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ARTS AND IDEAS (7)

Corporate careers beckon artists

Written by Friday, 21 June 2013 06:27

sa

Students from Chitrakala Parishath, the government-run fine arts college, have always excelled in film, theatre and advertising. Now, thanks to campus placements and new career opportunities, they are also sought after by IT companies such as Wipro and Infosys

Adieu, masala dosa friend

Written by Saturday, 08 June 2013 13:54

Adieu, masala dosa friend

Rituparno Ghosh would fly into a rage, only to make up at the Anand Bazar Patrika canteen in Kolkata, says Sramona Chakraborty, a close friend of the film-maker. The 49-year-old Bengali master died on May 30

Monsoon

Written by Thursday, 26 July 2012 07:12

The Arabs called it ‘mausim’, or season. The English turned it to ‘monsoon’.  Savie Karnel tells the story of a 50 million-year-old phenomenon that brings poetry and joy, and sometimes misery, to India.

Story- Centuries ago, even before the time of Vasco-da-Gama, the Arabs took the sea route to India. They sailed with the south western winds blowing over the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean and arrived on our shores. They called the time of their travel ‘mausim,’ which means season.

The word ‘mausim’ then got attached to the winds and the rains that followed it. Somewhere in the late 15th century, the English corrupted ‘mausim’ to monsoon. That’s how the word ‘monsoon’ came to be formed.

Though the name is relatively new, the season has been around for over 50 million years; ever since the collision of the Indian sub-continent and Asia to form the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. If the monsoon wasn’t there, India would never be the way it is, but would merely be an extension of the central desert. It would probably look like Afghanistan. We owe our greenery, forests, farms, eating habits, clothing and lifestyle to the monsoon.

 

The ancients understood it very well. Perhaps, that why they worshipped the rain and prayed for the downpour. When the Aryans migrated to India from Central Asia, they accepted the importance of these rains, and worshipped it like the way the natives did. The Aryan God Varun, was earlier just the God of waters of the nether land, but was later made the God of the rains as well. The natives associated the croaking sound of the frogs with the rain, so did the Aryans.

It can be seen in the frog hymn in the Rig Veda, where the croaking of the frog is compared to the Vedic chants. It says, “When one of them repeats the speech of the other, as the student that of his teacher, all that of them is in unison like the eloquent (Vedic) chant that you recite during the rain.”

If not for the monsoon, we would not have Kalidasa’s masterpieces. In Meghdoot, an exiled Yaksha pleads to a rain cloud to carry his message to his wife in the Himalayas. The route of the cloud, that he explicitly explains, also shows us the immense meteorological and geological knowledge Kalidasa had. Of course, the description of the emotions of the people over whom the cloud passes is incomparable.

In Ritusamhara, he glorifies the rain cast sky saying, “Overcast on all sides with dense rain clouds, the sky displays the deep glow of blue-lotus petals, dark in places like heaped-collyrium, smooth-blended, glowing elsewhere like the breasts of a woman with child.”

Some enthusiasts believe that Hindustani music is inconceivable without the rain. How could music be without the Raag Malhaar? It is believed that when Tansen sang this raag, the skies erupted with joy and burst into showers. The tabla resounds with the very sound of the thundering clouds.

With the ‘varsha’ being such an integral part of our culture, our movies would not have been left behind. Right from the black and white movies where Nargis walks in the rain to Pyar hua ikraar hua, to Aishwarya Rai frolicking to Barso re megha barso, there is nothing more sensuous than a lady kissed by rain.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan brings out the pathos of the farmers waiting for the rain, and shows the parched earth. On the other hand, the cinematography of Mani Ratnam’s box office failure Raavan celebrates the splendor of earth during the monsoon in the ghats. Perhaps, the most beautiful depiction of love in the monsoon in Karnataka is in Yogesh Bhat’s Mungaaru Male.

So, the next time it rains, do not curse the skies. Instead, step out and get drenched in the rain, for you are among the lucky few whom the monsoon visits.

                                                                                                                        - Savie Karnel

The artist who sings in stone

Written by Tuesday, 11 September 2012 09:20

Kanaka Murthy, the only woman sculptor in India whose images are worshipped in temples, has won the highest award for sculpture in Karnataka. An intimate profile by her daughter, classical vocalist N Sumathi.

 

I started calling my amma by her name, Kanaka, when I was very young. She never minded it—in fact, she liked it.

