Friday, December 12, 2014

The World is a Stage

Mohammad Ali Baig, from an ad-film maker to a theater revivalist brings grand epics on stage with an appeal that stays in audience’s minds. The theater world is a chess board for him of which he is the invincible monarch.

The world is a stage for playwright, actor and director Mohammad Ali Baig. The grandeur of his plays transports even the onlooker to a different era. And when this era throws opens wide windows at Van Gogh’s Castle to European spectators for Qutub Shahi, what more can theatre connoisseurs ask for? Baig trots over topographies with his regal productions leaving behind a trail of indelible imprints.

Reviving an Era Bygone

It was the glittering era of Urdu theater in Hyderabad when it saw a stalwart Qadir Ali Baig rise and cover the theater scene like dew. The B&W television era gushed with the late theater legend’s plays, leaving behind gigantic prints that his son Mohammad Ali Baig is filling with colours. The young Baig revived the Asaf Jahi and Mughal eras bringing the same back to Modern cities, but not without his own touch of an ad-film maker. With more than 450 ad-films shot in different countries, he wrapped up his one decade long advertising career to open a book that is scented with Hindustani History, but is penned with the sounds of his Time.

He smiles, “I formed my own ad company with a huge client list. But my Other Self always whispered asking me to do something more meaningful. In 2005 I set up Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation as a tribute to baba (his father). I stayed away from morbidity and wanted the audience to enjoy a complete aesthetic and vibrant experience”. The Foundation picks the best plays from India and abroad and showcases the same in various countries.

The early years

In his palatial Murad Nagar home, childhood for Baig was life unfolding itself. Their discussions would range from menial things such as Biryani to plays by Beckett and Brecht. He would escape from the stifling theater discussions moving amidst the big verandas, ponds and lush green trees of his more-than-100-year-old ancestral house. The environment at his house also taught him discipline, devotion, values and loyalty that would later culminate into the persona that defines him and his art.

He reminisces, “I have very fond memories of family gatherings. The warmth generated at our dinner table with conversation is still there in the corners and stairs of our house.” The voices of the characters that his father created would be remembered by young Baig long after he was gone. These voices that sounded far away were as close to him as own his heartbeat.

The Prince of Hearts

The love legend of Prince Quli Qutub Shah and his beloved Bhagmati was a celebration of Revived Theatre when Baig wrote and played the heritage production ‘Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada’. It was staged at Footsbarn Festival in France and then London’s historical Globe Theatre. “We were the first ever Urdu Theatre Festival from Asia to perform in Europe,” he says. He himself played the Prince and Poet Quli and gave the European audience what they had never seen – a rich blend of Qutub Shahi epic and musical splendor at the European castle where it was performed. “We received three standing ovations for the performance,” says Baig.

The Sky is not the Limit

The recently concluded Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival in Hyderabad in which he presented ‘Basant Ritu ka Sapna’, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Salar Jung Museum, ‘Biwi-O-Biwi’ and of course ‘Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada’. There was book release of Habib Tanvir’s ‘Memoirs’ by Baig himself. He talks about the grandeur of the Foundation and the plays, “My theater is about Realism - fictionalizing reality. It has poetry, craft, music, and everything that completes the sense of aesthetics.”
He did a play ‘Pankhdiyaan’ on Ali Sardar Jafri’s poetry that had Anupam Kher in the cast. In ‘Dada Saheb Phalke’ he himself played the character with Lillette Dubey in the cast. At World Performing Arts Festival, Lahore, ‘Raat Phoolon ki’ was showcased which was based on Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s poetry. Myriads of awards that he has received expand the space where his scripts are delicately pinned much like feathers collected from exotic lands.

Miles to Go

“An artist should remain an artist. Being associated with Art is a huge responsibility. Meaningful theater with popular appeal is what we aim at. People from 16 to 80 connect with theater. We have audience from four generations,” he says. He subscribes to minimalist and existentialist aspects of art. And he is there to pick up such jewels and deck up the otherwise distant light house of theater.

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    Arabian Cuisine Finds Favour in Hyderabad

    Most foodies in the city would recommend a trip to far away Barkas to get your fill of authentic Arabic cuisine. But now, a lot of alternatives have cropped up around the city (in Tolichowki, Charminar, Banjara Hills) that serve delectable Arabic specialities like mandi, muttabaq, umm ali, hummus, khabsa laham etc. It does look like city folk have developed a taste for Arabian cusine.

