The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Designs crafted in diversity

Art melds seamlessly with craft at the forthcoming exhibition at CIMA Gallery from September 17. Apart from holding regular art exhibitions, CIMA has, for the past few years, been organising exhibitions of the crafts of our country. Each exhibit by master craftspersons handpicked from obscure villages and hamlets and towns all over the country lay our doubts to rest about whether any differences ever existed between the supposedly higher and lower forms in ancient India. Looking with amazement at the Dokra image of Shiva from Madhya Pradesh one wonders, did modern art come first, or did such an age-old attenuated form precede it'

Shiva is the ascetic. His face is severe, like a drawing by Ganesh Pyne. His arms are tubular. Perhaps Picasso fashioned it from some bicycle part. His torso is long, thin and wasted. Is that Modigliani' Shiva’s mount wears a lugubrious expression. Its legs have been broken and the animal is a footstool. Even contemporary Indian artists would not have dared to distort a traditional icon to this extent.

And did the bright appliqued umbrellas and bedcovers from Orissa inspire Arpita Singh' Or was it the other way round'

But then the tribals from Bastar in Madhya Pradesh have even fashioned a charming Ganesh from scrap metal that could double as a fancy, if uncomfortable, stool. And also a couple made from the same material that has a deep red shade formed by layers of rust.

The Dokra from Burdwan is more decorative but one marvels at the ingenuity of these people.

Some of the exhibits made from the humble jute are quite exquisite. The jute and silk scarves that can easily be worn as dupattas sport bright and bold checks and betray their origin — the Bengal-Bihar border. Borderland chic one could call it and at throwaway prices. The jute dhurries from the south are bold rectangles of colour, very Rothko-like. Tie-and-dye is the process used to colour these.

The focus of this exhibition is, in fact, Karnataka and Andhra. Manglagiri churidar sets are matched with kalamkari dupattas, and printed table cloths use bright natural dyes. Bolster covers are tailored from textiles with ikat designs, and the master printers of Bagh in Madhya Pradesh use geometric and floral motifs on table cloths.

Hoysala has contributed an entire range of artefacts inspired by ancient specimens of temple craft. They are decorative and utilitarian as well. The one-off Chola bronzes are serene and spare.

Some rare weaves have been revived. Floral motifs give Himru from south India the richness of Moradabadi enamelware and men can drape them for an evening out. By the way, there are some smart handprinted shawls and waistcoats for men meant for the same purpose.

Some heavily embroidered bedspreads from Gujarat are so thickly encrusted with mirrors that when spread out they look like the star-spangled heaven.

Unlike Madhya Pradesh, in Orissa they experiment with traditional weaves. They do so with patachitra, too. A Rathayatra scene painted on tussar about 40 years ago has very quaint details that pop up if one examines the wall hanging carefully. A policeman mingles with the crowd, young boys climb up the streetlight to catch a better look.

In spite of their obvious skills these craftspeople hardly earn subsistence wages because middlemen exploit their helplessness. Whenever they send anything to this state, the waybill of West Bengal makes things even more difficult for these unlettered people.

M for Music

Music, music and more music. That’s what Planet M “the music store of the Universe” has in store for Calcuttans. Over 5,000 titles of VCDs, DVDs, CD ROMs, educational and entertaining; audio accessories, T-shirts, bags and CD holders. Plus, a wide range of music -- regional, folk, Bengali, Hindi, English and international to name a few — adding up to 30,000 covers.

“We aim to offer our customers not just music, but a whole experience,” says Vijay Mehra, COO of Planet M. With 25 television sets, 17 listening posts, a juke box and a radio jockey spinning out the latest numbers, including requests, it’s all about the ambience working the music magic.

The 22 Camac Street store, the 10th one in the country, will open to music lovers from Sunday, September 15, with Remo Fernandes performing in the first of many such live events on the ‘M Stage’, set in a corner of the 4,400 sq ft floor space. Plenty of freebies will be handed out and surprise events, like in-house contests, held during Week I.

“The Calcutta customer’s taste in music is very wide-ranging,” says Mehra. “In terms of quality of music, we expect them to be the most discerning. They listen to a lot of different types of music, so our range here is suited to their needs. It may not be the largest market as far as the number of buyers is concerned, but it is definitely the biggest in the range of music bought and sold.”

A help-desk ensures that if something is not available at the store, they can get it without a fuss. M Xtasy Club is another feature for loyal buyers, with discounts and ‘free-buys’ awarded for points collected, and first-preference passes for events and celebrity visits at the store.

“In three years, we have set up 10 stores and 11 stop-and-shop outlets. In the next four to five years, we hope to set up about 80 more,” adds Mehra.

Festive flavour

Eat an ice cream, win a prize. Too good to be true, perhaps, but with the Kwality Walls Puja Ka Raja contest, that’s exactly what happens. Every customer gets a red or yellow scratch card, which contains a variety of prizes. Offers range from free rides at Nicco Park to free surfing at Happy e Zone, discounts at P.C. Chandra Jewellers to gift vouchers worth up to Rs 6,000 from Samsung and discounts and vouchers from Westside.

The promo, run in conjunction with The Telegraph, includes the chance of a free shopping spree for the Puja Ka Rajas, who have one of five scratch cards with prize money worth Rs 25,000. The lucky winners will be taken around the city to do their Puja shopping in style, for jewellery, clothes and household appliances.

Hello, hams!

One world, one language is their message, the radio their medium. The 12th annual national gathering of radio amateurs, or hams, will be held in Chennai on October 5 and 6. Hamfest India 2002 is being organised by the Hamfest India Organising Committee and hosted by Madras Amateur Radio Society. It will serve as a platform for more than 13,000 amateur radio operators in the country, about 250 in Calcutta, to debate, discuss, grab their favourite “rig” (preferred model of amateur radio) or just ‘eyeball’ (meet the voices). So, time to check out for more info on hams and the Hamfest.

Puja special

This year, Behala Youngmen’s Club will be portraying 53 manifestations of Goddess Durga on two wooden boards lined up on two sides of the entrance of their puja pandal. Sculptor Sanatan Rudra Pal will give shape to the idols. Claiming this as the first attempt in the world to worship 53 idols of Goddess Durga in all her manifestations under one aegis, the Behala club has managed to lure a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records to their pandal. And you thought it was just another para puja!

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