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The difficulty in simplicity

Nithya Rajendran

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The difficulty in simplicity

As I was in the process of imparting music a few weeks ago to a student of mine, we reached a very tricky and rather surprising juncture. I was trying to teach the student a simple phrase in an Aalaap (a creative improvisation within a Raag). The student was trying to repeat it but could not; this was not because it was difficult, but because it was a bit too simple. One might argue that a teacher should be proud of this attribute in a student, one where the difficult is motivating for him or her. I would agree, but on the condition that the simple is not marginalized. This deserves an explanation.

Music is made up of simple and pure pieces of sound. Even the most complicated pieces of music can be broken down into simple and pure notes. One of the most important steps to creating even a complex and intricate web of notes is being able to master the simple ones with perfection and purity. Sometimes, in our quest for challenge and thrill, we end up not being able to stay with the simple and beautiful. And over time, clutter and quantity replace simplicity and quality. Which is why, in classical music we must learn to perfect and polish simple notes and phrases. We must be able to take joy in them.

As I have myself grown to understand this truth through experience within the template of musical learning and teaching, I have grown to understand its profound import in our spiritual and emotional lives as well. I am now more aware of small things that have the ability to make me happy or sad and have developed an ability to recognize them when they happen. With this, we can develop a healthy and light emotional inner being; one that doesn’t pile up or repress. Because we are able to recognize and resolve feelings then and there when they are still simple. Another attribute that I feel comes with being able to deal with simplicity, is the ability to break down big and complex tasks into many smaller and simpler ones. This helps us solve big problems with patience and perfection. The analogy that comes to mind is that when we need to untangle or unknot multiple knots, we should be able to start with the outermost knots, the smaller ones and keep solving them as simple problems. And before we know it, the big mesh of tangles becomes just a collection of many simple ones.

Simplicity is actually very difficult. There are so many simple things in life that we find difficult to do. It is simpler to keep healthy with exercise and a balanced diet than go through the stress of ill-health and hospitalization. And yet people seem to find the former difficult. It is simpler to speak the truth and be honest as far as possible. But we all know the trouble many people have with that; somehow a complex web of lies is more comforting for many than the simplicity of truth. We have simple things in our life we can be grateful for; a job, a family, friends and good food to name a few things we take for granted so often. Yet people often set the threshold for happiness so high that unless they have an astronomical salary or an expensive car, happiness cannot have a place.

Being happy with simple things is tough. But it can be cultivated, just like any other skill. Classical music training forces people to focus and master the simple through the practice of basic notes to perfection.

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Art & Culture

Italian Embassy to screen 6 contemporary Italian films in October

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Italian Embassy to screen 6 contemporary Italian films in October

