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Art & Culture

‘LALITARPAN FESTIVAL WAS BORN TO ENCOURAGE YOUNG ARTISTS’

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20th edition of Asavari’s annual LalitArpan Festival was held recently in association with the India Habitat Centre. Celebrating 75 years of freedom from colonial rule, the focus of this year’s LalitArpan Festival explored the term ‘azadi’ or ‘swatantra’ and the associated self-dignity ‘swabhiman’ through performances of Kathak, Kathakali and traditional theatre. Lalit Arpan explored the various dimensions of the two terms – independence and self-esteem- in 3 poignant presentations. These were – the heart-rending trauma of an acid attack survivor “Roop vidroop” by Shovana Narayan followed by the sacrifice of a war widow “Kshaatrabala” by Prabal Gupta and the social travails, agony and anguish of a transgender “Lallan Miss” by Rama Pandey’s theatre group. Both Roop vidroop and Lallan Miss are based on true life incidents.

In a candid conversation kathak guru Shovana Narayan gave insights about her show. Excerpts:

Q. How did your journey, as a kathak guru, commence during your service as a civil servant?

A. Since childhood, I had been actively and passionately engaged in two parallel streams namely scholastic pursuits and dance. Later the scholastic aspect was replaced by civil service, IAAS, and my dance career went on with equal passion.

I owe it to my parents, who come from a family of freedom fighters, for igniting within me the spirit of enquiry and the spirit to share with all and to do them well with depth, sincerity and sensitivity. Even before I entered civil service, I had started teaching in order to provide some support to the family of a well-known doyen of Kathak who had just died.

Q. What inspired you to deal with a sensitive topic like acid attack survivor what message do you wish to spread through your show?

A. In the midst of all the azadi ka Amrit mahotsava, I started contemplating within myself as to what the term swatantrata meant to individuals and whether there the term itself was frought with several layers of meaning and that in each one of those meanings, the term ‘azadi’ or ‘swatantra’ actually meant freedom of choice, to be able to live a life associated self-dignity ‘swabhiman’. Thus, the issue of the trauma and anguish of an acid attack survivor was taken up for her disfigurement and loss of external looks are abhorred by society and she is shunned by all. But in such cases, igniting the inner strength, and her will and determination, she frees herself – finds azadi from her own inner fears and world of darkness, in order to carve a life for herself.

Q. How did the Essence of Lalit Arpan festival came into being?

A. In early 2001, late tabla maestro, Ustad Shafaat Ahmed Khan were reminiscing on how senior artistes provided encouragement to us young artistes and to unknown art forms and so LalitArpan Festival was born in 2002.

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Art & Culture

Centre urges nation to celebrate UNESCO’s recognition of Durga Puja

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Centre urges nation to celebrate UNESCO’s recognition of Durga Puja

The Union Ministry of Culture urged everyone on Thursday to celebrate Durga Puja’s inclusion as the first Indian festival on UNESCO’s Representation List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Meenakshi Lekhi, Union Minister of State for Culture and External Affairs praised the Centre’s efforts to promote India’s culture and heritage.

“Nominating the Durga Puja in Intangible Cultural Heritage list is the country’s pride. We have taken all the advice into consideration. As per the direction, we nominated Durga Puja as the Intangible culture of the country because cutting across states is celebrated by everyone. In this process, it brings everyone together, it’s Unity in Diversity,” Lekhi said.

According to the union minister, India has submitted ‘Garba’ for consideration on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

She went on to explain how the “whole-of-government approach” resulted in Durga Puja being successfully inscribed on the UNESCO list.

According to Lekhi, the union culture ministry was involved in preparing the dossiers for inscription, while the union external affairs ministry gathered international support for voting.

She added that everyone should rise above petty politics.

However, Lekhi attacked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for taking credit for the inclusion of the festival on UNESCO’s list.

“It is horrendous a state government that banned Durga Puja and idol immersion was taking credit for this feat,” she said.

Lekhi also praised the artisans who worked on the creation of Durga idols and pandals.

She will honour 30 such artisans on September 24 at a ministry-organized event in Kolkata.

