J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga (comprising The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and other unfinished works) is inarguably the pinnacle of modern fantasy writing. It also has a certain seminal quality that’s all encompassing as far as epic fantasy is concerned. And whether one looks at J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter or George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, it is easy to spot the Tolkien influence.
For the uninitiated, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are all set in the Third Age. The Silmarillion and other unfinished works, on the other hand, basically tell the story of what all preceded the Third Age. Given that we have already had a total of 6 feature length films by Peter Jackson (3 covering the events of The Lord of the Rings and 3 covering the events of The Hobbit), it’s quite obvious that the new Amazon series ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings or Power’ focuses on the First Age as well as the Second Age.
Now, The Silmarillion tells of Eä, a fictional universe that includes the Blessed Realm of Valinor, the once-great region of Beleriand, the sunken island of Númenor, and the continent of Middle-earth, where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set. After the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien was asked to come up with a sequel and so he offered a draft of the stories that would later become The Silmarillion. But when the proposal got rejected, Tolkien began working on a new story that eventually became The Lord of the Rings.
The Rings of Power (so far only two episodes are out) begins in the First Age with the ageless Elves living in a seemingly perfect world without any fear of death as we meet a young Galadriel and her elder brother Finrod. But it all changes with the emergence of an evil dark lord named Melkor, popularly known as Morgoth. While Tolkien explains Morgoth’s origins in detail in The Silmarillion, the Amazon series eschews it, perhaps because the makers don’t have the rights to The Silmarillion and so a lot of what the show offers is actually in a speculative space even though it’s vetted by the Tolkien scholars. Also, there is great secrecy about what will make it to the series and what will be left out. We are basically looking at 5 seasons of epic fantasy content from showrunners, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, and executive producer and director, JA Bayona, commissioned by none other than Jeff Bezos who is a self-confessed Tolkien enthusiast.
When their home of Valinior, along with the beautiful tree which is the source of light in the pre-sun world, is destroyed by Morgoth, the Elves resist and go on an all out war. The action shifts to Middle-earth which witnesses a Peter Jackson-esque LOTR-like battle sequence featuring Eagles, Nazgûl, Elves, and Orcs. Finrod fights valiantly but ultimately succumbs as Middle-earth is left in ruin. But, Morgoth is eventually defeated. However, his Orcs spread over Middle-earth, led by Sauron himself who started off as Morgoth’s general only to take his place as the dreaded Dark Lord of Middle-earth, following his master’s defeat at the hands of Elves.
Now, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most of Amazon series would be about Sauron’s rise in Middle-earth with the forging of the Great Rings including the One Ring all the way to his epic defeat against the united armies of Elves and Men when Elendil’s son Isildur would prove to be his unexpected bane. Sauron who makes his first appearance on the show in the first episode itself looks quite intimidating as we get to witness his gigantic silhouette against a sunset surrounded by his monstrous orcs.
For the uninitiated, Sauron is a master manipulator who is endowed with many gifts and powers. Most importantly, he can take different forms. In the Second Age, he famously takes his fair form in order to deceive the Elf smiths of Eregion, including Celebrimbor, and counseled them in arts and magic. Not all the Elves trusted him, particularly Galadriel, Elrond, and Gil-galad, High King of the Ñoldor. To the Elves who listened, Sauron gave knowledge and encouragement in forging the Rings of Power, while he forged the One Ring in secret, to rule the Elvish rings. Upon that ring Sauron wrote in Tengwar the much dreaded and forbidden inscription which translates to: One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
While the first two episodes rely a lot on exposition to tell the story of the Middle-earth long before the times of Bilbo and Frodo, they do a good job of establishing the world and the characters: be it the Elves, Men, Dwarves, Orcs, or Harfoots, the predecessors to the Hobbits. We have already been introduced to the great Elf characters such as Elrond, Gil-galad, Celebrimbor, and Galadriel.
