to the city from Capitol Complex, master plan, furniture, theatres, frame control and periphery. The volume not only lists the problems but also enlists solutions. Some of them like reviving Neelam theatre and using the green belt Leisure Valley that crosses through the city to pave the way for an underground gateway to Mohali.

Vikramaditya Prakash, CCA alumni and Professor of Architecture, The University of Washington in Seattle, on his visit to the college as part of the workshop shares, "Our study is about how Chandigarh might develop.”

Quiz him on how can an ordinary citizen be part of the city's future and Vikramaditya stresses, "There is need to first understand the history and concepts related to Chandigarh. And then be actively involved." An exhibition of the study is on in front of the Neelam Piaza-17.

Side Lanes
Joyshri Lobo
Comfortable in our own skin

It was an evening that brought together many people collectively radiating positive, creative vibrations and energies. Most were in the golden age of maturity and seemed comfortable at having put their working years behind them. Sweety, our hostess, introduced me as a 'writer'. I do not deign to call myself that. A weekly column in a daily; three slim books--poetry, short stories and a novella; years of freelancing in journals and newspapers, do not earn one such an appellation. My writing is like the directionless travel of a person seeking her soul, savouring each precious experience with her being. Over the years, the stories and poems have changed in style and content. They show the journey of a human being, finding herself in the sidelanes of life. I suddenly realise how little there is to show from these meanderings. However, I am comfortable in this fading skin. The pace has slowed down. There is no need to hurry.

Chandigarh is becoming a writers' hub with many bureaucrats penning their memoirs. There is a creative energy that defines this young city. Vijay Vardhan's book of Haiku verses seems to be the perfect channel for Sufism. Nirupamma Dutt's stories are a delight because of their earthiness and poignancy. I met MS Rai who is the author of three novels that are now a must-read on my wish list. This was my second encounter with Sharda-- tall, willowy, soft spoken. She used to be the face of CNN in India, still has a full working day, and displays the grace and peace of one who is happy with her inner core.

A month ago, Arjan Singh organised a meeting of the Punjab University English Department alumni. Three women gravitated towards each other, drawn by similar thoughts, vibes, auras -- whatever. Mani Mathoda, Madhu Aggarwal and I talked as if we had known each other for centuries. Maybe we did. At MP Singh's dinner, Mani and I were thrilled to meet again. She modestly describes herself as a homemaker. I find her and Sweety the charming, radiant threads that lead one to others of similar wavelengths and attitudes. A common friend is Minnie Sarkaria, petite, erudite, down-to-earth. Her father-in-law's legacy of the Cactus Garden in Panchkula is a daily reminder of the well known surgeon. Looking at the matriarch of the family, Ms Kartar Singh, I realise that her translucence, ready wit and grace is the culmination of a life well lived. All these 'chance encounters', strengthen my belief in the ripple effect that draws more and more people within its spreading circles. It is a beautiful testimony to a universe that encompasses all and yet allows innumerable freedoms.

If the bureaucratic writers of Chandigarh would craft their memoirs with honesty and courage, their chronicles will be a narrative of what ought to be instead of what has been. Maybe, future governments will benefit through them for better governance. 

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