Late Post: Snippets from the Bangalore Lit Fest 2016 (Day 2)

I started off a little late on Day 2 (Dec 18) of the Bangalore Lit Fest 2016. So I missed a major chunk of the conversation “A Good Night’s Sleep” between Sumant Batra and Dr Manvir Bhatia. Keeping in mind the erratic hours I keep I guess I shouldn’t have missed this one.

 

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(L-R): Alan Johnson, Carlo Pizzati, Claus Heimes, Sally Breen, Roswitha Joshi and Manjari Joshi.

The next lecture on the #beda stage “Living In Other Lands” had the participation of a dozen expats. There were authors Alan Johnson, Carlo Pizzati, Roswitha Joshi, Goethe-Institut Director Claus Heimes, author and film-maker Manjari Prabhu in conversation with author Sally Breen.

 

Manjari Prabhu was the first to speak. She shared her experience of staying in Austria at a location which was used for the shooting of the epoch-making musical “The Sound Of Music”.

Roswitha Joshi mentioned that most of her works are based on her stay in other lands.  She recalled her first feelings she experienced in India.  It was like a chicken on its way to the oven. Her book “Life Is Precious” is based on incidents that she perceives as art and explores relationships in India. Another book is on the breaking down of values in Germany. “Fool’s Paradise” is on experiences some of them scary about her experiences in India. Her most recent book “Indian Dreams and Trapped in Want and Wonder” is totally based on India.

Claus Heimes’ work has taken him to various lands. Every time he is transferred to a new place, he goes about exploring it in order to satiate his curiosity.

Carlo Pizzati said that he is fascinated by the idea of knowledge one gets from travelling.  It is also like being in contact with something that is alien. He has written novels on his travels.

Alan Johnson mentioned that though he is an American by origin and born and brought up in India, he feels homesick when he is not in India.

Carlo Pizzati then went on to add that he is always drawn to fiction in order to narrate the truth something he could not do in his earlier job as a journalist. The character names in his book are all anagrams of his name.

Manjari spoke about how she mixed history with a contemporary plot in her novel which is set in Austria and has its characters various monuments.

Roswitha shared some colourful experiences she had at Vankaneya  in Gujarat where the camels for the Republic Day parade come from and the painted ‘havelis’ of Mandwa which have all been converted to resorts by erstwhile royals after the abolishment of the privy purse.

One of the speakers said that staying in a new land calls for transition both inside and outside. Claus Heimes interjected to say that in China one can never become an insider much to the amusement of the audience. Manjari remarked that the time period plays an important part in becoming an insider. Claus remarked that to know about a country it is better to read a book on a country written by a foreigner. To know about India it would be a good idea to read books by William Darlymple.

Alan Johnson then went on to add about his memorable school days at a school in India surrounded by nature because of which he perceived life as one surrounded by endless nature.  To which Roswitha then remarked that home is just not a location, it has an emotional tie.

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After the talk, I headed to the #beku stage where a large audience was in attendance at the talk “Ooh n’ Aah: Talking Erotica”. There was this one unoccupied chair just outside the shamiana where I decided to rest my weary feet. It was quite sunny but it felt nice having a sun bath.  The conversation seemed to be heading to an end so I let my thoughts wander. I dreamt of backpacking to far away Italy zeroing in on beautiful Tuscany.  I had just listened to an Italian speak perhaps this day dream was an after effect of that.

 

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(L-R): Sajita Nair, Jane De Suza, Rachna Singh, Kiran Manra and Andaleeb Wajid

 

My trek through lush green Tuscany abruptly ended when the audience started clapping. The talk on erotica had ended and a lot of people where making their way out. I kept my trip to Tuscany on hold and grabbed a convenient seat. The next discussion, “Badass Women: Changing The World” had authors Jane De Suza, Kiran Manral, Rachna Singh and Sajita Nair in conversation with author Andaleeb Wajid.

Kiran Manral opened the discussion by saying “Badass means coming into your own”. Rachna Singh elaborated on Kiran’s statement, “It means living life on your own terms and doing what you want”.

Jane De Suza whose latest book, “The Spy Who Lost Her Head” is based on Gulabi, a badass woman from the cow belt said that her experience with women from that part of the country inspired her to write her book. The women there have a sense of humour and she wanted to bring that out.

Sajita Nair, an ex-army officer, whose maiden book, “She’s A Jolly Good Fellow” is based on her tenure in the army and of women breaking stereotypes said that women in the army are definitely badass.

Rachna spoke of Binny, the 20-year-old protagonist of one of her novels who is badass because she does not visit soothsayers or gurus for answers. When asked what price does a woman pay for being badass, Rachna  said that initially it raises eyebrows but later things tone down. Kiran quipped that badass is usually attributed to independent women.

Sajita reminisced about her army days. A buddy system is in place right from the days at the Officers’ Training Academy and when one gets posted he or she gets posted with a buddy. She added that although she is no longer in the army, she is still in touch with her buddies.

