Vintage Indian photography at its best – IV

To mark the month of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore put on display a collection of rare photos of the Father of the Nation. The sepia-toned gems are the works of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal photographer and grand nephew Kanu Gandhi.

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Gandhi on the phone at the Sevagram Ashram (1938). Photo courtesy: NGMA.

Kanu Gandhi (1917-1986) spent a major part of his childhood at the Sabarmati Ashram. His parents Narandas Gandhi and Jamuna Gandhi worked in the Ashram. Narandas was Gandhiji’s nephew.

Later, as per his father’s wishes, Kanu took up residence at the Sevagram Ashram where he served the Mahatma. His daily grind included handling Gandhiji’s correspondence, clerical and accounting work. His devotion to the Father of the Nation earned him the sobriquet “Bapu’s Hanuman”. In 1944, Kanu Gandhi married fellow Ashram worker Abhaben Chatterjee with the blessings of Mahatma  and Kasturba Gandhi.

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Photo courtesy: NGMA

A keen interest in photography followed and Kanu was encouraged by Shivaji Bhave (brother of Bhoodan Movement leader Vinobha Bhave) to pursue his passion by clicking the happenings at the Ashram. Although Gandhiji was initially not in favour of the idea he later relented and asked noted industrialist Ghanshyam Das Birla to fund Kanu’s new passion. The businessman gifted him Rs. 100, a princely sum those days, which was enough for Kanu to buy himself a Rolliflex camera and a film roll.

The strict disciplinarian that Gandhi was, he imposed certain rules on the young photographer:

– He shouldn’t use flash;
– He should not ask him to pose;
– The ashram will not help him with any funds.

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Kanu Gandhi. Photo courtesy: NGMA

As Kanu was among the privileged few who were allowed close access to the Mahatma, his photographs began to gain in popularity. Amritlal Gandhi of Vandemataram magazine began offering him a stipend of Rs. 100 every month. The photographs soon started making their way to various dailies. A lot many of them did not see the light of the day because Gandhi refused permission including one where Kasturba lay dying on his lap.

 

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Gandhi sleeping in a train. Photo courtesy: NGMA

 

When Gandhiji was assassinated in Delhi in 1948, Kanu was not at his side. He was in Naokhali in East Bengal working on one of the leader’s assignments. Gandhi breathed his last on Abha’s arms.

After Gandhi’s death, Kanu lost interest in photography. Instead, he and Abha preferred travelling and spreading Gandhi’s philosophy and ideals most importantly the idea of using Khadi or homespun cotton.

Kanu Gandhi died of a heart attack in 1986 when on a pilgrimage to Madhya Pradesh.

The collection on display includes:

1) Distant shot of Jawaharlal Nehru and others at Sevagram Ashram in 1946.
2) A 1937 picture of Gandhi’s hut.
3) Kasturba massaging Gandhi’s feet (1939).
4) Gandhi in his hut.
5) Mahatama’s rickety van being pushed by Pathans and Congress workers (1938).
6) Gandhi on a phone in the ashram (1938)
7)  A 1938 picture of Jawaharlal Nehru at Sevagram Ashram.
8) A photo with Netaji in Birla House (1938).
9) Kasturba washing his feet  (1939).
10) A picture of Gandhi with Rabindranath Tagore (1939).
11) A 1939 picture of him fasting with this sisters massaging his feet.
12) Picture of a 1941 visit to Jabalpur.
13) A picture of him and Kasturba Gandhi at Aga Khan Palace in Poona, 1944.
14) A picture of his blood stained cloth after being assassinated, 1948.
15) Gandhi on a visit to riot-affected Noakhali, East Bengal, 1946.
16) Gandhi reading a letter at 4am at Khadi Prathistham, Calcutta, 1946
17) Jawaharlal Nehru pondering at Khadi Prathistham.
18) There are quite a few photos of Gandhi on the train journey from November 1945 to January 1946 to collect donations for the Harijan Fund.
19) Picture of Gandhi sleeping in the train.
20) A striking picture of crowds waiting to meet Gandhi.
21) Gandhi standing on a weighing scale.

The entire collection can be viewed in the coffee table book “Kanu’s Gandhi”, available online on Amazon.com. The Nazar Foundation has played a significant part in unravelling the treasure trove of photos.  Had it not been for the foundation, the photos would have faded into obscurity. According to Prashant Panjiar of the Nazar Foundation and co-curator of the exhibition along with Sanjev Saith, Kanu never had copyright over any of his photos. There is a possibility that the picture of Gandhi on Indian currency notes could have been a photo taken by Kanu.