    Socialite Aamer Javeed often visits restaurants in Banjara hills with friends to relish the Arabic platter. He says, "I love eating samak al-faham (fish that looks white after cooking), hummus and khabsa laham. An Arabic meal can never be complete without the sweet delight, baklava, which is a flaky pastry filled with nuts. It just dissolves in the mouth."

    The platter is an amalgamation of cuisines like Yemeni, Persian, Lebanese, Turkish and Saudi Arabia. The experience of sharing food served on one big thhaal (a huge round plate) is proving to be a big draw for the city folk. "I often go to Old City with friends and enjoy eating the Arabic dishes. I am fond of the flavoured rice with less spices," says city based artist Aziz.

    Restaurants in Towlichowki have an exotic Arabian ambience with long curtains, woven carpets laid on the floor and with masnads (bolsters) laid around low tables.The mandi is a huge favourite with the crowds. Served as a mound of rice with chunks of meat (chicken mutton fish) on the thhaal, it has many variants -khabsa laham, majboos (tomatoes are added) and maghluba (more nuts and a bit spicy). The rice is flavoured with saffron and hence, is yellow in colour. It is sprinkled with fried raisins, nuts and fried onion ringlets. A boiled egg sits atop it, sprinkled with finely chopped coriander and mint leaves. "Many Hyderabadis like us want a break from the spicy biryani and these dishes stand out because of their flavours. My Sunday special is steaming hot majboos, another variety of mandi, which has a mild flavour.I used to go to Barkas a lot, but thankfully, we have so many more options these days," says Neidhi, an MNC employee. She loves eating basbousa, a kind of semolina halwa cooked with orange flower water and sugar syrup.

    City-based food blogger and critic Sankalp, sums it up saying, "Arabian food is cooked on slow wood fire that gives it the special flavour. My favourite is muttabaq, a kind of patties filled with minced meat, scrambled eggs and herbs. Another favourite of mine is khabsa."

    Cups of suleimani chai (decoction of tea served with a dash of lemon) are a must have after a hearty Arabian meal.


    A pit is dug in the ground and its inside walls are covered with clay. Logwoods are fired. A pot containing water, rice and spices for mandi is kept on these logs. Atop the vessel, a wire mesh is kept on which big pieces of meat are placed and is left to cook. "The taste of meat cooked in this way has flavour of smoke and gets cooked tenderly. When its fat drips on the rice the final flavour is unique," shares Mohammed Aslam, a cook at an eatery in Tolichowki.


    Hyderabad has an old association with the Arabs. Way back in 13th century, many Yemenis were part of Bahmani army. After the dynasty's fall, these soldiers joined the Maratha army. When the Marathas were defeated by the British, these Yemeni soldiers were sent to Hyderabad to serve the Nizam. And the rest as they say is history.


    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Small And Beautiful

    An Iranian miniature painting artist makes Hyderabad her home. Find out how and why. 
    Shima Talebi, an Irani turned Hyderabadi is an artist who has been trying to promote the idea of heaven through her unique paintings. Her work symbolizes miniature art form, one that is rich in ancient history and culture. Cityplus catches up with Shima to find out what motivated her to move to Hyderabad for good and her journey from carpet designing to promoting miniature painting art form.

     What is miniature art?

     Miniature painting became a significant Persian genre in the 13th century, receiving Chinese influence after the Mongol conquests, the tradition flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Persian miniature was the central influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, chiefly the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mughal miniature in the Indian sub-continent. The techniques used in the art of miniature painting are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. Although there is an equally well-established Persian tradition of wall-painting, the survival rate and state of preservation of miniatures is better, and miniatures are a best-known form of Persian painting in the West, and many of the most important examples are in Western, or Turkish, museums.

    The influences

    The beauty, fine work and spirituality of Persian miniature influenced her since childhood and she incorporated the same in her paintings. She recites one childhood story, “When I was eight years old my art teacher asked students to draw winter on paper. Upon my submission, my teacher refused to accept it citing the reason that it was copied. When I told the story to my mom she told me that I am so good at painting that even my teacher couldn’t believe it.” It was this incident that inspired Shima to continue to pursue her love for painting and not pay much heed to what people have to say about it. Today her subjects revolve around the Heaven as she paints figures like Simurgh rising high in the skywards obviously towards heaven.