The conversation largely centred on the badass women in each of the authors’ books.

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The next talk that I attended had journalist Premila Paul in conversation with Aishwaryaa Rajanikanth Dhanush, daughter of megastar Rajanikanth and wife of superstar Dhanush. Not surprisingly, the talk had an exceptionally large audience thanks to the immense popularity of the brand name Rajanikanth.  The discussion was in the wake of the release of the star daughter’s book “Standing On An Apple Box” which has a foreword by Shweta Bachchan.

The debut author said that contrary to what many thought, writing was easy but promoting it was tough. The book covers among other things, pages from her diaries, her growing up days, myths about celebrity kids, expressions and memories, and anecdotes about her dad who has been an integral part of her life. The content in the book has tonal variations.

When asked why she chose to write an autobiographical narrative at such an early age, Aishwaryaa said that there was not much effort involved and that she just wanted to make it simple and readable. When Premila quizzed her about the overuse of the word blessings in her book, Aishwaryaa said that the book was like a count your blessings kind of narrative.

Being a star kid comes with its share of disadvantages. Aishwaryaa was not allowed to do sleepovers like her other classmates because her mother was overprotective. In fact, her mother is like a CCTV camera and always has her eyes on her daughters.

Coming to her marriage, Aishwaryaa said that the decision to hold the ceremony at home was hers because she did not want it to be held in a hall where things would be so impersonal.

When someone asked what Dhanush thinks of her she said that he thinks that she is simpler than Rajanikanth. But then Rajanikanth is supposed to be the embodiment of simplicity. Can anything be simpler than simplicity? What say?

Aishwaryaa maintained that she has no plans to direct her father in the near future.

In a lighter vein, Premila asked Aishwaryaa about the many similarities between her and the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late Jayalalithaa who was also her neighbour at Poes Garden. Both their names end with double a’s and they love the colour green. Aishwaryaa had only good words for her famous neighbour and spoke about the healthy relationship her family shared with the grand dame of Tamil Nadu politics.

Aishwaryaa then spoke about her Cinema Veeran Project aimed at the welfare and recognition of stuntmen and junior artistes in the film industry. She had approached the Information Ministry in this regard. She is also putting up a YouTube channel to serve as a platform for aspiring film-makers to showcase their works.

 

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(L-R): Suresh Hinduja, Sanjeev Kapoor, Manu Chandra and Antoine Lewis.

 

The Aishwaryaa Rajanikanth session clashed with another session that I wanted to so badly attend. “What’s Cooking? The Future of Indian Food” had noted chefs Sanjeev Kapoor and Manu Chandra,  and food writer Antoine Lewis in conversation with Suresh Hinduja, Founder of GourmetIndia.com. I raced my way from the #beda stage to the #beku stage only to discover that the session with the culinary gurus was drawing to an end.

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After a quick bite at the food court, I made my way to the #beku stage for the conversation “Swimmer Among The Stars”, which had journalist G. Sampath in conversation with Kanishk Tharoor. The discussion revolved around Tharoor’s debut book of the same name and had many members of his family in attendance including his famous dad. The book of short stories is based on stories that the young author heard during his childhood many of which were told to him by his grandmother. Kanishk mentioned that all the stories have a diplomatic touch.

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The next discussion on the #beku stage had journalist and author Raghu Karnad in conversation with photographer and film -maker Ryan Lobo. The discussion centred on Lobo’s debut book “Mr Iyer Goes To War” that he said was inspired by the popular literary character Don Quixote and set in the backdrop of the city of Varanasi. Like Kanishk, Ryan had a large number of his family members in the stands including his mother Dr Aloma Lobo and his brother. The Q&A session that followed the discussion had only one question from a member of the audience. Ryan made light of the moment by saying, “That dude in a white shirt has a question for me”. He pointed out to an angelic looking young man in a snow-white shirt who bowed down his head bashfully.  Ryan chuckled and said, “He is my brother”. Well! So much of sibling love! Ryan, his brother and mother painted a very cute family picture.

 

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(L-R): Prasanna Viswanathan, Ramya, Harish Bijoor, Mihir Sharma and Aakar Patel.

 

I then made my way to the #beda stage to attend the discussion “Contrarian Views” that had on the panel,  writer Aakar Patel, entrepreneur Prasanna Viswanathan, actress Ramya and journalist Mihir Sharma (a last minute replacement for Delhi student leader Kanhaiya Kumar who did not turn up) and of course the co-ordinator Harish Bijoor.  Harish prefixed all the keywords in the conversation with a hashtag and brought in a tech flavour to this penultimate discussion  at the literature festival which he coined as Bangalore Literature Festival Version 5. He asked each of the panellists to define #contrarian. Aakar: “Something which defies public opinion”; Prasanna: “Anything against the establishment”; Ramya: “Anything that goes against public opinion”. I couldn’t hear Mihir Sharma. From #contrarian, the conversation geared into #sedition, #nationalism, #food _jingoism, #demonetisation, #Parliament_disruption, #populism, #divide_and_rule, #desi_movements, and #tolerance. Each term was followed by hundreds of mini discussions among the audience. #noise reached an all-time high and my urge to take down notes simply vanished save for the keywords.

