Painting the (Shanty) Town

first_imgColourful patches form a pixelated pattern across the shanties in Nargis Dutt Nagar, which have been part of the Bandra Reclamation skyline in Mumbai for the past 15 years. The squares and rectangles painted in distinctive pista green, Rani pink, Krishna blue, lemon yellow and white are part of an,Colourful patches form a pixelated pattern across the shanties in Nargis Dutt Nagar, which have been part of the Bandra Reclamation skyline in Mumbai for the past 15 years. The squares and rectangles painted in distinctive pista green, Rani pink, Krishna blue, lemon yellow and white are part of an artistic collaboration between American painter and sculptor Jeff Gillette and Mumbai-based artist and designer Samir Parker over April 11-12.Photo: Jeff’S Dismayland ExhibitBased in California, where he teaches art to high school students, Gillette’s fascination with the slums can be traced back to his first trip to India in the 1980s. His most popular collection of paintings, titled Dismayland, with its post-apocalyptic slumscape peppered with Disney characters, is said to have inspired Banksy’s Dismaland. Parker, who teaches design to undergraduate and postgraduate students, also finds inspiration in Mumbai’s shanties. One of his biggest projects has been the 2015 Roof/Tarp/City project that involved the use of colourful tarpaulins to form a pattern on the roofs of chawls across Bandra.At Nargis Dutt Nagar, Gillette and Parker hope to draw attention to the living conditions through their work. Garbage and faeces lay sprawling across the expanse just outside the slums, the grey walls blackened with dust. But the ‘Slum Rehabilitation Authority’ is not a beautification project. “Beauty is everywhere. Even if we hadn’t done this, this place would be beautiful to me with its textures, composition, volume, light and shadow, solid and void; add to that the complexities of the lives, the political undercurrents and the fact that it’s going away. We are not activists or social workers so we can’t do a clean-up drive. But as artists we can engage, be clever, provocative and draw attention to the situation,” notes Parker.advertisementPhoto: Jeff’S Dismayland Exhibit”It’s sad that people have to live like this. But I see it as robust, full of life, a place with a lot of smiling people,” adds Gillette. His signature subverted Mickey Mouse shows up in a few spots. “To me, it’s like a sign of distress, that things aren’t the way they should be. Mickey Mouse here is a symbol of Disneyland, which professes to be the happiest place on earth. I juxtapose the so-called happy place with a real place,” he says.Built with corrugated sheets, abandoned doors and ladders leading out of the windows, the landscape holds a deep fascination for both artists. While the idea of Parker’s Roof/Tarp/City was to bring colour to the city’s rooftops, the collaborative painting project brings the tarpaulin art down to eye level.Photo: Samir ParkerBy doing so, they hope to humanise the area for those driving by the Sion-Bandra flyover, catching a glimpse of the slums with the highrises in the background. “Behind a slum window, there might be a woman who wants to move to Dubai, or a lover who left someone, or kids who have big dreams. We are trying to suggest this uniqueness through the patterns across each home. The inhabitants appreciate it too-‘Now we know which one is our home,’ they laugh,” Parker reveals.The colours they chose are the ones you would find on the walls of the homes if you were to walk inside. The chalky colours seem to define domesticity, believes Parker.Photo: Jeff’S Dismayland ExhibitThe Mumbai skyline is in a constant state of flux, and this is Parker’s way of expressing the urban fabric and marking time without being sentimental about it. Their next collaboration will be a monsoon project when Gillette returns in June. The duo plans to use found objects, inflatables, remnants of pandals, thermocol mouldings to create a “larger metaphor for an amusement park for things that would only pop up amidst Mumbai’s flooded streets”.-Moeena HalimAUCTIONThe art of the dealOil on canvas by M.F. HusainDAG Modern is gearing up for its third auction, the 20th Century India Art Auction, in Mumbai this week. Offerings include 75 paintings and sculptures by some of the finest Indian artists of the 20th century, including M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, F.N. Souza and K.G. Subramanyan. The collection includes less well-known pieces, such as a self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil from when she was 14. Another, S.H. Raza’s Peinture is a visually enchanting work that marks his departure from landscape to abstraction. Jamini Roy’s folk-style art is another big draw. Other works include those by modernists like V.S. Gaitonde, Manjit Bawa and Shanti Dave. The auction