    Hyderabad as her home

     It is not unusual to find Central Asian students in Hyderabad as the cultures are related from the time of Nizam. Shima Talebi, too, came from Iran to pursue her MBA in Marketing. She says, “I completed my Bachelor’s degree in fine art carpet designing from Iran. But I liked Hyderabad city and was charmed so much that I decided to stay back. And here I am putting my paintings on display as exhibitions in art galleries around the city.” She learnt miniature style nine years ago in the university. Miniature style is a tradition style of painting in Iran. She goes on, “India is a second home for me. Iran and India both have so many things in common like Hindi language, foods, culture and more.”

     Why miniature art is the toughest
     What is important to recognize about Persian miniatures is that they were intended primarily to be book illustrations without any intention of showcasing the artist’s creative abilities. Shima says, “The goal was to show how well the artist could adhere to the rules and traditions used in previous renderings of traditional subject matter which were mostly related to Persian mythology and poetry.”

    This pre-Islamic empire’s art mainly incorporated old Persian themes with more recent Hellenistic and Chinese techniques and motifs. The latter were introduced into the Middle East as a result of the Mongol invasions of the 14th century and hence, we find mythical beasts in Persian miniatures that greatly resemble those in Chinese drawings.  Shima adds, “It has a high value and respect in the country. It is called Negargari and is considered the best miniature amongst all small paintings produced in Middle Eastern countries. It is traced to the artistic works of the Sassanid Empire which ruled the region from 224 to 651 A.D where modern Iran is today.” Content and form are fundamental elements of Persian miniature painting, and miniature artists are renowned for their vivid but subtle use of colour.

    Heaven and beyond

    Shima recently exhibited her miniature paintings at Lamakaan located in Banjara Hills. It was titled ‘Heaven1’ and received an encouraging response. For her unique art form, Shima uses brushes, colours and other related stuff made in Iran. Especially the brushes, those are purely handmade. Colours used by her are mostly from natural resources and minerals, some even have Arabic gum and rabbit glue. Also the Secretary of the carpet designing Society in the University of Sistan and Baluchistan, Shima likes to use carpet patterns in her paintings to make them as unique as her style. About her future plans, she says, “In the next exhibition I am going to show the combination of modern and traditional forms to prove that art is not antiquated.

    --Saima Afreen

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Poetic Charms

    Bill Wolak, a US poet who is in love with Hyderabad talks to Cityplus about his love for the City of Pearls and the translation he has done of legendary Persian poet Hafez.

    The city of Nizams resonates with mellifluous poetry and the same becomes even more desirable when somebody travels from across the seas just to be with the city he loves and express his love for poetry in the city’s regal language – Persian that is. Meet Bill Wolak US poet and professor of English and Comparative Literature in William Paterson University who was recently in Hyderabad for his poetry reading at Goethe Zentrum entitled ‘Kissing Moonlight: Hafez and the resonance of Desire. He talks about his love for Hyderabad and Hafez.

    Persian Connect 

    While Bill was studying for his graduation in Rutgers University he was introduced to the exquisitely beautiful world of Oriental Literature namely Persian. He studied it closely and fell in love with its verse. He says, “Literature lovers anywhere in the world would find Hafez unprecedented. And anyone who loves Hafez would understand a man who had reached the lofty pinnacle of deep philosophy. Hafez, in his poems, talks about love and Art so delicately that you feel the rhythmic threads actually mingling with your thoughts. This love as the saying goes can move mountains and change the world. It can affect anyone in its own special way.”
     Bill is an aficionado of Shamz Tabrez and Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and his ethereal love for Sufism gets deeper with each passing day. He elaborates, “The goal in Sufism is to depict the indescribable experiences, the sap of wine and the smooth flow of music. The Sufis talk about their philososphies through wine and the reader gets closer to saqi. It makes you intoxicated as if you were in a caravanserai. Sufism you can find in many traditions be it Hinduism-Bhakti or Chinese traditions. The essence of life is revived.

    On translating Hafez
    While he was completing his degree he met an Iranian doctorate fellow Ahmad Karimi Hakak that made him more inclined towards Persian literature. But unfortunately they lost touch. Bill explains, “I became friends with his younger brother Mahmood Karimi Hakak who stayed in New York City. He, too, is a poet and translator. Mahmood introduced me to Hafez’s work. One day he suggested that we both translate Persian poetry of Hafez. I agreed.” And that’s how the book ‘Your Lover’s Beloved’ – 51 ghazals by Hafez came into translation from Persian into English by both of them.

