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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Sunday Long Reads: Pratap Bhanu Mehta in conversation with Amit Chaudhuri, Shashikala’s journey in Bollywood, and more

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April 11, 2021 11:17:59 am
Amit Chaudhuri at LSE concert (Courtesy: Amit Chaudhuri)

‘I would feel optimistic if there were expressions of free speech and creation of new ways of thinking about creativity’

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: I have been looking forward to this, as you know, because you were important to my development as a music listener in Oxford in the mid-’80s. I was very struck by the opening of your book (Finding the Raga, Hamish Hamilton, Rs 499) and maybe we should begin with that. You describe Indian classical music almost as a foreign territory, that most Indians encounter it as they would encounter foreign music. You attribute it to the fact that partly they listen to some very bad classical music, and, therefore, never get into the genre. But you also attribute it to a very technical feature of Indian classical music, namely its extreme tonalities and I just want to push you on that a bit. The paradox is that you yourself, throughout your life, have been extraordinarily receptive to all kinds of music with all kinds of weird tonalities. So, can you explain a little bit more about what you mean when you say Indian classical music is like a foreign country for most middle-class Indians and what you attribute it to?


How the sickle became the tool of expression for artist Shambhavi


Ever Since the form of the sickle entered her art about a decade ago, Shambhavi, who goes by one name, has used the shape and the object to pull together a range of meanings. In Reaper’s Melody/Kaatani Geet (2018), from a body of work called Maati Maa shown at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, the artist arranged 294 iron sickles in a corner of Aspinwall House, the festival’s main venue. The crescent shapes resembled an army of critters scurrying up a wall or descending from it. They hinted at a rush of musical notes. They also suggested blades of grass, a paddy field. Is it pastoral if it’s wrought in rusty iron?


How Indian classical and Bollywood music in British schools are bettering the grades

High note: The music curriculum at the Feversham Primary Academy, Bradford, has made it one of the best performing schools in Britain.

In the late ’50s, in the aftermath of World War II, two teenaged brothers — Dalbir and Balbir Singh — made their way from Khanpur, Punjab, to a West Midlands’ foundry. As labourers in the cast-iron factory, they had to melt metal. At work, they’d often break out into folk songs, and others in the factory would gather to listen. Over time, the Punjabi community in the area called them bhujhangy, meaning children.


‘My subconscious is always at work’

I don’t like handling completely flat surfaces, so I prefer textural work (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

A note on your new exhibition at Vadehra Art Gallery “Homeward”, states that in the collection ‘cartographical autobiographies assume new dimensions’. Could you tell us more?


Can clothes have a domino effect?

Bollywood actress Ananya Pandey poses during LAKME ABSOLUTE GRAND FINALE PRESENTS BODICE BY RUCHIKA SACHDEVA show at the FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) x LFW (Lakme Fashion Week) 2021. (Photo : FS Images / FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week 2021 / RISE Worldwide)

At the FDCI Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) held last month in Mumbai, the finale made for a refreshing change of pace. Instead of going with the tried and tested policy of “when in doubt, go bling”, it opted for the lowkey style statement that Delhi-based designer Ruchika Sachdeva’s label, Bodice, embodies.


How do you nudge a child to a lifelong desire of learning?

The view from the top of Mussoorie’s Flag Hill, which gets its name from the Tibetan prayer flags tied to trees. (Photo: Stephen Alter)

India’s hill stations have a rich educational legacy and many of the finest schools in the country are located in the mountains. Exploring these landscapes, however, is often limited to extra-curricular activities and doesn’t influence academic subjects. Sadly, education has become divorced from the natural environment, even though the earth we inhabit is a primary text for human knowledge. Almost everything taught in school today began with the earliest observations our ancestors made as hunters, gatherers, pastoralists and farmers. The intellectual origin of our species lies in an ability to interpret the world around us, from the classification of plants and other forms of life to the laws of physics.


How Shashikala grew from being a Bollywood star to serving people

Developing the negatives: Shashikala stole the show even in cameos. (Photo: Express Archive)

From behind the rings of smoke emerges Shashikala with a cigarette holder between her fingers and dancing to the dreamy Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho along with Helen on the elaborate sets of the 1957 film Nau Do Gyarah. Later in the movie, the actor tries to woo Dev Anand with the flirtatious Asha Bhonsle song Jaane jigar haye haye. Shashikala, who wasn’t playing goody two shoes in it, had her hopes pinned on its success after going through several upheavals in personal as well as professional life.

The film, Vijay Anand’s directorial debut, however, didn’t work at the box office in spite of its evergreen melodies, much to her disappointment.


Where do salmons go to spawn

Salmon are born in freshwater streams where they will remain safe from predators as they grow.

I LOVE pan-seared salmon with lemon-butter-wine sauce and, on innumerable occasions, have watched, on television, hulking great grizzly bears stuff their faces with the delicious fish till they’re bursting — and then fussily pick only at the brains and fat — leaving most of the rest. Of course, it doesn’t go to waste — gulls and other scavengers clean up and what’s left of the carcass returns valuable nutrients to the soil, enabling the trees nearby to grow tall and strong. Invariably, these salmon have been caught in “salmon runs” — when they return “home” to spawn and die towards the end of their lives, leaping clear of the rapids they encounter on their way upstream.





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