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The much-awaited last session of the day “Anything But Khamosh” featuring yesteryears’ Bollywood star Shatrughan Sinha in conversation with his biographer Bharathi Pradhan and publisher Ajay Mago had the biggest audience. When the actor arrived in what I would call typical Bihari colours with the customary shawl thrown over his right shoulder there were deafening cheers. He greeted his fans with an endearing ‘Namaste’. IMG_3654

This happened to be star’s first appearance in a lit fest and he was here to promote his biography “Anything But Khamosh”. He was at his humorous best right from the beginning of the discussion.  There were peals of laughter when he said, “Man can either be happy or married” and said that he has bared it all in his biography.

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When asked what his biggest achievement was he quipped, “Quitting smoking” and from then on he has been in the forefront of the anti-tobacco campaign.

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If ever a biopic was made on him he would want his character to be portrayed by Ranvir Singh.

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There were many requests by fans and his biographer to mouth out popular dialogues from his films and the affable actor did not disappoint them.  He mouthed them with ease and his baritone voice carried to the end of the arena. Lit fest attendees; chefs, waiters and bartenders from Royal Orchid; and security guards were all there to give him a standing ovation.

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Shatrughan Sinha’s booming voice and dialogues would have been playing on in everyone’s minds even as the multifaceted Piyush Mishra performed in what was the last event of the festival.  True to say the Bangalore Literature Festival 2017 ended on a Bollywood note and how!

 

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.

Weekly Photo Challenge: “Monochromatic.”

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Monochromatic.”

KR Market in Bangalore is a great place for street photography. This picture was taken on a cold January morning. This lady was bearing the brunt of the cold and wore a grim look. I found her an interesting subject to photograph. I chose black and white to add more drama to the overall look.

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Artist par excellence

IMG_8514 IMG_8535 Vishnu Soni is an artist extraordinaire. The unassuming Rajasthani painter is from the eighth generation of a family of artists that have been specialists in the Jaipur School of Art. He started painting 24 years back. IMG_8564

IMG_8559 IMG_8545... Soni’s forte is meenakari miniature art. His works are very intricate. A highlight of this form of art is the usage of gold. Soni uses 24 carat gold. IMG_8508 IMG_8530 Quite a regular at the Sampoorn Handicraft Exhibitions in Bangalore, Soni has a vast oeuvre. At Harshita Arts & Crafts, his home-cum-workshop in Jaipur, he puts in 8 hours of work every day. His wife and four children help him out. He paints on various media like silk, paper, old postcards, old stamp paper, rice paper, and gemstones like onyx, jade, and quartz. He makes the paint at home with stone and vegetables. Not surprisingly, the brushes used in this form of art are extremely fine tipped.

Works on post cards:

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Works on stamp paper:

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Jewellery and accessories:

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IMG_8556 He spends around 1 day to 1 year on his works. A perfectionist to the core, Soni has been awarded by the Rajasthan government for his mastery. He proudly displays the newspaper photograph showing him receiving the award. Soni showcases and sells his creations in his hometown Jaipur, Bangalore, Surajkund, Chandigarh, France, Singapore and many other cities. He particularly loves Bangalore because of the city’s pleasant climate and the numerous art lovers who flock to buy his works. He has great memories of his trips to France because he found out that the French love miniature art. IMG_8550 His best-selling creation has been an elaborately done scene from the Mahabharata which took him around 6 months. When selling his paintings, Soni gives the buyer tips on how best to showcase it. A buyer, who bought a lovely painting of a Rajasthani lady was advised to fix a night-lamp over the piece to accentuate the gold work. IMG_8509 IMG_8551 Drawings of musical instruments:

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IMG_8512... IMG_8558 Soni’s subjects are diverse. He draws inspiration from mythology, nature, music, heritage and Rajasthan culture. His most common subjects are the symbols of Rajasthan: The elephant is the symbol of love, the horse a symbol of power and the camel a symbol of good luck. The elephant is also the symbol of Jaipur, the horse is the symbol of Jodhpur and the camel the symbol of Udaipur. Men from the different regions of Rajasthan tie their turbans in different styles. Soni has quite a few paintings depicting the different styles. IMG_8511 What are his plans for the future? “To make more masterpieces and bring in more improvisations,” comes the reply.  A very enthusiastic man and a go-getter, he sure is going to come out with more magic with his brushes and talent.

Vishnu Soni conducts classes on miniature art in Bangalore. For further details you could contact him at 9829933475.

Source:

Vishnu Soni,

Harshita Arts & Crafts,

P. No. 15, Shyam Vatika, Naila Road,

Balaji Property Street, Jaising Pura Khor,

Delhi Bypass Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan – 27

E-mail: harshitaarts@gmail.com

Mob: 9829933475