    Hyderabad connect

    He has been invited as featured in Hyderabad Literary Festival held in for the last two years. This is the third time he is visiting Hyderabad. “I am in love with the city for its culture and tehzeeb that’s still preserved in some hearts. I just love the Deccan architecture blended with Gothic designs and of course the legendary history that is buried in its stones that has poetry of its own,” says Bill. He adds, “I’ve been invited to be a featured poet at the Hyderabad Literary Festival for the last two years. I had a German translator friend of mine Silvia Kofler translate the ten Hafez ghazals into German.  Then my friends John and Joan Digby helped me make these German translations into a small book which titled ‘Those  who Stood Up For Tolerance’.
     He roams around in the city with his high end camera capturing history in the passing time seeing everything from a different angle that his lenses give a different facet much like his own poetry.

    Next on his wish list
    Mahmood Karimi Hakak and Bill has  just translated a Persian poet Iraj Mirza with entitled ‘Love Me More Than the Others’.  He says, “Mahmood and I will be setting up a book launch for this new translation across the US and Canada.  In addition, I will be hosting two Indian poets at readings in the US:  Dileep Jhaveri, Yuyustu Ram Dass Sharma, who is a distinguished poet based in Katmandu, Nepal.”

    Bill Wolak has written other poetry books of his own in English namely ‘Archaeology of Light’, ‘The Lover’s Body’, ‘The Statue of Lighting’ and many other anthologies. “My works talk about love and words explore the deeper recesses of lovers. In America there’s a deep spiritual longing for poets like Kabir, Amir Khusro, Zen, Krisna and Tibetan figure Milarepa. No wonder the most popular poet selling now in America is Rumi,” he adds.  Signing off he says, “I am going to visit Hyderabad again and again. Like poetry my love for this city will never end.”

    "I am going to visit Hyderabad again and again Like poetry my love for this city will never end"

    Thursday, June 19, 2014


    Saima Afreen in conversation with India representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Frederika Meijer who was in the city to present her paper at the 12th Global Conference of Ageing.

    The representative of UNFPA India and Country Director for Bhutan, Frederika Meijer who was in the city for the 12th Global Conference of Ageing caught up with Cityplus about the issue of old age in India, significance of compilation of data on old population, UNFPA’s plans for India and her childhood memories of visiting her grandparents in an old age home back in Holland.

    She currently leads the positioning of IFPA on strategic and substantive issues in the country.
      At the 12th Global Conference of Ageing organized by International Federation on Ageing, Frederika shared, “Ten years ago we started collecting data on ageing population as there was no data available on the same. One of our mandates is to collect data on development which is very important for all policy makers to embark on how many elderly people are there in India. The policy makers need to have data. What we have done is to select a number of papers and compile the same in a book which is called Population Ageing in India.” The publisher of the book is Cambridge University Press. The book explores socio-economic strata of elderly health, work participation and contribution to income generation. Moreover, the book focuses on national old age policy in practice and policy initiatives that are taken in India and other Asian countries.

    She added, “Twenty years back International Conference on Population and Fund (ICPD) was started. Now we are looking at how much we have proceeded in the objective which was stated in the ICPD programme of action. We see that the ageing population has not received its due attention which it should have received. Ageing population, earlier, was an emerging issue but now it is right in front of us. The date compilation will help India identify diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.” The data compilation focuses on how government can prepare to deal with such issues. At the same time, there is a need to do work on pension for the old age people.

    IFA – a platform for world ageing population

    In other countries the model for old age home is very costly. Hence, platforms like IFA bring Asia and European countries together for exchange of models. Frederika elaborates, “It has two directions. India can show the way forward to the world and vice versa. In European countries, we see old age homes but they are not always cost effective for the elderly people. Asia can play a very important role in home-based care-giving as it is more cost effective.

     Mid-day meals for elderly and other UNFPA plans

     UNFPA is doing a lot of advocacy work for policy dialogues as Frederika informs, “We debate with the policy makers and focus on how we can provide a linkage between young people and old people. India needs to prepare itself. Feminization of ageing is very important, be it sending girls to school and edifying them for a strong future. Women have to be involved in health care issues as they can take care of the elderly and this, obviously, will target two population brackets.”

     While everybody talks about mid-day meals for children, Frederika talked about mid-day meals for the elderly and pension schemes so that they can live the twilight years of their lives with respect and dignity. She said, “It’s tough on human dignity to depend on somebody for a small amount of money.” This is combined in the five year plan that UNFPA has for India. Behind every data there is a face. “People especially the youngsters have to see this face,” she added.