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Art & Culture

10th SIIMA Awards witness the best of South Indian cinema

Murtaza Ali Khan

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10th SIIMA Awards witness the best of South Indian cinema

I was recently invited to attend the 2022 South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) in Bangalore. Celebrating a decade of SIIMA, the 10th edition of the festival was held on 10 – 11 September, 2022. The ambiance remained electrifying throughout the two days as the biggest names in Indian showbiz made their presence felt at the awards. SIIMA was launched in 2012 by Vishnu Vardhan Induri and Brinda Prasad Adusimilli to appreciate film makers from across the South Indian film industries. Over the last decade or so, SIIMA has only gone from the position of strength to strength to become one of the most sought after awards events in India that holds such a special place in everyone’s hearts.
Oozing with cinephilia and glamour, the star-studded extravaganza has been curated by Brinda Prasad Adusumilli and Vishnu Induri, for a span of two days in Bengaluru. Earlier, Brinda Prasad Adusumilli, who is also the chairperson of SIIMA, had announced the nominations for the films and music released in the 4 South Indian Languages viz. Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil in 2021. Other than the regular awards, SIMMA also features some special honors for lifetime contributions and few special awards. Now, the first day of the two day event focused on Telugu and Kannada cinema and the second day of the awards function was dedicated to celebrating the best of Tamil and Malayalam cinema.
Adding to the glitter and glamour of the 10th edition of SIIMA, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh marked his scintillating presence at the event alongside some of biggest names of Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, and Malayalam cinema including the likes of Allu Arjun, Yash, Vijay Deverakonda, Pooja Hegde, Darshan Thoogudeepa, Arvind Swamy, Silambarasan TR, and Kamal Haasan, Anees Bazmee, Vivek Agnihotri, Arvind Swamy, Hansika Motwani, Siva Karthikeyan, Silambarasan TR, Nidhhi Agerwal, and Tovino Thomas, among others.
The winners for Telugu and Kannada cinema were also announced on the first day of SIIMA. The Best Film (Telugu) went to ‘Pushpa: The Rise,’ and the Best Film (Kannada) went to ‘Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana.’ As far as the top acting honors are concerned, the winners announced on the first day included Punneth Rajkumar, who was awarded Best Actor (Kannada) posthumously for ‘Yuvarathnaa,’ Ashika Ranganath, who won the Best Actress (Kannada) for ‘Madhagaja,’ Pooja Hegde, who won the Best Actress award (Telugu) for ‘Most Eligible Bachelor,’ Allu Arjun, who won the Best Actor award (Telugu) for ‘Pushpa – The Rise,’ Pramod, who bagged the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Award (Kannada) for ‘Rathnan Prapancha,’ Aarohi Narayan, who won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kannada) for ‘Drishya 2,’ Jagadeesh Prathap Bandari, who bagged the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Award (Telugu) for the film ‘Pushpa – The Rise,’ and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, who won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Award (Telugu) for the film ‘Krack.’
The winners for Malayalam and Tamil cinema were announced on the second day of the festival. While ‘Minnal Murali’ bagged the Best Film (Malayalam), ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ won the Best Film (Tamil). The top acting honors went to Kangana Ranaut, who won Best Actress (Tamil) for ‘Thalaivii,’ Arvind Swamy, who won Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Tamil) for ‘Thalaivii,’ Silambarasan TR, who won Best Actor (Tamil) for ‘Maanaadu,’ Tovino Thomas, who bagged Best Actor (Tamil) for ‘Minnal Murali’ and ‘Kala,’ and Unnimaya Prasad, who bagged Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Malayalam) for ‘Joji’. The winners were chosen by an online voting system.
The passion, zeal, and unconditional love that the fans of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam cinema have is what makes these regional film industries tick. Often the stars are hailed as demigods. Attending the 10th edition of SIIMA in Bangalore has to be one of the top experiences for me—going to ground zero and attending a physical event happening in the real world after a long hiatus— since the pandemic hit us. Credit goes to Vishnu Vardhan Induri and Brinda Prasad Adusimilli for their passion and commitment towards SIIMA and for extending their hospitality to all those attending the event.
As curtains have come down on the 10th edition of SIIMA, my eyes are already set on the next edition which promises to be even bigger and grander.