 

It didn’t take me very long to realise how much she loved stone and the different textures of stone.She lived and dreamt stones then, as she does now. Once, she said, “When I lift the hammer, I wait like a woman pining for her beloved just to hear the sound of its striking.”

 

Kanaka sees rhythm and music in sculpture.

She got me to start learning classical music at a very young age, and was like a dictator, controlling everything at home. I hated it. She insisted I practise at least 10 hours a day. If I did not, she would not speak to me.

 

At times, I felt she had got me into music only to get away from the responsibility of ‘being mother’. Later, when I asked her about it, she said: “I wanted you to have a lover for life, like I do. I have sculpture, you have music.” This sentiment was echoed by my guru, Pandit Ramarao Naik, whose greatness I was to realise only much later.

 

At a very young age I observed my mother was not like the other mothers I saw around me. She was mad, passionate, hardworking. She believed in discipline, besides God. On my summer holidays, she would make me practise 10-12 hours while she chiselled away with Vadiraj Mama (sculpture guru D Vadiraj).

 

Coffee breaks were brief, with Vividh Bharathi playing Kishore Kumar and providing respite from hard labour for something like five minutes.

 

The division of labour was clear and strict at home. My father and I had to do housekeeping, besides our own work. Guests who stayed over had to share the chores.

 

Kanaka had a love-hate relationship with her mother, an artist, theatre performer and singer. What Kanaka resented was being kept back to do household work. I have heard that she was a stubborn child, always breaking rules she considered irrational. But then, elders couldn’t reprimand her because she was good at studies, always a ‘rank student.’ For some years, she dreamt of becoming a doctor. Her parents did not make that happen. She learnt music and painting but nothing fired up her passion as much as stones and sculptures did.

 

Her love for three dimensions is something that intrigues me to this day. In music, it is always abstract images that can come across in two, three, five, and ten dimensions (if you take a beat, or a tala, as representing a dimension). Vadiraj probably was one of the most intellectual of artists who could capture three dimensions in a line drawing, which conventionally has just two (length and breadth, but no depth).

 

Kanaka loves line drawings. She would imagine three dimensions in more abstract forms like classical music. I could understand this passion for three dimensions even as a child because of my guru Ramarao Naik, who insisted on associating an image with a raga. Only with such a picture in the head should one practise, he told us. 

 

I have many times seen Kanaka touching and feeling sculptures. Once, when we went to the Badami cave temple, there was a dancing sculpture and she caressed the legs of the sculpture, enjoying the three dimensions. 

 

 Our house was like the city railway station. Relatives frequently came and stayed over for days. Kanaka would end up being in the kitchen for long hours. Though our relatives were sensitive to her passion for work, they never realised that for her, each passing minute, hour, day and week meant that much of her life lost on trivial things and not on sculpture.

 

 Kanaka just cannot be in the kitchen for more than an hour in an entire day. For many years, I saw Kanaka crying for not getting time to work. She would always say, “If I’d been a man, I wouldn’t have to do all this.”

 

 At 13, I asked her, “Then why did you get married and start a family if you loved your work above all else?”

She told me the answer. One: For a middle class Brahmin woman during the 1960s, marriage wasn’t easy to escape. Two: And why should being married and having a family ruin one’s work? 

 

 But to my father’s credit, he was a pillar of support, and that helped her tide over those despairing moments.

 

Kanaka believes in God. She sculpts many deities and treats them as her friends. Once, she was sculpting a nine-foot-high stone Ganesha. Sitting on the stone and gently hammering away, she was saying, “Gannu, so you are playing around and not coming out properly?” 

 

 Kanaka is the only woman sculptor in India working on big stone sculptures. She is also the only woman whose sculptures are installed and worshipped in temples. That should have made her more famous than she is, but this is a world of so many contradictions.

 

My mother comes from a conservative, land-holding Brahmin family that would never encourage its women to take up labour-oriented arts. But she fought patiently at every step. 

 

Kanaka’s approach is traditional. Most striking in her work is the authentic reproduction of Chola, Hoysala, and Chalukya styles -- yet each idol has its own unique composition and expression. 

 

Her female sculptures are never very feminine: they are more often robust, even when they conform to traditional form and stylisation. All her Ganeshas are childlike. 

 

She often faces opposition from the traditional community of sculptors because she does not care too much about theory. Contemporary artists claim sculptors who work on traditional temple sculptures are artisans and not artists, but she doesn’t care. 

 

She argues that Indian temple sculpture is like Indian music. Its styles are like the musical banis and gharanas. Ragas are like sculptures, which each person sings differently and works out differently.