    Last year UNFPA had launched a reproductive health and life skills education programme to fulfill the reproductive rights of women and marginalized communities. UNFPA works with four ministries viz., of Education, Health, Child Development & Women’s Affairs and Youth & Sports. The focus is on education of girl child. She informed, “In India, 42% of the girls are married below the age of 18. Delaying that age of marriage is important as well as delaying her age for the first child. It is very important. We are finding more strategies to bring into this.

     On ageing population in Holland, her own country

    Holland is the size of New Delhi. Ageing population is growing fast over there as well. Frederika shared her childhood experience she had with her grandmother. “When I was sixteen years old, after school I would visit my grandmother in old age home. I’d talk to her and take her out for a walk. I noticed that ten out of the twenty people over there did not have visitors and it was sad,” she reminisced. She emphasized on the need of an exchange of experiences between the youngsters and elderly people.
    “The stories can be shared. Children and young people can ask their grandparents how the city was in their time. I still remember my grandmother sharing her experience on seeing the first man walking on the moon as she saw it on TV.”

    " Ageing population, earlier, was an emerging issue but now it is right in front of us
    Frederika Meijer, UNFPA"

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Rendezvous with Rafiq Kathwari

    Recipient of the prestigious 45th Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, photographer and art revivalist Rafiq Kathwari chats up with CityPlus about why he likes to hold his home Kashmir, in his heart. 

    It is not easy to be a wanderer and trot the whole world as if it were a pastor land, especially when you have to leave home that is no less than heaven on earth yet torn with violence. Rafiq Kathwari, the contemporary English language poet, photographer and social entrepreneur moulds the wails of this bleeding land into poetry dividing his time between New York, Dublin, and Kashmir. Cityplus spoke to this first non-Irish poet who also received the prestigious 45th Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award last year.

    On being a story teller

    He states, “Kashmiris must tell their story themselves and we have begun to do that. Starting with A Country without a Post Office by Agha Shahid Ali, a seminal book of poems about India’s ruthless suppression of a popular movement seeking justice; Curfewed Nights by Basharat Peer who is the Editor of the New York Times India Ink, The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed, Of Occupation And Resistance, a noteworthy essay anthology by young Kashmiris.” 

    He continues, “But Kashmir does not exist in a vacuum. One must view Kashmir in a global context. I wrote a poem inspired... actually triggered… to use the more appropriate word… by a headline in the New York Times: Israeli Troops Kill 90 Dogs in Arab Town. It’s not only about Hebron, but also about Kashmir. It’s a short poem.” 

    Reinventing Kashmir through poetry

    Many poems in his manuscript are either about his mother or are in her voice. “When she was young, my mother started hearing voices, a condition that became progressively worse. So, through my poems I am constantly trying to reinvent my mother. Her madness has become a divine gift. Her voice could say practically anything and get away with it. My mother is the Valley of Kashmir. Her mind is a metaphor for the Partition,” he explains.

    On Agha Shahid Ali 

    Agha Shahid Ali and Rafiq were neighbours in Srinagar. Reminiscing about the late poet Rafiq says, “Very few angels have as big a heart as he had. He encouraged me especially when I was struggling to break away from an imposing family business heritage. He guided me well when I started translating Allama Iqbal’s poems and Shahid’s comments were spot on, particularly because he himself had translated Faiz Ahmed Faiz.”
    Narrating another piece from his memory of Shahid, Rafiq says, “One summer in Srinagar, Shahid and I worked on a photo essay together, ‘Kashmir Retextured’, which later won the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) Award for Outstanding Photo Essay in New Media. Shahid wrote all the captions for the essay. Later, we spent a week in Barcelona trying to get a dummy book printed for Thames and Hudson in London. They said get Rushdie to write an introduction, but Rushdie was in hiding at that time.”
    Rafiq adds, “The dummy is screaming to come out of my closet in New York. Shahid’s imagery pops up in my poems. It’s part of my inner template. I was with him in Amherst, Massachusetts the night he was called back.”

    Where is his nest? 