catalogue, with Husain’s Maya on the cover, has been broken up into themes to allow bidders to compare styles and genres. The real draw, though, is the lure of finding a deal: “Pricing is 20-25 per cent lower, since bidders won’t have to pay a buyer’s premium,” says Kishore Singh, president of DAG Modern.advertisement-Mona RamavatTHEATREDramatic flareIn her new play, Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry explores the realms of violence and fractured relationships with a cast of young amateurs.Photo: Sandeep SahdevAnervous energy tiptoes around the actors as Padma Shri recipient Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry enters the private auditorium at her house in Chandigarh’s Sector 4. Dressed all in black, she whispers a hello to the 14 young actors, who immediately begin enacting a scene. No comments come from the director. Just a long silence complemented with a stare from her kohl-rimmed eyes.The scene is enacted again. And again.At the end of April, Chowdhry will stage her new play, Dark Borders, with a cast of amateurs.It’s a departure for the renowned dramatist, who has worked exclusively with professional actors from her repertory group, The Company, for 30-odd years. But it has been brewing for a while. The seeds of the play were sown when Chowdhry conducted a series of elaborate workshops that ultimately turned into the film Anatomy of Violence, directed by Deepa Mehta, which premiered in 2016. “Certain issues remained unresolved within me. After all, film is a very different medium,” Chowdhry says.Rooted in the improvisational style that has characterised Chowdhry’s work for the past five years, the play traces varied dimensions of violence, displacement, fractured relationships and lost homes. As for working with young amateurs, she admits it hasn’t been easy.”At times it is very frustrating and irritating. After all, I am not very young. However, it is their spirit to come up to a certain level and willingness to unlearn what they know about the medium that keeps me going.”Later, when the actors finally get the first scene right, Chowdhry’s smile suggests the hard work has made the reward that much sweeter.-Sukant DeepakBOOKSBombay bluesA writer’s attempt to reconnect with an old friend and the city of their childhood.Friend Of My Youth by Amit ChaudhuriAs the son of an executive at a large company, author Amit Chaudhuri enjoyed a gilded, if circumscribed, childhood in Bombay. Perhaps conscious that it was a temporary stop, a lounge to be waited in before real life could begin-a state analogous in some ways to childhood, which too can feel like an endless waiting-the novelist, critic and musician held the city at arm’s length. His childhood appears to have been a trudge through the familiar haute bourgeois route leading from Malabar Hill to the Taj hotel, where he would browse in Nalanda.The city itself, seething and cacophonous, barely impinged on this staid, decorous quiet. For Chaudhuri, the city he grew up in, where he attended school and some college, can be reduced to a handful of streets and one friend. “My mind tells me,” he writes, “Bombay is teeming with people you know, or have known. This doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The people I was close to in school I’ve lost track of. Except Ramu.”advertisementWhen Friend of My Youth, a Benjaminesque meditation on Ramu and Bombay, opens, circa 2010, Chaudhuri has returned to the city for a reading. It’s a return that, for obscure reasons, he craves, each visit an opportunity to return to that sheltered childhood, that old friendship, a vestige of a mostly vanished past now that his parents have moved to Kolkata. This time, Ramu, a drug addict of long standing, is in rehab, and Chaudhuri, staying at a club in his old Malabar Hill neighbourhood, has time to kill.And so, Ramu unavailable, the reader is led on a Pooterish meander. “I go into the toilet,” Chaudhuri writes, for instance, “and a wave of perfectly maintained features… engulfs me. I empty my bladder thoroughly.” The 26/11 attack on the Taj and Chaudhuri’s odd friendship with Ramu are supposed to give this enervated book some impetus. But Chaudhuri is too self-regarding to do much more than root inside his already ravaged navel.-Shougat DasguptaWATCH LISTIndian streamOur countrymen and women who are making waves on the worldwide web.Neville ShahOver on Amazon Prime, check out Gujarati-Parsi funnyman Neville Shah’s standup special What Are You Laughing At. Debuted on the site end-March.GuerrillaCritics are calling this Sky/ Showtime miniseries about race relations in Britain in 1971 “exceptional”. Idris Elba is, well, Idris Elba. But Freida Pinto, too, is money in her meatiest role to date. Premiered April 16.Vir DasVir DasThe first Indian comic to get his own Netflix special. Will premiere Abroad Understanding on the streaming service April 25, joining the ranks of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Russel Peters, among others.     