Free Spirit

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

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published:August 15, 2013 4:37 am

Street Cred

Daku

Graffiti Artist

Patriotism is seen more at traffic signals when August 15 or January 26 is approaching. I see street kids holding the national flag in their hands,selling these for Rs 10 or so. You could be in a car or an auto and they’ll come to you,at your window,with these flags. That’s why,to my mind,no other place is more synonymous with Independence Day than traffic signals. Apart from that,I don’t see too much patriotism anywhere.My strongest memory of Independence Day was being woken up very early by the peon in my hostel to attend flag hoisting. He would come in the morning,ringing a bell and keep ringing it until we were all up.

For a graffiti artist,nights are more important than days because that’s when we get out and do our art. So,Independence Day and Republic Day are tough for us because of all the police around. It gets difficult to get out at night and do something. I wish more youngsters would get out and be more active on streets instead of Facebook.

A small change that could yield big results would be having more public art; this would generate a lot of positivity on streets and,perhaps,make people more proactive.

As told to Dipanita Nath

My Space

Swanand Kirkire

Lyricist and singer

Swanand Kirkire walks into Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai with the ease of an ex-student in a college canteen. It is here that the Indore-born Kirkire and his compatriots from Delhi’s National School of Drama — including actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui — felt at home.

To Kirkire,theatre is truth. The direct interaction between humans here leaves no room for being fake,something that Kirkire relishes. “It allows me to fail. My freedom comes from the fact that I get to try without the fear of failing,” he says. This is what he also associates with the term “independence”.

Despite having parents who are trained classical musicians,Kirkire is a self-taught singer. “I didn’t like the classical music space because of aspects such as the guru-shishya tradition,” he says.

A quest to find a sounding board ended when Kirkire discovered his love for the stage in college. “It’s more democratic. I was once in a group where a bank manager and a peon acted together,and the peon got a meatier role,” he says. “This coming together of age,morality,class and caste that gets people to react and discuss the subject makes theatre a great leveller,” he adds.

Sankhayan Ghosh

His Story

Shovana Narayan,Kathak dancer

On August 14,Tees January Marg,which houses the Gandhi Smriti,is not bustling with the usual crowd of visitors and children’s groups. One or two people 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. This is the place that she identifies with patriotism.

“Though the 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 among ourselves but here was a man who took everybody along in his path for peace. The Mahatma is a symbol of patriotism,plularism and non-violence as a means to attain social and personal peace,” says Narayan. It is evident that the Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee turns to the Father of the Nation for lessons in daily life.

Having worked 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 Gandhi as a child,who struck up a close friendship with his untouchable maid,Rambha,and Sanmati,a philosophical interpretation of the freedom movement.

Narayan also contemplates human nature through the Mahatma’s philosophy. “It’s ironic that the person who taught us non-violence died so violently. This day gives us a quiet message to fight the violence within each one of us,” says Narayan.

Pallavi Pundir

Mills & Boon

Shilpa chavan,Accessory designer

The crumbling structure rises from behind the trees. The now-defunct Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi,Mumbai,is a nearly forgotten landmark in the teeming metropolis. It is,at best,reminiscent of the closure of mills that rendered thousands of city’s textile mill workers jobless.

For accessory designer Shilpa Chavan,however,the association extends beyond the obvious to encompass what textile mills have contributed to the country — the role they played in India’s struggle for Independence. “Independence has to be viewed from a historical perspective. To me,the term independence translates into self-sufficiency which was propagated as part of the Swadeshi movement during the freedom struggle. There’s a strong need for us to be self-sufficient even today and the mills remind us of that legacy,” she says.

Chavan takes pride in events such as the 1942 strike by mill workers in Ahmedabad. “On August 9,1942,as many as 1.25 lakh textile mill workers brought Ahmedabad to a halt by going on a strike for more than three months. The strike — among the first cries for Independence — was a turning point of sorts,” she says,adding that even today,next to agriculture,it’s the textile sector that constitutes the largest workforce in the country.

Vidya Prabhu

Song Sung True

AKHU CHINGANGBAM

Musician,The Imphal Talkies

When I hold a pen in my hand and write poems or songs,I feel free. I get everything I want without a care in the world. It’s this space in which I feel free.

Music gives me freedom and this has nothing to do with Independence Day or a nation. I write protest music,which is political in nature,hence people automatically assume 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 such as these that we struggle with everyday. Independence Day is like any other day for me.

As told to Somya Lakhani

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