    For Rafiq, home is where the heart is. He says, “It’s a biblical condition…Rootlessness. It’s not something unique, but it gives you a unique perspective to your own native place. In a self-imposed exile you are compelled as a writer to create an imaginary homeland. Joyce and Beckett wrote about Ireland living in Paris. Rushdie writes about India living both in New York and London. I have an American sensibility as well as a South Asian cultural heritage. Rushdie said we are all chutney, and if I may, the spicy ingredients parsed brilliantly by Edward Said, but in a larger sense we are all children of Lord Macaulay.” He is at home with Rumi as he is with Rimbaud and Rushdie. That’s his nest.

    On translating Iqbal

    Allama Iqbal was a poet philosopher, a 20th Century giant of South Asian poetry who wrote in Urdu and Farsi and English but Iqbal’s poetry is a tricky one to comprehend. How did Rafiq manage to translate his works then?
     “I tried to cut through Iqbal’s didactic philosophy which he couldn’t himself overcome. For instance, in Jugnoo, his long poem about the Firefly, when you slice through the marvels of Allah, the seven or eight similes Iqbal uses to describe the Jugnoo are what Ezra Pound, in another context, called the “exoticism of Oriental poetry”. I have tried to bring Iqbal to a 21st Century secular audience, mindful of Iqbal’s all important tone.”

    What’s next?

    Rafiq has been trying to translate poet Rahman Rahi’s writings in Kashmir for the last 50 years. But first I must apply for a grant. “Poetry makes nothing happen, and it isn’t easy to make nothing happen,” says Rafiq as he signs off.

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Colours of a New Dawn

    What happens when the vision sees beyond the layers of glass? It gives birth to an artist. The same vision has bore the artist long hidden within Sravanthi Juluri.

    “There is no must in Art because art is free,” said legendary Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. And if something has become synonymous with this quotation it is a mélange of different oeuvres that artist Sravanthi Juluri presents on her canvas. From inside the crevices of light bursts open a linguistic map of colours that is so different in every curvature of the lines thickening or taking new shapes when it is seen without the veil of brush strokes that the artist has been using digging deep inside her own soul. She recently held an art exhibition titled ‘The Journey of a Butterfly’ at Goethe Zentrum.

    Brush with colours

    Art is not made, it is born. Sometimes a dot falls and the artist becomes of that place. This is precisely how the journey of Sravanthi can be depicted. A queer child that she was, she always wanted to do things differently. It was when she was in Berkley that she had the epiphany and realized Art is her vocation. “I was having coffee and saw two men carrying a huge sheet of blue glass to ‘Stain Glass Garden’. The light pierced it and broke into a thousand splintering gems. I felt transported inside an atomic cosmos. It drew me to the institute where I learnt stain glass painting,” beams the artist adding that glass is conglomeration of everything. It is made from sand symbolizing the creation of human being – different human traits, and its final mingling with dust.  

    The lost symbols

    If Mallarme and Baudelaire culminated raw ideas into symbolism, Shravanthi emerged as an accomplished artist whose genius reflects in the frequent symbols of leaves and butterflies that she uses as mark of freedom. Her paintings liquefy a topography with different themes appearing as scarlet dots that enlarges as the vision shifts to the irregular splotches in darker shades that are none other than the expanding tissues of  womb in whose rupture glitters streams of Life in threads of trickling paint – bare flashes of Hope that flickers and disappears in the swiping flood of Modern Age. 

    Kāli as source of inspiration

    A red bindi gleams on Sravanthi’s forehead almost like sunrise – source of energy and flamboyance. She adores the hidden power inside every woman. That’s how she reaches out to the fair sex through her canvas. The use of red and yellow in her abstracts are symbolic of splashes of vermilion and turmeric used in worshipping goddesses. “I celebrate the deity inside a woman through these colours,” she adds. Kali, for her, is the perennial source of energy of what is unknown. She uses it as the reflection, creation, destruction and many other themes that are intertwined with the cycle of Nature and psyche’s perception of the same. 

    A humanist and not the feminist

    As an artist she makes best use of her canvas for depicting the rights of women, the sufferings that they go through.  She did a series of paintings on honour killings by cutting headlines from newspapers and pasting the same on the canvas. “People’s memory is short. I wanted them to remember that this is happening all around them. They, too, can feel the cry of a suppressed woman,” broods Sravanthi. At the same time if she is asked to choose between Amrita Sher-Gill or Frida Kahlo, she would choose the latter. Reason being Kahlo’s complex symbolism she can identify herself and her art with.                                                     

    Artist Vs- Politics

    When the Picasso of India legendary M. F. Hussain had painted Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga he had created waves. Another lesser known similar thing happened in Calcutta Art circles when artist Suvaprassana celebrated Mamata Banerjee on his canvas. The artist stands face to face with politics, but Sravanthi has a different take on it, “That time of Hussain was different. Many can find their inspiration in political figures. But I won’t paint any politician especially the kind of political potboilers we see coming up almost every day in myriads of forms – almost like corporate lobbying.” She signs off, “I don’t feel there’s much value in supporting political values.”