We also come across the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm (the background music for this segment is simply mind-blowing) which is ruled by King Durin III whose son Prince Durin IV happens to be Elrond’s estranged friend. It’s an absolute treat to watch the two former friends engage in unique duel after Elrond invokes the Rite of Sigin-tarâg, a Dwarven test of endurance, in the second episode. Elrond’s meeting with Prince Durin IV’s wife Disa makes for another memorable moment. Not to mention the young Harfoots, Nori and Poppy, and their strange encounter with a giant referred to as The Stranger. And last but definitely not the least, Theo and her mother’s blood curdling encounter with an Orc (remember, in the Second Age, Orcs aren’t yet evolved enough to withstand the daylight).
The production quality here is so high and use of CGI and VFX is so superlative that it makes the visuals of House of the Dragon look somewhat amateurish. The first two episodes have set the ball rolling for what promises to be a truly epic prequel series to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Here, they have evidently brought together the best of Tolkien and Peter Jackson to create new streaming records for the platform. But this marriage is certainly not going to be a smooth ride, for the habitually nitpicking Tolkien enthusiasts as well as the highly demanding LOTR fandom will not settle for anything less than the very best.
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I decided to create a mass appeal for revival of natural indigo: Sangeeta Gupta
With the objective to revive natural indigo painting renowned artist Sangeeta Gupta decided to create a painting that is abstract, conceptual, minimalist on natural sustainable khaddar fabric with organic indigo colour and dye. Handmade fabric is environment friendly, natural colour and dye are handmade too and also they are chemical free. To promote sustainable living and natural indigo Prithvi fine art and cultural centre is set to organise a solo exhibition named ‘Adiyogi Shiv- A journey in cosmic indigo’ of textile paintings by Sangeeta Gupta from 6th to 12th October at Bikaner House Delhi.
Sangeeta Gupta has created the longest indigo painting on sustainable handspun khaddar textile titled, ‘Aadiyogi Shiv – A journey in cosmic indigo.’
In a candid conversation artist Sangeeta Gupta says, “I was in Jaipur to receive a lifetime achievement award for my contribution in the field of fine art in an art festival organised by Art Fiesta. During the festival I met Ashok Aatreya, a writer, an old acquaintance. We had some meaningful conversation about the indigo natural colour and dye. On the last day of my trip Ashok took me to a work centre in Ratelia, Sanganer to give me hands-on experience with indigo. I started to paint on the fabric with dabu. I was excited to experiment and could really paint well. Then I decided to create a mass appeal for revival of natural indigo by making a 100 metre long painting using the natural colour and dye on hand spun fabric.”
Artist Sangeeta Gupta had been conceptualising this painting since the end of December 2019.
After purchasing handspun khaddar cloth, natural indigo colour and dye, she started the actual painting and worked for nine days in Ratalia village, Sanganer at Shilpi Sansthan.
She further added, “I first painted with dabu, a muddy paste with brush and then put sawdust on it and then sun dried the painting. After that it was soaked in drums of indigo dye and then washed and dried again. The second method applied for painting is that I dyed the khaddar cloth first in light shades of indigo, dried it and then painted on the cloth again with a paint brush in dark shades of indigo colour. I have used both these methods to paint on the fabric. I completed 185 metres in nine days. Then I returned to Delhi as coronavirus infection had started spreading in nearby city Jaipur. Later I painted on the dyed cloth with dark indigo. The rest of the 15 metres painting I completed in my studio at Delhi. These works are born out of infinite, formless energy of Aadiyogi Shiv, Ardhnarishwar, the ultimate feminist. There is no beginning, no end, all encompassing, omnipresent Shiv is present in all of us.”
‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’ is a sprawling period piece that also serves as a lesson in history
Mani Ratnam’s latest directorial ‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’ is the first part of the Ponniyin Selvan saga based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s 1955 novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan,’ which is regarded as the greatest novel ever written in Tamil literature. The film which has suddenly stirred deep interest in the Cholas basically tells the story of Arulmozhivarman aka Ponniyin Selvan who later became the great Chola emperor Rajaraja Chola I. The film stars an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Nassar, R. Sarathkumar, and Prakash Raj, among others.