In its continuing effort to boost the cultural ties between India and Italy, the Embassy of Italy is hosting the first ever Italian Film Festival in collaboration with ANICA (Italian Film Commission). The screenings will take place simultaneously in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru from October 13-15, 2022. The festival comprises 6 films that have been previously presented at the prestigious Davide di Donatello Awards, which were established in 1955 with the aim to honour the best of each year’s Italian and foreign films. The film awards are given out each year by the Accademia del Cinema Italiano (The Academy of Italian Cinema). One of the major highlights of the festival will be noted Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore’s riveting documentary on the legendary film composer Ennio Morricone. The winner of the Cecilia Mangini Award at the 2022 David di Donatello Awards, ‘The Glance of Music – Ennio’ retraces the life and works of the legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone: from his debut with Sergio Leone to the Oscar-winning `The Hateful Eight.’ Interestingly, Tornatore and Morricone also collaborated on the 1988 Oscar-winning classic ‘Cinema Paradiso,’ which remains a very popular film among film lovers in India. India’s pick for the Oscars this year, the Gujarati film ‘Chello Show’ has been compared to ‘Cinema Paradiso’ by several film critics the world over. ‘Ennio’ also sets out to reveal the less well-known side of Morricone, such as his passion for the game of chess or the origin in real life of some of his musical intuitions. Michelangelo Frammartino’s ‘Il Buco’ (English title: ‘The Hole’) follows the extraordinary adventure of the young members of the Piedmont Speleological Group who, having already explored all the caves of Northern Italy, changed course in August 1961 and went South to explore other caves unknown to man— Europe’s deepest cave in the untouched Calabrian hinterland as the bottom of the Bifurto Abyss, 700 meters below Earth, is reached for the first time. ‘Sulla giostra,’ co-written and directed by Giorgia Cecere, tells the story of an intense but ironic female duel over the fate of a family home, starring Lucia Sardo and Claudia Gerini. The film makes us ask a very basic question. What importance do the places hold in a person’s life where he/she has lived? Mario Martone’s ‘The King of Laughter’ is essentially a biographical film about the Neapolitan comic theater legend Eduardo Scarpetta, essayed by none other than the legendary Toni Servillo. At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the Naples of the Belle Époque, theaters and cinemas are on the rise. The great comedian Eduardo Scarpetta is the box-office king. Success has made him a very rich man. At the height of his success, Scarpetta allows himself what will prove to be a dangerous gamble. He decides to parody the play ‘The Daughter of Iorio,’ a tragedy by the greatest Italian poet of the time, Gabriele D’Annunzio. Will the gamble pay off or will it prove to be a disaster? ‘A Girl Returned,’ directed by Giuseppe Bonito, is set in the summer of 1975. A thirteen-year-old girl returns to the family she didn’t know she belonged to. Suddenly she loses everything from her previous life: a comfortable home and the exclusive affection reserved for an only child, and finds herself in a strange world barely reached by progress, forced to share a small, dark house with her natural parents and five other brothers she had never met before. Also starring the celebrated Italian actor Toni Servillo, Leonardo Di Costanzo’s ‘The Inner Cage’ is set in an old nineteenth-century jail, which is in the process of being vacated, when bureaucracy comes in the way. Together with a handful of officers, a dozen prisoners are left behind in a suspended bubble where rules get hazy, and new relationships form. In the month of November, the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre will be hosting a week-long retrospective on Pier Paolo Pasonlini, marking his centenary year, at the India Habitat Centre. The retrospective will be followed by a balet performance which will pay homage to Pasolini as a director, writer, and a poet, combining dance, music, words, and images. The Embassy of Italy in New Delhi as well as the Italian Cultural Centre, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in October last year, has been playing in instrumental role in bringing the best of Italian cinema to India. Last year in March, the Embassy organized “Notti Stellate – Italian Cinema Under The Sky”. The three-day event, which was hosted with strict COVID-19 guidelines in place, screened films such as Pasolini’s short documentary film “Notes for a Film on India”, Marco Bellocchio’s 2019 critically acclaimed crime drama film “The Traitor”, Matteo Garrone’s 2015 fantasy film “Tale of Tales”, and a segment of the legendary Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini’s 10-part documentary miniseries on India titled “India Through Rossellini’s Eyes” made back in 1959. The visitors were served with pizza and gelato, once again reminding that food and cinema are a perfect pairing, especially when it comes to India and Italy. 

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‘My work underlines the consequences of human actions on ecology’

Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya’s artwork depicts the urban landscapes and the complexities of it.

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‘My work underlines the consequences of human actions on ecology’

With the rising population lot of complexities are arising in urban landscapes such as civic apathy, noise and environmental pollution, lack of respect towards our natural resources and our florafauna. The common man is ignorant of the plight faced due to lack of civic sense. One of the awardees of the Ravi Jain Memorial fellowship, Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya diligently conveys the serious challenges faced by the modern society through his artwork. He is one of the new age artist in the field of Indian contemporary art. Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya’s artwork depicts the urban landscapes and the complexities of it. He studied BFA (Painting) from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and MFA (Painting) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. His works encompass the transitions happening in the environment due to imbalance created by human activities. He also focuses on representing the relationship that exists between man and animals as well as representing the devastating impact in the present age due to the problem of overpopulation. With the objective to raise awareness on issues concerning the environment Dhoomimal gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of paintings by Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya till 10th October at Connaught place, which is curated by Georgina Maddox. At the first glance Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya’s paintings look like cityscapes but essentially his artwork represents issues concerning ecology. In a candid conversation artist Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya says, “I am engaging with the questions of ecology located in an urban context and urban environment. We have reached to a point where it is understood that the society may not survive longer if we continue to commit violence towards urban environment, ecology and human life. At present we live in an endangered situation, irrespective of our history, which may lead to our end. Therefore, my work underlines the consequences of human actions that have mostly treated our ecology and environment as means to achieve its (capitalist) ends to further infrastructural development, at the cost of nature.” The artist further added, “My works describes human excessive demands effects on urban environment and modern society such as globalization, population, pollution etc. My work usually looks at the perception of people and the way certain key problems are being ignored and not addressed. Whenever I look around, everyone is engaged in the racial, ethnic, caste and class divisions. We do not know how and when this discrimination will stop from society.”