 

Each time she delivers a sculpture, she feels relieved. “Finally, another person has become free.” But that doesn’t mean she is not attached to her sculptures. They often get a send-off ceremony at home.

 

Moving from a rented house in Basavangudi into her own house at Ramaswamy Palya (near Lingarajapuram), she changed her entire house into a studio. The house looks like a workshop and museum today. 

 

Her sculptures are installed at many prestigious places, such as the Satya Sai Baba Hospitals in Bangalore and Puttaparthi. Her Kuvempu bust greets visitors at Lalbagh West Gate, as does her Wright brothers feature at the Visvesvaraya Industrial museum. Her stone sculptures stand at Tapovana, Chikka Gubbi, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and other places I haven’t even visited. She was invited to work and exhibit in London four times. 

 

Kanaka has directed sculpture workshops all over India. Her busts of musicians Dr Gangubai Hangal, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi have won acclaim. She has also done busts of Mahatma Gandhi, Visvesvaraya, Vadiraj, and other people who inspired her. 

 

 I remember her saying when she was working on the Mallikarjun Mansoor image, “Every swara reflects in his face and that is what I want to capture.”

 

 She has won the State Shilpakala Academy award, the Rajyotsava award, the Suvarna Karnataka Award and many others from private organisations. She has published two books in Kannada—one on guru Vadiraj, and the other on sculptures. She is working on her autobiography.

 

She learnt from Vadiraj in the gurukula system, assisting him with his work. So for the first 40 years of her learning, she could not make any sculpture which she could call hers. Once she started working independently, she has taken no break. At 70, she is working on musical pillars, a project inspired by the sculptural artistry of Hampi. 

 

 Vadiraj Mama was unwell when he was invited to direct a sculpture workshop in Ellora by South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Government of India’s Nagpurbased organisation that promotes art and craft. He was in love with that style but he wasn’t in a position to walk and see the cave temples. He told Kanaka, “I will visualise these sculptures through your eyes and in my next life see those temples in detail.”

 

 Kanaka visualises him while working even today. She says: “I feel he stands behind me and guides me like he would when he was alive.”

 

 I congratulate her on winning the Jakanachari Award and wish her a long life full of love, passion and beauty.

The artist who sings in stone

Written by Monday, 10 September 2012 10:51

Kanaka Murthy, the only woman sculptor in India whose images are worshipped in temples, has won the highest award for sculpture in Karnataka. An intimate profile by her daughter, classical vocalist N Sumathi.

 

I started calling my amma by her name, Kanaka, when I was very young. She never minded it—in fact, she liked it.

 

It didn’t take me very long to realise how much she loved stone and the different textures of stone.She lived and dreamt stones then, as she does now. Once, she said, “When I lift the hammer, I wait like a woman pining for her beloved just to hear the sound of its striking.”

 

Kanaka sees rhythm and music in sculpture.

She got me to start learning classical music at a very young age, and was like a dictator, controlling everything at home. I hated it. She insisted I practise at least 10 hours a day. If I did not, she would not speak to me.

 

At times, I felt she had got me into music only to get away from the responsibility of ‘being mother’. Later, when I asked her about it, she said: “I wanted you to have a lover for life, like I do. I have sculpture, you have music.” This sentiment was echoed by my guru, Pandit Ramarao Naik, whose greatness I was to realise only much later.

 

At a very young age I observed my mother was not like the other mothers I saw around me. She was mad, passionate, hardworking. She believed in discipline, besides God. On my summer holidays, she would make me practise 10-12 hours while she chiselled away with Vadiraj Mama (sculpture guru D Vadiraj).

 

Coffee breaks were brief, with Vividh Bharathi playing Kishore Kumar and providing respite from hard labour for something like five minutes.

 

The division of labour was clear and strict at home. My father and I had to do housekeeping, besides our own work. Guests who stayed over had to share the chores.

 

Kanaka had a love-hate relationship with her mother, an artist, theatre performer and singer. What Kanaka resented was being kept back to do household work. I have heard that she was a stubborn child, always breaking rules she considered irrational. But then, elders couldn’t reprimand her because she was good at studies, always a ‘rank student.’ For some years, she dreamt of becoming a doctor. Her parents did not make that happen. She learnt music and painting but nothing fired up her passion as much as stones and sculptures did.

 

Her love for three dimensions is something that intrigues me to this day. In music, it is always abstract images that can come across in two, three, five, and ten dimensions (if you take a beat, or a tala, as representing a dimension). Vadiraj probably was one of the most intellectual of artists who could capture three dimensions in a line drawing, which conventionally has just two (length and breadth, but no depth).