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Art & Culture

‘The invigorate masterstroke’ is a tribute to late artist Dipen Bose

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Born in Kolkata in 1921, self-taught artist Dipen Bose started to paint after giving up his job at Central Excise service around 1947. In 1953 his painting was presented to the president, federal Republic of Germany by Government of India. His artworks indulged in the usage of indigenous materials such as tempera, a limited palette with vibrant colors, lead pencils, and watercolors. He painted romantic landscapes, historical themes, and portraits, as well as scenes from daily rural life. The simplicity and elegance of refined figures are evidently soothing.
Inspired by his friend Indra Dugar, he moved towards traditional Indian Art, French Impressionism and Chinese Art. He sought inspiration from jain and kangra paintings, far eastern art and even impressionism, resulting in a style akin to Bengal School. It was exactly at that time when Zainul Abedin, Chittaprasad, Rathin Maitra, Prodosh Dasgupta were drawing on the reality of human sufferings around them while Dipen Bose quietly stood apart and painted from imagination. He also wrote articles on art in newspapers and journals. 
To pay tribute to his contribution to Indian arts, a solo exhibition of Dipen Bose named ‘The invigorate masterstroke’ is going to be held at Creativity Art Gallery, Hauz Khas Village from 16th September to 24th of September. This show is curated by Paramita Sarkar and she makes an earnest effort to bring together his collections and a deep insight into his personal life.
In a candid conversation with The Daily Guardian curator Paramita Sarkar says, “Dipen Bose was a self-taught artist with no academic training in art. But inspired by his grandfather Nagendra Bose, he learned the oil painting technique from renowned artist Debiprasad Ray Chowdhury. Director of Creativity Art Gallery Shekhar Jhamb and I jointly planned to represent artist Dipen Bose’s work from his family’s personal collection in a unique way with more information and numerous varieties of work including his valuable personal belongings.”

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Art & Culture

Classical Music and mindfulness

Nithya Rajendran

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Classical Music and mindfulness

The roots of Indian classical music are traceable back to the vedas. The Samvad to be precise. In turns the Vedas are believed to be ancient ways of connecting with the divine spirit or God. In other words, an old spiritual paradigm for men to connect with God and the forces of nature. Music that emanated from the vedas were yet another dimension to the spiritual truths contained in the ancient chants.
When we observe the way Indian Classical Music has been and continues to be imparted to this day, we can spot unerringly, the deep spiritual underpinning it contains. Especially mindfulness. When a singer or ever a learner commences singing Indian Classical music, one can observe the immense demand placed on the artist to be completely mindful and present in the music he is creating. This is imperative in Indian Classical Music because the production of pure Sur( or divine, resonant key) is central to the philosophy that defines classical music. To understand this better, one can observe the initial portions of a typical classical music concert. The resting on each note and the artists’ complete mindfulness presence in those notes is unmistakable. There is no other way to produce pure Sur or key in Indian Classical Music. The artist has to, by compulsion forget his or her past and future and be united with his musical present which is the note or key he sings at a particular moment. A deviation from this state is punished with impure notes that do not bring out the flavor of the Raag he is presenting. Being present and mindful is required of him in multiple ways. His mind has to be in the present as his body, his emotions and his spirit. Without this integrated mindfulness the perfect sur cannot be produced. And when he does manage to produce the perfect key he, by extension draws his audiences into the time warp of the mindful present. In those moments he and his audiences know nothing but the present and are completely mindful of the beauty of the music being sung or produced.
This is the reason more people have to expose themselves to learning/hearing Indian Classical music. It is a simple yet powerful way to introduce mindfulness in a pleasing environment.
Today’s generation is straddled with many staggering challenges. Most of the serious among those pertain to unwholesome and frittered states of mind encouraged by social media and technology. There is an urgent need to find accessible ways to becoming more centered and mindful. Indian Classical music can be the answer. If we only we can give this magical form a chance to transform us.