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Swaranjali hosts Colors of India to encourage budding artists

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Swaranjali hosts Colors of India to encourage budding artists

With the intent to nurture budding artists and Indian music Swaranjali a Delhi based art and cultural society organises concerts for students several times in a year. The organization is a collective of students of Indian classical music and dance, aimed at providing them a platform to exchange knowledge about the various disciplines, styles and encourage collaboration. On the occasion of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, Swaranjali Delhi hosted a two days Indian classical music event called ‘Colours of India’ curated by Subrata De. The event highlighted a galaxy of artists from various states who performed on 24th and 25th September at Triveni Kala Sangam. The event on Saturday featured eminent carnatic veena player Vidhushi Jayalakshmi Sekhar with Trichy Dr. K. Murali on Ghatam and Kumbakonam N. Padmanaban on Mridangam from Chennai. This was followed by a vocal recital from Delhi based artist Ravi Pal with Pradip Kumar Sarkar on tabla and Lalit Sisodia on harmonium. The last event of the day included Soumitra Thakur on sitar from Delhi with Durjay Bhaumik on tabla accompaniment. The event on 25th featured Subhasis Bose from Kolkata who played Hansaveena with Susamoy Mishra on tabla accompaniment. This was followed by a tabla solo recital by Shri Amitava Sen of Jamshedpur with Juned Khan on Sarangi and then the concluding performance was given by Vidhsuhi Dr. Tanuja Nafde on vocal from Nagpur, accompaniment by Lalit Sisodia on Harmonium with Debasish Adhikari on Tabla. In a candid conversation sitar artist Soumitra Thakur said, “It was an honour to have performed for Colours of India 2022, an evening of Indian Classical Music organised by Swaranjali Delhi. Despite of heavy lashes yesterday in Delhi there was a very good turn up in the audience and the audience consisted of all music learners of Delhi. I played Raag Bageshree, where I started with Alap, Jor and Jhala and then played 3 compositions. I was accompanied on the tabla by maestro Durjay Bhaumik. The event was exceptionally curated by sitar maestro Subarata De and his team. My heartiest congratulations to all the members of the society Swaranjali for organizing such a successful event.” Every year Swaranjali hosts Gharana Festival, Pravasi Bharatiya Sangeet Nrittya Mahotsav, Shraddhanjali, Murchhana Festival to encourage budding artists.

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Exhibition by S. Bhattacharya leaves viewers spellbound

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exhibition by S. Bhattacharya leaves viewers spellbound

The first ever mobile photography exhibition (A to Z) by Sanjay Bhattacharya was inaugurated with the gracious presence of well-known personalities from the society Begum Sharmila Pataudi, Padmashree Shovana Narayan at Bikaner House Main Building. Born in 1958 in Kolkata, Sanjay Bhattacharya graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata in 1982. He has participated in some national and international art events and workshops and enjoys collaborating with musicians a n d o t h e r artists. His works can be seen in important public and private collections in India and overseas including the World Bank and the Parliament House in Delhi. He has also prepared a portrait of two of the former Indian presidents Shankar Dayal Sharma and K R Narayanan. Despite being a professional painter, there is no end to his spectacular skills. Breaking the monotonous work schedule he picked up his camera and went on his first tour of India in 2017 where he clicked 1000 photos out of which he showcased a few in his first Photography Exhibition in the same year. Once again he got all of his clicks but from his own mobile phone camera this time. He came up with four different segments for the exhibition, some were shots of his hand shadows in mystic lights while some were of his distorted shadows or reflections of him on different elements. Few were outdoor photography and the last sets were interiors. In a candid conversation Sanjay Bhattacharya said, “I am very obliged to see such a heart-warming welcome to my first ever mobile photography in the city. Since I started my second tangent in 2017, this was a new experiment to follow the freedom of passion I found over the last few years. Now, I have much more to give after seeing such success and love I received from people”. The show will be continue till 30th September at Prithvi Art and Cultural Center, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi.

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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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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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