Centuries before the Europeans (Britain, Spain, France, Portuguese, etc.), the Cholas had succeeded in becoming an imperial superpower, imposing their colonial influence on Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia under Rajaraja Chola (Reign: 985-1014 AD) and his son Rajendra Chola (Reign: 1014-1044 AD). It’s a testament to their naval dominance in the Indian Ocean that was unheard of at the time.
Their conquests beyond the Indian mainland were instrumental in the spread of Indian culture far and wide. Interestingly, the Cholas even had envoys in China. That’s how influential they were as rulers and understood well the importance of trade and diplomacy. Rajaraja Chola’s empire included the erstwhile Pandya territory in southern Tamil Nadu, the erstwhile Chera country in central Kerala and western Tamil Nadu as well as northern Sri Lanka. He also captured the Lakshadweep and Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Rajaraja’s successful military campaigns against Karnataka’s ancient dynasty of Western Gangas as well as Chalukyas extended the Chola influence as far as the Tungabhadra River. On the eastern coast he battled with the Chalukyas for the possession of the Godavari districts.
The Chola Empire was greatly expanded during the reign of Rajaraja’s son Rajendra Chola. Other than his conquests in the Indian Ocean, he even succeeded in defeating the Palas (who ruled over the present-day Bengal and Bihar) and took the title of Gangaikondachola (as he became the first Chola king to conquer the kingdoms around the Ganges). It was such an unprecedented feat for a South Indian ruler to extend his influence beyond the Ganges that he even built a new capital city called Gangaikonda Cholapuram to commemorate his momentous achievement. The Cholas built great temples and cities as art, artists, and artisans flourished. India’s merchant navy training ship TS Rajendra has been named in Rajendra Chola’s honour.
But, Kalki’s novel merely focuses on the early days of Arulmozhivarman, long before he became Rajaraja Chola I. Mani Ratnam’s two-part film adaptation is completely faithful to the novel. In ‘Ponniyin Selvan: I,’ the story’s main focus is on the early days of the battle for succession to the Chola throne during the later years of the reign of the aging king Sundara Chola (Reign: 962 – 980 AD) whose two sons, Aditha Karikalan (played by Vikram) and Arulmozhi Varman, are mighty successful in their conquests for the Chola empire in Kanchi and Sri Lanka, respectively. Aditha Karikalan is the crown prince.
Unbeknownst to Sundara Chola (essayed by Prakash Raj), the Chola treasurer and minister of finance, Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar (portrayed by R. Sarathkumar), is conspiring with a group of royal chieftains to usurp the throne from Aditha for Aditha’s uncle Madurantakan. Sensing something fishy, Aditha sends his Vanthiyathevan (essayed by Karthi), a brave and adventurous warrior prince of Vaanar Clan, to alarm his farther about the impending danger.
On the other hand, a group of devoted Pandya soldiers scheme to avenge the Pandya King Veerapandiyan (played by Nassar) killed in a battle by Aditha Karikalan. What complicates the matter is Periya’s beautiful enigmatic wife Nandini (essayed by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) who actually happens to be Aditha’s first and only love. Nandini also shares a strange bond with Veerapandiyan. No one really knows with whom her truly loyalties lie. Battling deceit and deception while simultaneously coming to terms with the dangerous game of palace intrigue, the Chola princes have their task cut out. They must win the battle against the vengeful Pandyas while thwarting the betrayal of Pazhuvettaraiyar.
‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’ is replete with spectacular moments and wonderful performances with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan leading from the front. Evidently, the de-aging technology seems to have done wonders as we get to see the former Miss World in her element. Vikram, Karthi, Trisha, Prakash Raj and the rest are also brilliant in their respectively roles. However, if you are looking for a Baahubali type of film then you will be greatly disappointed. Here is a very different kind of a period piece that also serves as a lesson in history.
100 artists unite to raise awareness on autism
To demonstrate the values of inclusion and spread autism awareness, this year in association with AuTypical.in, Dhoomimal Gallery has created a section to showcase works of young autistic artists in the professional grade. 100 young artists and sculptors are showcasing their artworks which will continue till 15th October at the 31st Ravi Jain Memorial Foundation Exhibition 2022 presented by Dhoomimal Gallery. Nearly 220 artworks and sculptors have been displayed in the gallery by artists from all over the country.
