The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Inspired musings on the river

The mind’s eye matters most for artists with a vision. Whatever he perceives with his eyes is the raw material that the imagination uses in the creative process. Once the dross is removed and a new work of art starts to emerge, the original impulse may only have survived as a vestige. For the magic of imagination transforms whatever it touches into a shimmering new world for sensitive viewers to discover.

Ganesh Haloi was born in riverine Jamalpur when it used to be in Mymensingh in erstwhile East Bengal. The river was a part of life in that village. Swollen during monsoon, it was a frightening sight to behold. The waters would enter the courtyard. But in winter it lost its turbulence. A sandbank would appear like the humped shell of a tortoise. A tree would spring up and rabbits would scurry on the sand.

Haloi revisited the village of his youth after a gap of 40 years. The river had dried up. It was only a runnel that showed some signs of life after the rains. A village had come up on the sandbank. Further down, the river was still alive. Its colours changed from a rich red to a deep velvety green. Memories of the river of his youth kept haunting him when he took up his paintbrush.

But he never really painted what he saw. He never strived to produce a verisimilitude. What he painted had little to do with what he actually saw. As Haloi puts it: “I don’t paint what I see. I do see what I paint. I am in a playful mood as I give shape to this new world.” His vision is what he creates.

Haloi’s new paintings inspired by the river are being previewed at Chitrakoot gallery. Later, they will be exhibited in Delhi in an exhibition being organised by Manjit Bawa.

Haloi’s new works produce in the viewer a feeling of meditative silence. They are the essence of his musings on the river that now exists only in his memory. He uses contrasting shades balanced so effortlessly that they create a soothing effect. He uses the most ravishingly beautiful blues and greens and ochres that suggest the still depths of the river. Even when he uses a strident peacock blue, the colour never really screams. It is subdued. Sometimes he uses a thick coat of gouache while in some other works the application is so thin and transparent the ground still looks damp.

In some works, he divides the space either horizontally or vertically. But he insists these are no mere abstract designs because there are constant references to the real waterlife — to parts of images that have been immersed after puja or to a boat. In one particular work, the light is splintered on the ripples. As if the fragments of a broken mirror have been scattered on the surface. It is an image of great beauty where a fleeting sight seen quite often in real life achieves the permanence of art.

Magic of rhythm

The rhythm of the heart is what they want to capture through choreography, in the footsteps of guru Uday Shankar. Creative dance, for them, is “a journey towards self-realisation”. After years of tutelage at Udayan, 10 of Mamata Shankar’s ex-students have branched out of her dance school to set up Hritaal. Last weekend, the young troupe put up its maiden show at Uttam Mancha.

The group, comprising six girls and four boys between 18 and 25 years of age, tried to capture divergent themes and dance styles, as an offering to the maestro. While the folk item focused on the rural landscape, they moulded Kalaripayattu — a martial art form of Kerala — to portray the worship of power. Shakalbelar roddur, a Kabir Suman score, was choreographed on the loss of innocence in today’s world, while puppetry in another piece provided comic relief.

“Hritaal is a centre for contemporary creative dancers striving to impart a new dimension to choreography. We want to bring in innovations while preserving the basic tenets of the Uday Shankar style, such as his body movements and costumes,” says Jaydeep Palit, director of Hritaal, who was initiated into creative dance at age six by Amala Shankar. Later, Palit toured and held shows in Belgium, Holland, Greece, the US, West Indies, Egypt and the Middle-East as a professional performer with the Mamata Shankar Ballet troupe.

While learning the nuances of the Uday Shankar gharana, Palit also yearned to explore the other forms of contemporary and Indian classical dance. He trained in Kathakali at Udayan and, later, under Guru Govindan Kutty of Kalamandalam. Workshops with Narendra Sharma, Acchyut Narayan, Paul Taylor Dance Company and others exposed him to the various trends of choreography, including Kalaripayattu and Kuchipudi.

2 From Pittsburgh to a packed audience in GD Birla Sabhagar could be any artiste’s dream. For Sreyashi Dey, an Odissi dancer, the dream came true when she performed Karna-Kunti Sambad to a full house in the city recently. To add a different flavour, Dey had roped in two American theatre personalities in Pittsburgh for the narratives while she depicted the character of Kunti through Odissi. The effect was spell-binding. Earlier, her depiction of Chitrangada in Pittsburgh made the locals sits up. The former Bharatanatyam dancer, who later switched to Odissi, has been trained by Mayadhar Raut and Harekrishna Behera. She moved to US in 1987 but keeps coming back to India to “discover her soul in Indian classical dance”.

2 Nupurchhanda Ghosh, a former student of singer Krishna Chattopadhyay, is coming out with a 10-song album titled Bandish to be released by Pandit Jasraj and Ramananda Bandopadhyay on Sunday morning at MusicWorld. The album contains some rare Dwijendrageeti and Rajanikanter gaan that promise to make good listening. And there’s more. Bandish also comprises a bunch of art cards — paintings by Babita Das to go along with the songs — to provide a feeling of togetherness. “A lot of research has gone into the work which should pay good dividends,” said the two artistes.

Balancing act

“A poetic slow-motion ballet” is how La Nouvelle Republique had described the show when it was put up at Festival Presse-Poitiers at Poitiers in 1999. Though Ici Bas! is a performance by circus artists, it promises to be a lot different from what local jugglers and clowns put up in the Park Circus Maidan tent.

Saturday evening’s show at GD Birla Sabhagar, organised by the Embassy of France in India and Alliance Francaise de Calcutta, will be divided into two parts. All three artists — Alex Saintin, Sylvain Cousin and Thomas Le Doze — are products of the Lido Center of Circus Arts in Toulouse.

The first will be a solo act by Saintin. In the second, master jugglers Cousin and Le Doze will come together for their balancing act in Ici Bas!, with which their company Des Pas en Rond has travelled around the globe.

Mind sport

The Close-Up Argus Open Quiz will be held at the Dalhousie Institute on November 15-16. Argus Quiz Club is dedicated to the cultivation of quiz as a mind sport and its flagship event, the Close Up Argus Open Quiz, has become popular in the region. Now in its 24th year, the event saw a record participation of over 125 teams at Dalhousie Institute.

The club has developed state-of-the-art software for presenting live quiz shows and introduced the popular Argus Plate Quiz for the also-ran teams. For R.M. Sen, the driving force behind Argus, it’s his passion that keeps him going even after so many years on the circuit.

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