 

Kanaka loves line drawings. She would imagine three dimensions in more abstract forms like classical music. I could understand this passion for three dimensions even as a child because of my guru Ramarao Naik, who insisted on associating an image with a raga. Only with such a picture in the head should one practise, he told us. 

 

I have many times seen Kanaka touching and feeling sculptures. Once, when we went to the Badami cave temple, there was a dancing sculpture and she caressed the legs of the sculpture, enjoying the three dimensions. 

 

 Our house was like the city railway station. Relatives frequently came and stayed over for days. Kanaka would end up being in the kitchen for long hours. Though our relatives were sensitive to her passion for work, they never realised that for her, each passing minute, hour, day and week meant that much of her life lost on trivial things and not on sculpture.

 

 Kanaka just cannot be in the kitchen for more than an hour in an entire day. For many years, I saw Kanaka crying for not getting time to work. She would always say, “If I’d been a man, I wouldn’t have to do all this.”

 

 At 13, I asked her, “Then why did you get married and start a family if you loved your work above all else?”

She told me the answer. One: For a middle class Brahmin woman during the 1960s, marriage wasn’t easy to escape. Two: And why should being married and having a family ruin one’s work? 

 

 But to my father’s credit, he was a pillar of support, and that helped her tide over those despairing moments.

 

Kanaka believes in God. She sculpts many deities and treats them as her friends. Once, she was sculpting a nine-foot-high stone Ganesha. Sitting on the stone and gently hammering away, she was saying, “Gannu, so you are playing around and not coming out properly?” 

 

 Kanaka is the only woman sculptor in India working on big stone sculptures. She is also the only woman whose sculptures are installed and worshipped in temples. That should have made her more famous than she is, but this is a world of so many contradictions.

 

My mother comes from a conservative, land-holding Brahmin family that would never encourage its women to take up labour-oriented arts. But she fought patiently at every step. 

 

Kanaka’s approach is traditional. Most striking in her work is the authentic reproduction of Chola, Hoysala, and Chalukya styles -- yet each idol has its own unique composition and expression. 

 

Her female sculptures are never very feminine: they are more often robust, even when they conform to traditional form and stylisation. All her Ganeshas are childlike. 

 

She often faces opposition from the traditional community of sculptors because she does not care too much about theory. Contemporary artists claim sculptors who work on traditional temple sculptures are artisans and not artists, but she doesn’t care. 

 

She argues that Indian temple sculpture is like Indian music. Its styles are like the musical banis and gharanas. Ragas are like sculptures, which each person sings differently and works out differently.

 

Each time she delivers a sculpture, she feels relieved. “Finally, another person has become free.” But that doesn’t mean she is not attached to her sculptures. They often get a send-off ceremony at home.

 

Moving from a rented house in Basavangudi into her own house at Ramaswamy Palya (near Lingarajapuram), she changed her entire house into a studio. The house looks like a workshop and museum today. 

 

Her sculptures are installed at many prestigious places, such as the Satya Sai Baba Hospitals in Bangalore and Puttaparthi. Her Kuvempu bust greets visitors at Lalbagh West Gate, as does her Wright brothers feature at the Visvesvaraya Industrial museum. Her stone sculptures stand at Tapovana, Chikka Gubbi, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and other places I haven’t even visited. She was invited to work and exhibit in London four times. 

 

Kanaka has directed sculpture workshops all over India. Her busts of musicians Dr Gangubai Hangal, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi have won acclaim. She has also done busts of Mahatma Gandhi, Visvesvaraya, Vadiraj, and other people who inspired her. 

 

 I remember her saying when she was working on the Mallikarjun Mansoor image, “Every swara reflects in his face and that is what I want to capture.”

 

 She has won the State Shilpakala Academy award, the Rajyotsava award, the Suvarna Karnataka Award and many others from private organisations. She has published two books in Kannada—one on guru Vadiraj, and the other on sculptures. She is working on her autobiography.

 

She learnt from Vadiraj in the gurukula system, assisting him with his work. So for the first 40 years of her learning, she could not make any sculpture which she could call hers. Once she started working independently, she has taken no break. At 70, she is working on musical pillars, a project inspired by the sculptural artistry of Hampi. 