Established in 2020, AuTypical.in is a public purpose platform for showcasing the abilities of autistic children and young adults in the field of art. Autistic artists from all over India, from district towns to mega cities have exhibited their creations on this online platform. This year, participation of autistic artists will be a new flavor that will be introduced in professional art for the first time amongst the Art Galleries in New Delhi and will be unique in its treatment.
Speaking about the event, Uday Jain, Proprietor, Dhoomimal Gallery said, “In its 31st year the Ravi Jain annual exhibition has provided a budding platform to over 100 artists and sculptors. Late Ravi Jain always believed that if the art movement is to be perpetuated in the country, we cannot rely on the seniors alone and new talent should constantly be nurtured and promoted. The participation is from all over India across all medium painting, sculpture, installation, digital and judging is done by an eminent panel of senior artists, sculptors, critics and collectors. Hence the standard of the artists selected is quite high.”
Established in 1936, Dhoomimal Gallery is the oldest contemporary art gallery in India. In the previous years, DMG has felicitated several young artists who went on to become known names and established themselves in the art fraternity. Every year, they award four scholarships to young artists decided by a panel of esteemed judges. In previous years, the jury has included renowned artists such as K.S. Kulkarni, Krishen Khanna, Bimal Dasgupta, GR Iranna, Pooja Iranna, Jagannath Panda etc. Awardees from the past include renowned names such as Sonia Khurana, G.R. Iranna, Nidhi Aggarwal, Hemraj and many more.
‘Vibrant Rajasthan’ gives a glimpse of the opulent state
The beautiful lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses inspire the artist to venture out on adventure and seek a new world full of mirth and harmony. The princely state of Rajasthan is eternally known for its rich cultural heritage left behind by our forefathers. Through her exhibition ‘Vibrant Rajasthan’ artist and curator Priyanka Banerjee makes an endeavour to give a glimpse of the opulent state through her artworks. She draws inspiration from the rich art and culture of the state left behind by our ancestors.
The art exhibition “Vibrant Rajasthan” is being organised from 3rd to 6th October at open Palm Court, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
Rajasthan is famous for its artistic and cultural traditions which reflect ancient way of life. The architecture of the majestic forts and palaces of the vibrant state is unique and is based on the Rajput school of architecture which was an impeccable blend of Hindu and Mughal structural design. The Rajputs were prolific builders. Some of the imposing and magnificent forts and palaces in the world dot the arid Aravalli landscapes and tell the tales of their glorious legacy.
The interplay of light and shadows on the architectural marvels have always captivated the artist and have compelled her to transform this magic in her paintings. The havelis and jharokhas have found a special place in her paintings. In the ancient times, the women in purdah could see the events outside without being spotted themselves. The golden hued jharokhas of Jaisalmer have been depicted in one of her paintings.
Camels, also known as the ship of desert are also subjects of her paintings. This animal has been used by princes since time immemorial to highlight royalty and regality. Camels are embellished by the camel owners to attract the youth to travel across the arid Thar desert of Jaisalmer. Embellished camels along with their owners are a subject of her paintings.
Since time immemorial Rajasthan has been known for its famous traditional and colourful art. The same thing finds a reflection in the artist’s artworks where she paints Rajasthani women in their traditional attires doing different domestic chores. Rajasthan is also noted for its national parks and wild life sanctuaries. All of these find a sincere mention in her artworks. The forests are replete with flora and fauna and are extremely important for ecological balance.
The serpentine lanes and by lanes of Jaisalmer, lanes and manganiars of western Rajasthan playing the kamaicha the bowed lute, the colorful by lanes of Jaisalmer abundant with colourful handicraft items, the tired shepherd leading the herd of sheep through meandering fields, the eternal glory of majestic Mehrangarh fort, ruins of Chittorgarh reminding of the jauhar of queen Padmini, the conversing camel owners of Pushkar fair are the subjects of her paintings.
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.
‘My work underlines the consequences of human actions on ecology’
Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya’s artwork depicts the urban landscapes and the complexities of it.
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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