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Art & Culture

Artists perform fusion at Shudh Dhwani concert

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Artists perform fusion at Shudh Dhwani concert

With the view to raise awareness on Indian classical music, Snehalata Memorial Foundation recently organized its fourth annual music and dance festival titled Shudh Dhwani at Triveni Kala Sangam. The concert featured some young musicians who performed fusion. Due to lockdown restrictions ‘Shudh Dhwani 2020’ was performed online and last year the event could not be arranged due to the global pandemic.
The first performance on flute featured Ajay Prasanna with Parimal Chakraborty on tabla. The second performance of the evening was given by vocalist Sanjay Doural with Ravi on tabla, Salim Kumar as sitarist and Sandeep on keyboard. The final performance was presented by Bharatnatyam exponent Aparajita Sharma with guru Kanaka Sudhakar (nattuvangam), Venkateshwaran Kuppuswamy (vocal), SH MV Chandrashekhar (mridangam), and V.S.K Annadurai (violin).
In a candid conversation with The Daily Guardian, Ajay Prasanna, one of the leading International flautists of India said, “I played Raga Bageshri and there were two bandish the one I played was Rupak Taal. Then I played Banarasi Dadra in tune. After lockdown again programs started and I am very grateful to Snehalata Memorial Foundation that they remembered me for their show. I thank the foundation that they came back and supported as well as welcomed the performers.”
Snehalata Memorial Foundation is a Delhi based social organisation which was established in 1992, to spread awareness for Indian classical music throughout the world. They pay special attention to remote places and mid-tier cities to popularise Indian classical music. They also conduct workshops on plantations, trees among other things.

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Architecturally Speaking

Sand removal process begins at Konark Sun temple

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Four entrances to the 13th-century Konark Sun Temple’s assembly hall (Jagamohan) were sealed and filled with sand by the British between 1900 and 1903. The sand caused internal cracks in the structure over time, prompting the Centre to order its removal from the world heritage monument in February 2020.

According to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials, when the top was filled 100 years ago, Britishers assumed the sand would take the entire load. “But the sand has settled down and the whole purpose of it has been defeated. The sand was causing a lot of unwanted stress to the walls. Unless the sand is taken away, it would keep pushing the walls,” said an ASI official anonymously.

The ASI began the sand removal process on Tuesday. Arun Mallick, ASI superintendent (Bhubaneswar circle), stated that they performed bhumi pujan on Thursday before beginning the removal process, which could take up to three years. He added that they have done extensive documentation over the last two years and consulted experts on how to remove the sand, including professors at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Roorkee’s Central Building Research Institute. “We believe we have developed a secure system.”

Mallick stated that the sand will be removed through the four gates and the sanctum sanctorum will be stabilised for the devotees. “We can open the amalakh – fluted finial stone, dismantle the stones one at a time, and remove the sand,” Mallick explained.

He also stated that the tender for technical assistance was awarded to BDR Nirman Private Limited and that the sand removal work will be performed solely by ASI personnel. “The sand removal will begin with digging holes at the western door. We will then study the impact before proceeding.”

The temple was built 800 years ago by Ganga dynasty king Langula Narasingha Dev to worship the Sun God. The temple was built over 16 years by approximately 1,200 stone craftsmen and artists using chlorite and sandstone. The main temple and Natya mandap have since been demolished, leaving only the Jagamohan.

Gyana Ranjan Mohanty, director of BDR Nirmal Pvt Ltd, stated that the main challenge is to ensure that no debris or sand falls on the monument. “The difficulty is removing the sand from the structure without spilling any of it. We must construct a mechanical platform from which we will construct tunnels. The sand rises 14 feet.”

Mohanty said as they do not know what is the volume and condition of the sand, two to three processes may be adopted. “We have to give temporary support involving stainless steel fabricated beams inside once a void is created after the sand is taken out. Once the process is completed, people can pass through Jagamohan. We have to put a stainless steel structure on the top for stability,” said Mohanty.

Visitors will be able to enter the assembly hall once the process is completed, according to ASI officials. To support the structure and keep it from collapsing, a stainless steel structure will be erected.

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