CINEMABeijing’s affair with AamirFan hysteria during the actor’s visit for the screening of Dangal draws comparisons with Raj Kapoor’s popularity.Ramila, from China’s western Xinjiang province, isn’t a wrestling fan, but she lined up for an entire day for the first Beijing screening of Dangal-or Shuaijiao Baba (Dad, Let’s Wrestle!), as the film has been christened in China. Ramila was there for just one reason. “Aamir!” she screamed. “I first saw him in films with Kajol. Since then, I’ve been his biggest fan.”China’s affair with Aamir is getting stronger. As Dangal releases in the country on May 5, distributors are banking on the Aamir magic. On the first evening of his weeklong visit to China, when Aamir appeared on a popular live video platform, two million people tuned in. Fans posted thousands of questions within minutes, asking about his Dangal diet and his future plans. One wrote, “I learnt English just for you!” Most simply declared, “I love you!””In the beginning, none of my films was popular in China,” says Aamir. “That was until 3 Idiots. Dhoom 3 and PK also did well here.” PK earned over Rs 100 crore, the highest overseas gross for an Indian film in any foreign market. “I feel closer to people in China than in the West,” he says. “It would be wonderful if we do films that have creative talent from China and India.”Some in China have dubbed Aamir the most popular Indian star in China since Raj Kapoor. That is saying a lot-Kapoor’s films were a craze in the 1970s, and Beijing taxi drivers still hum Awara hoon. That connection faded as the Middle Kingdom embraced Hollywood and China turned westward. Aamir has rekindled the romance.Aamir Khan at the Beijing International Film Festival on April 16, where Dangal was screened. Photo by SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT -Ananth Krishnan   COFFEEThe cup that cheersHave Indians been drinking cold coffee all wrong? Introducing the new wave-cold brewed coffees.Siddhartha Marchant and Shannon D’souza of Mumbai’s Koinonia Coffee RoastersFor decades, our version of ‘cold coffee’ has been a creamy, sugary milkshake. Today, coffeephiles have begun appreciating gourmet coffees, taking note of high-quality locally grown beans. Enter the cold brew, made with locally sourced beans, often roasted and ground inhouse. Instead of using heat to extract the bean’s flavour, it’s time that does the trick. Steeping the coffee in cold water, extraction takes between 12 and 24 hours. The result is a naturally sweet, smooth brew that is about half as acidic as what we’re used to. Enthusiasts are even taking this a step further by introducing ‘nitro coffee’. “We have essentially borrowed from the microbrewery boom. The serving of nitro coffee is exactly the same as stouts, minus the alcohol,” says Sahil Jatana, founder of Svami Drinks.-Moeena Halim HIGH SPIRITSMixed drinksIndia has always had an identity crisis about alcohol: is it a pernicious colonial hangover or secular pleasure? Despite the rising tide of prohibition, whisky consumption is one of the few fields in which our country leads the world (we’re talking quantity, not quality). The coyness continues, but some high-spirited entrepreneurs have come up with new tipples that showcase our national genius for spiritual abstraction.With premium Indian whiskies like Amrut and Paul John winning international prizes, you might think that our less celebrated wine-makers might have a case of you know?sour grapes. Instead the clever people at Sula embraced the ancient Indian concept of jugaad and produced a ‘premium whisky’ called Eclipse, using a combination of grape spirits (something they are presumably not short of) and a dash of Captain Haddock’s favourite single malt, the Loch Lomond. An English Wine of sorts.After demonetisation and its discontents, India’s big brewers are banking on a good hot summer of chilled beer. A dozen new brands are expected to be rolled out this year. Craft beers are the next big thing and strong beers have always been inordinately popular. No wonder Carlsberg decided to lead the way with their latest offering Tuborg Classic-a ‘premium strong beer with Scotch malts’. Sounds like it requires at least two cheers: skal and slainte. BOOKSBose’s lieutenantWho was A.C.N. Nambiar? Was he a spy? If so, for whom?When Bose left Europe, he put Nambiar in charge of the Indian LegionWho was A.C.N. Nambiar, and what did he do? Is he deserving of so engrossing, stimulating and well-written a tribute as Vappala Balachandran’s A Life in Shadow: The Secret Story of A.C.N. Nambiar, A Forgotten Anti-Colonial Warrior?Balachandran retired as special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. He got to know Nambiar during the final years of his life, in Geneva, looking