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    When Art Ives in Heart

    It is not easy to create a signature style for yourself when your mind is full of the imprints of Art Maestroes. But Jaya Baheti with her free flow of brush has done that.

    Realism is too stark a nudity for an aesthetic eye to complete its search for beauty and truth even if the same are ‘created’. The membranes of a creative palette transgress into stony entities hurting the very eye that watches it with heightened intensity. A diaphanous touch of rustic streaks awakens the surreal in the real. Artist Jaya Baheti’s oeuvres seem to be radiating with the same. The rustic landscapes coalesce with brush strokes that give them almost an abstract feel. Juxtaposed to this softness are her geometric opuses of human figures with too-large heads. 

    Beginner’s strokes

    Born in Pune Jaya is a Hyderabadi now, her marriage has brought her to the Char Minar City. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pune. “I began with my solo show at Chitari Art Gallery and it was an astounding success amongst the Art connoisseurs. So many art lovers came to the exhibition.” It was her father’s friend artist Murli Lahoti who influenced her a lot during her growing years.

    Inspirations and influences 

    Art seems to have known the address of her home. A young Jaya would see her mother do everything in an artistic way. She would be enthralled to watch her arranging plates on the dining table and fresh flowers in beautiful patterns. “Even the food that she would serve would be decorated artistically with an array of colourful vegetables and sprigs of herbs,” says the artist. 
    “I am a free soul. I let this freedom flow on my canvas,” informs Jaya. No wonder she has a vast mélange of genres that keep finding ways into her brush strokes be it with acrylics, water-colours, mixed media, ceramics, glass, charcoal, ink or wood. Her artistic mood moulds these into an aesthetic object. 

    In one of her paintings titled ‘Moon Bath’ she put a silver coin as the moon in the sky that gleams against the dark contours of secrets. She has curated many art exhibitions across the country and her art exhibitions have been held in many other countries.

    On Art in a market hit by recession

    A luxury item that any Richie Rich of the metropolis considers an objet d’art to be in times when the economic recession is gaping at all markets. Art aficianadoes keep adding in their collection only the colossal names. Other buyers maintain reticence while trying to keep the strings of their purses tight. Jaya has quite a different take on this, “In Hyderabad, you see an art event happening every day. Art galleries are coming up. Hyderabad is a good market. Buyers and rains come all of a sudden so why be despondent in predictions?”   

    Arty affairs

    Her strokes pick a drop of water and make rivulets flow surrounding which grow verdant forests – rain soaked. And the vision gets trapped in the greenscape that swirls as strokes of abstract elements blending with finesse in what is present and hidden from the eye. That’s how come her exhibitions have travelled to Art Mosaic Gallery, Singapore; Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi; Bombay Art Society, Bombay; Taj Deccan, Hyderabad and in many other renowned art galleries of the country. Her upcoming shows are to be held in Germany, New York and London. 

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Lest We Forget

    Jagran Cityplus remembers Lance Naik Mohammed Firoz Khan a martyr who sacrificed his life fighting against Pakistani troops at LoC in Jammu & Kashmir October last year.

    A soldier, miles away posted at LoC was packing up to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with his family at Hyderabad. There was a smile on his face that he packed in his luggage with the toys for his little children. The luggage did reach his home, but the smile was smothered. Toys were shattered. Lance Naik Mohammad Firoz Khan was killed as Pakistani troops opened fire in Poonch district at Mendhar sub-sector. His last words, “Jai, Hind!” seemed to resonate again and again in the Nawab Sahab Kunta graveyard, old city Hyderabad, where he was buried with full military honours.  

    Country roads

    The 35 year old soldier, Firoz was a resident of Hyderabad old city, Nawab Sahab Kunta. His father Mohammad Jafar Khan, too, was in Indian Army and wanted his son to serve the country. “Even when we would play in the ground, my brother would always mention his dreams of joining the army. He would be our leader in any game,” reminisces his younger brother Mohammad Alauddin Khan with teary eyes. And a leader indeed he was. He was with 18 Madras Regiment for twelve years serving in the battalion 38 Rashtriya Rifles. His first posting was in Ooty. He was posted at Kargil from 2005-2007. “From the army posts he would call us regularly and talk to each member of the family,” adds Alauddin in a low voice.