 

 Vadiraj Mama was unwell when he was invited to direct a sculpture workshop in Ellora by South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Government of India’s Nagpurbased organisation that promotes art and craft. He was in love with that style but he wasn’t in a position to walk and see the cave temples. He told Kanaka, “I will visualise these sculptures through your eyes and in my next life see those temples in detail.”

 

 Kanaka visualises him while working even today. She says: “I feel he stands behind me and guides me like he would when he was alive.”

 

 I congratulate her on winning the Jakanachari Award and wish her a long life full of love, passion and beauty.

Nataraja in Geneva

Written by Saturday, 28 July 2012 06:45

Prashanth G N brings you a first-hand account of all the action at the institute that went looking for the origins of the universe.

 

The discovery of the ‘God particle’ or Higgs Boson is about to explain the birth of the universe. I got to see, from close quarters, how the scientists worked to get there.

 

After a long bus journey from Turin, Italy, I arrived at Geneva, Switzerland, via Mont Blanc, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. On the road from Geneva to CERN, lush green fields often made way for dazzling sunflower fields. Not once could I imagine that the earth under these fields would soon experience the world's most powerful human-created explosion.

 

Once at the institute, I took a lift to travel 100 metres below the ground to get into the CERN lab and tunnel. The security is high at the entrance. Once inside, I got to see a huge iron and steel tube within a concrete structure. The tube runs endlessly, covering an area of 27 km, and it is a circle. Not only is the LHC the world’s largest particle accelerator, just one-eighth of its cryogenic distribution system would qualify as the world’s largest fridge. I got to touch the magnets, again made of steel, many of which had come from India, Bangalore in particular, but no one was allowed to climb onto the tube or get into it: after all, electro-magnetic forces are at work. At the entrance of the tunnel, CERN scientists explained the collision process to me, and took me around the entire laboratory, demonstrating the workings of the small detectors. The control room is animated – discussions abound – and all of this is informal, receptive and academically inspiring.

 

The CERN cafeteria is a hub of activity — with scores of scientists engrossed in informal discussions. A sense of purpose and discipline is apparent alongside the informality. I was fortunate to share coffee with a host of scientists at the cafeteria.

 

On the way back to board the bus, I noticed an unusual landmark – a tall statue of Nataraja, or the lord of dance. The statue, symbolising Shiva’s cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN by the Indian government on June 18, 2004, to celebrate the research centre’s long association with India.

 

The renowned writer Fritjof Capra says on his site that in choosing the image of Nataraja, the Indian government had acknowledged the significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, observed and analysed by CERN’s physicists. The parallel was first discussed by Capra in an article titled The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics, published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972. Shiva’s dance then became a central metaphor in his international bestseller The Tao of Physics, published in 1975 and still in print in over 40 editions around the world.

 

A special plaque next to the Nataraja statue quotes extensively from The Tao of Physics. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, seeing beyond the unsurpassed rhythm, beauty, power and grace of the Nataraja, once wrote, “It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.”

 

More recently, Capra explained, “Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter… For the modern physicists, then, Shiva's dance is the dance of subatomic matter.”

 

He concluded: “Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics.”

 

A thought crossed my mind on the journey to Geneva: Who would have expected an Indian God to be at the heart of the world’s largest physics experiment?

 

We are delighted to place this sample edition of Talk in your hands. When our team set out to do a weekly — and there aren’t too many in English in our city — we asked ourselves what we should cover, and how. The focus of our magazine is Bangalore, a city that defies classification, and changes every day in apparent and subtle ways. As history tells us, Bangalore is actually two cities: the old pete founded by Kempe Gowda and shaped by the gentle classicism of princely Mysore, and the more Westernised, outgoing Cantonment. For captains of the IT industry, this is a business-friendly city with an energetic and talented workforce. (Thomas Friedman, the famous New York Times columnist, believes engineering colleges from Bangalore’s outposts powered India’s big IT revolution). For marketers, we are a city of big earners and big spenders. But that’s not all. The city lives and breathes in many nooks and crannies, in many languages and many communities. We hope to capture the vibrancy of the many cities within this city, and chase stories our esteemed seniors in the business couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

 

Talk brings you news, analysis, and entertainment. We will do our best to deliver writing that is well researched and thoughtfully presented. Do let us know what you think about our sample fare, and what else you would like in Talk that would enhance your reading pleasure. We will take up serious subjects, but at the same time, we won’t be apologetic about making our magazine a fun read. Our team has enjoyed producing this edition for you. We hit the stands in a more formal fashion in August. Till then, happy reading. And may we say we are thrilled to be talking with you!

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