after and keeping him in good cheer. This was not easy, as Nambiar led a ‘messy’ and disorganised life. This book is a labour of love.A man whose close friends included Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Indira Gandhi and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit must have been endowed with rare qualities. Nambiar spent many years in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Horthy’s Hungary,Petain’s Vichy France and Benes’s Czechoslovakia. He was under surveillance by British intelligence for most of his life. He was always broke, always helpful and had several mistresses.A Life In Shadow: The Secret Story OF A.C.N. Nambiar By Vappala Balachandran Bose met Nambiar in Europe in the mid-1930s. As an indication of the high esteem he held Nambiar in, when Bose left Europe-in a German submarine bound for Singapore, after two frustrating years in Berlin-he put Nambiar in charge of the Indian Legion.Another anecdote that underlines the trust between the two men: before Bose left for Singapore, he had secretly married Emilie Schenkl, an Austrian, in December 1937. Nambiar was perhaps one of the very few Indians in Europe who was privy to this major event in Bose’s life. No one in India was aware of the marriage.The Nehrus had met Nambiar in Europe and remained intimate friends until the deaths of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. After Independence, Nehru had appointed Nambiar ambassador to West Germany and Sweden.However, questions remain. Was Nambiar a spy? “During his Prague years, Nambiar seems to have without his conscious knowledge provided intelligence to the British,” says the author.But was he a spy? If so, for whom? The Russians, the Nazis? The British? Balachandran concludes that, “There is no evidence found anywhere that Nambiar was an active asset for any agency?. Nambiar spent his life in the shadow of time.” The book ends with more than a dozen letters from Nehru and Indira Gandhi to Nambiar, which have never before been published.-K. Natwar SinghClick here to EnlargeClick here to Enlarge  OCTOPUSHIn the deep endHockey may be India’s national sport, but Pune-based diving enthusiasts Kshitij Mittal and Ankit Saboo plan to push players into the deep end with the introduction of ‘octopush’, or underwater hockey. At Mumbai’s first-ever Underwater Festival (on May 6-7), the 28-year-olds are attempting to draw attention to the sport that is played in at least 28 countries.Mittal was introduced to octopush in 2007, as a student at the University of York in the UK. Back home in Pune, he has been playing for the past two years with a group of swimmers he introduced the sport to. With encouragement from the France-based World Underwater Federation (CMAS), Mittal now aims to take octopush to the national level and eventually have an Indian team represent the country at championships.The game involves swimmers (kitted in a mask, fins and a snorkel) battling with one-foot hockey sticks to get a two-kilo puck sitting at the bottom of the pool into the opposite team’s goal. The challenge is that the five players on each team synchronise their diving. “When you pass the puck to a teammate, [they] have to be underwater the instant you come up for air,” explains Saboo.Saboo and Mittal organised their first-ever Underwater Festival in Pune last year, through which they introduced 700-800 swimmers to octopush. The Mumbai leg is in May, followed by events in Delhi and Bengaluru. By 2018, they hope to have octopush teams across the four cities so they can host a national tournament. “CMAS has recognised our firm Finkick Adventures as a governing body, but to play at an international level, we need to host national tournaments and find the best players,” says Mittal.-Moeena Halim Q A | Filmi FundasRicha Chadha, actor, on acting, the future and the unexpected.Richa Chadha. Photo: Bandeep SinghQ: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?A: A photographer. I studied it for a little while. Even now I carry a Polaroid around with me everywhere, with extra film handy.Q: One thing you dread?A: I don’t see a bright future for the country or the planet. I hope it changes. What disturbs me is that history repeats itself and we don’t seem to learn.Q: One thing you can’t do without while on a shoot?A: I carry a candle. Vanity vans are very impersonal, tubelit and sometimes smelly, so candles make things beautiful.Q: What’s something you did today that nobody would believe a star would do?A: I opened a sewing kit because I had a wardrobe malfunction. A thread had come off [my clothes]. I didn’t do a good job.Q: If you could work with any actor, living or dead, who would it be and why?A: For reasons of attraction, maybe Ryan Gosling and Clive Owen. And Meryl Streep.-with Suhani Singhlast_img read more

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