    His mother Razia Begum fondly touches the memento that her son received while he was sent on UN Mission of Congo from 2010-2011. She gives a crushed smile, “My son has made all of us proud. He would always say that he will make it big one day while serving the army.” Labour Minister Danam Nagender, Mayor Majid Hussain, YSR Congress party president Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy, BJP leaders G. Kishan Reddy and Bandaru Dattatreya and other political party leaders had come to pay their respects to the martyred soldier when his body was brought to Hyderabad on October 17, 2013 for the funeral.

    The last moments

    Firoz had visited his family on Eid-ul-Fitr the last year in August. He had been given leave for Eid-ul-Azha but as soon as he heard of the firings on Indian Army posts in Poonch, where he was posted, he did not care about his leaves and went ahead to join his compatriots saying, “I can celebrate Eid later, but have to teach the enemy a lesson!” He went to the firing spot and fired back gallantly at the Pakistani troops. He was hit by a mortar splinter. Before dying, the last words that he uttered were, “Jai, Hind!” His three children Afsheen aged 5, Ashraf aged 3 and 10 month old Naaz were waiting for him come and celebrate the festival with them. Little did they know that their father was a shaheed now. They looked on innocently as hundreds of people took part in the funeral procession of the martyr and gathered at the graveyard for the burial rites. His wife Nasreen Fatima is still in a state of shock, her hands still bearing very faint traces of henna. 

    Highest honour for Firoz

    The soldier’s house wears a sad gloomy look with his mementos kept amidst blue paper flowers. Soon they will be humbled to have Param Vir Chakra to be kept on the highest shelf of the showcase in the living room. “We have been informed by Army officials that Firoz bhai will be awarded Param Vir Chakra,” informs his brother Alauddin. The family will go to New Delhi on Independence Day to receive the highest military award for gallantry. Firoz is dead, but his deeds of martyrdom will live for an eternity.

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    Hyderabad Urban Lab

    How well do we know our city? Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab(HUL) speaks to Cityplus to let us know how we can find the answer to that question.

    You must have come across chemistry labs, but have you ever heard of an urban lab? Meet Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). A lab with the aim to help urbanites understand their own world and bring a change to it. Anant is an economics geographer who, after his stay abroad, came back to his roots, his city and is letting others see it from a different perspective.

    Right to know one’s own city

    It was in the year 1956 that a French philosopher brought the concept of the right to know one’s own city. United Nations has also been closely involved with it over the years. The fundamental idea is to produce knowledge about the city in a local text and to understand how urbanization is shaping up internal and external lives of urbanites. Anant elaborates, “Cities are topographies that do not belong to a particular person. They are developed over ages undergoing many changes that eventually shape them up. They are entities. We are yet to find out how cities function as entities. Ours is an idea to explore this more.”

    Bholakpur, for instance

    Much like factories, cities too produce their own waste. And every city has its own places filtering the waste of a city much like kidneys do for a body. For Hyderabad, Bholakpur works as its kidneys. The 150 year old area is known as the leather tannery of the city amidst verdant crop fields. “People came from villages to settle down there and then around it, a city transformed. Now, at Bholakpur people live who deal with the scrap that the city produces – these people actually have made the city livable and clean. Areas like Bholakpur do not feature much in town planning. In 2009 when drinking water was mixed up with sewerage water, the area was labeled as the hub of maladies. Nobody bothered to find out whose fault it was and why it happened. It is an important area that puts commodities back to life post consumption; this is what needs to be recognized when cities are planned,” says Anant. Hyderabad Urban Lab began its research work on Bholakpur the last year to locate Bholakpur and places of the same sort on the global and political economy by giving its people a platform to tell their tales.

    Meta Data

    The data related to a city is rarely transparent. There is always a mismatch between two government bodies thanks to their own ‘risk and benefit’ factors. The accurate data can help save many a denizen during natural calamities or man-made disasters. Not only this, it will help people understand their city in a much better way. They can connect with one another as and when required. Anant signs off saying, “We are trying to accumulate accurate government public data. This will be very useful in the communication between public and government. We have begun to collect data and data samples from various sources. We teach students GIS and ask them to collect data for us.”