Free Spirit

As the country celebrates 66 years of Independence,a few artistes revisit the ideas,people and places they associate with freedom

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:August 15, 2013 1:58 am

Atul Dodiya

Artist

It’s great to live in an independent country,a democracy,but it’s also important to understand that with great freedom,comes great responsibility. There has to be freedom to express one’s own self,which,unfortunately,has been taken away in recent times due to imposition by some other people. When we look at freedom,we need to contextualise it at different levels — as an individual,and as a nation where hundreds and thousands of people come together. We lack that feeling of living in a community. In recent times,there has also been tremendous pressure on artistic freedom,which is not good for art and culture. When it comes to me as an individual,I do feel free. There is a fantastic cultural legacy that I am part of and I can do what I want to do. I have reacted to sociopolitical situations but I have tried to do it responsibly. One must understand that art now is not calender art; visual art is not necessarily what all public is familiar with,so contemporary artists need to express themselves in a clear manner where the message comes across.

When it comes to patriotism,I feel it’s an inbuilt feeling — the country where one is born,studied and lived. However,there must be a sense of being part of the larger world,there needs to be a dialogue.

AKHU CHINGANGBAM

Musician,The Imphal Talkies

When I hold a pen in my hand and write poems or songs,I am free to do anything I want without a care in the world. I get everything I want and it’s this space where I feel free. Music gives me freedom and this aspect has nothing to do with Independence Day or a nation. I write protest music,which is political in nature and people automatically assume that I am a patriot. But I am not. I am frustrated with the condition of this country. For instance,there is no petrol in Imphal these days and it’s issues like these that we struggle with everyday. Independence Day is like any other day for me.

Diwan Manna

Chairperson,Chandigarh Lalit

Kala Akademi

IN an artist’s world,the word “freedom” is immensely significant,says Diwan Manna,as we question him on the relevance of the word this Independence Day. One of the pioneers of art photography in India,Manna,who is also the chairman of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi,has been spearheading a cultural movement in the region by inviting stalwarts in the creative world and increasingly inviting public participation. All this,he admits,wouldn’t have been possible if he was not free to exercise his will. “I see artists as the harbingers of growth. They have an important role to play in the society and this freedom to be creative comes with a lot of responsibility,” says Manna. He feels that the young generation — including artists — don’t share the same euphoria over the sentiments of Independence Day like his generation did. Born in 1958 in Bareta,a small town in Punjab,Manna feels that the freedom to be able to choose and to be is extremely relevant in today’s times. “We all exercise freedom everyday and often take it for granted. The freedom to be who we are,what we eat,hear,read and meet is a part of our freedom to choose,” sums up Manna.

Shovana Narayan

Kathak dancer

On August 14,Tees January Marg — the premises of Gandhi Smriti,which is otherwise bustling with visitors and children,is fairly deserted. One odd person or two walk in the lane adjacent to the one Mahatma Gandhi had taken on January 30,his last steps immortalised by cemented footprints. Delhi-based Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan,who stands near the memorial,appears at peace,almost at home.

“Even though the very mitti of Delhi is redolent of history on Independence Day,for me,it is Tees January Marg that evokes the spirit of freedom. Today,we’re unable to cope with differences but here was a man who took everybody along in his path for peace. Mahatma,in many ways,is a symbol of patriotism,pluralism and non-violence to attain social and personal peace,” says Narayan. The Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee turns to the Father of the Nation for lessons in daily life.

Having worked extensively with the Mahatma’s grandson and philosopher,Ramachandra Gandhi,who passed away in 2007,Narayan has presented two Gandhi-themed performances — Mohan and Rambha,about the Mahatma’s friendship with his untouchable maid,Rambha; and Sanmati,a philosophical take on the freedom movement.

Gandhian philosophy gets Narayan to contemplate human nature and violence. “It’s quite ironic that the person who taught us non-violence died so violently. I guess this day gives out a quiet message to fight the violence within each one of us,” Narayan signs off.

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