The exhibition is on till the 30th of October.

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Review: M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story

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Poster and still courtesy: http://www.ilubilu.com/ms-dhoni-the-untold-story-posters.html

 

Among the many movies that I have watched, this must be the one with the longest title. And with 3 hours running time, one of the lengthiest ones too.

The biopic on the charismatic Indian cricketer brings out hitherto unknown aspects of his life. Not many know that his is more or less a rags-to-riches story. It is for this reason, the movie is sure to inspire many youngsters who hail from modest backgrounds to pursue a game which many think is a rich man’s preserve.

The movie also drives in a strong message to Indian parents to allow their children to pursue their passions. Undoubtedly, there is more to life than just academics. It is criminal to waste one’s talents.

Dhoni’s climb up the ladder has been anything but rosy. This is best portrayed in his stint as a ticket collector in the railways. The international cricketer in the making went through quite a few phases of uncertainty bad enough to break a man. Resilience, will power and a good circle of friends came to his rescue.

Sections on the cricketer’s relationships complete with the signature Bollywood flavour add to the romantic element in the movie. The actresses portraying Pallavi Jha, his first girlfriend, and Sakshi, his wife, are stunners.

The editing of the movie has been done very skilfully. Match footage moves fast which is not a bad idea considering that the focus is on the cricketer’s meteoric rise from his lower middle-class moorings to the star he is today

The choice of cast is very apt. Sushant Singh Rajput as Dhoni has perfected the art of playing a cricketer, this being the second time, the last one being in “Kai Po Che!” The same applies to the make-up artistes. It is not easy to make a 30-year-old actor look like a 15-year-old high schooler (in the portions related to the cricketer’s school days).

A movie worth watching for both the young and the old.

Photo Challenge: Local

via Photo Challenge: Local

In response to this week’s photo challenge, I am posting pictures of Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park, two popular green spaces in Bangalore, the city I live in.

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The Glass House at Lal Bagh

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On top of Lal Bagh rock with Kempegowda Tower in the background.

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Walkway beside Lal Bagh lake.

 

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Sunset at Lal Bagh as seen from behind Kempegowda Tower.

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The bandstand at Cubbon Park with the Tree of Gold in full bloom in the foreground.

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The Cubbon Park entrance of the High Court of Karnataka.

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The library at Cubbon Park.

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Dusk at Cubbon Park.

Dasara Doll Festival – IV

A brilliant display of dolls depicting Putrakameshti Yaga, a scene from the Indian epic Ramayana, is grabbing eyeballs at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. The heirloom dolls all of them more than a hundred years old belong to the family of Anu Vishweshwar, a relative of Sir M. Vishweshwariah, the Diwan of Mysore from 1912 to 1918.

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Many, many, years ago during the Treta Yuga, the kingdom of Ayodhya was ruled by King Dashratha. He had three wives, Kausalya, the senior-most, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. The king was sad that none of the queens bore him any progeny and because of that the kingdom was without any heir.

On the advice of the royal priest Sage Vashishta and another sage Rishya Shringa, the king performed the Putrakameshti Yagna, a ceremony performed by childless couples to beget children.

After the ceremony was completed around a holy fire, there appeared Agni, the God of Fire with a golden bowl filled with Payasam, a sweet. King Dasharatha was asked to distribute the sweet to his three queens. In due course, the queens bore him children. Kausalya gave birth to the King’s eldest son who was named Rama, Kaikeyi’s son was named Bharata and Sumitra bore him twins Lakshmana and Shatrughana.

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In the picture, seated on the throne are King Dashratha and Queen Kaushalya, on the left is Queen Kaikeyi with her maid and on the right is Queen Sumitra with her maid and a member of the royal family. Agni, the God of Fire, is in between the sages. In his hands is the golden bowl containing Payasam. The sage with grey hair is Rishya Shringa and the other sage is Vashishta.

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Anu Vishweshwar and a relative took almost 2 hours to dress up each of the dolls. The toughest part was wrapping the sarees all of them being Kanjeevarams. The full-length heavily brocaded sarees had to be folded to a suitable size to fit the dolls. Transporting them from her home to the venue was another task. She had to take care to cover them and avoid them getting shaken as that could disturb the dress and the jewellery. The pandal or ramp was created at the venue from scratch. The glittering jewellery was purchased years ago from Raja Market and the vicinity.

The dazzling display is on till 10th/11th of October and worth giving a visit.

Happy Dasara!