The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Dreams crushed underfoot

As one enters the Centre for International Art (CIMA), one's eyes fall automatically on the huge canvas. It is of a pot-bellied man in jeans, his large, rotund and hairy stomach obscenely sticking out. This image stands poles apart from the visuals carried in adverts and hoardings of males with perfect bodies and is, thereby, a twist to the beauty myth. This is what the exhibition mounted by this gallery is all about. It examines our changing responses to our notions on icons — holy cows that are venerated only because people have been doing so for ages.

CIMA presents some of India's best-known artists in this exhibition, titled Brahma to Bapu; Icons and symbols in Indian art.

One artist takes this metaphor quite literally. Subodh Gupta’s canvas shows a white cow, its top half smeared with dung that the artist himself collected during his sojourn in his native village.

The new culture overwhelming India is represented by mobile phones and larger-than-life figures and cultural heroes, which is quite clearly reflected in Chintan Upadhyay's picture of the man with cellphone held in hand with muscles like huge mounds of flesh. Arpita Singh’s painting of Durga, as represented by a pistol-toting woman in white astride the asura in white, is so recognisable that it has by itself turned into icon.

Abhijit Gupta uses the language of adverts and posters only to subvert it. In his work, Yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur, the artist uses the language of Bollywood and adverts to create kitsch that may strike one as being a trifle too obvious and oversmart. The immediate inspiration for Atul Dodiya was Titas Ekti Nadir Naam, a film made by Ritwick Ghatak in the 50s. Ghatak’s head floats in the muddy waters. The filmmaker has not made the name he deserved.

Kavita Nayar is a printmaker and she creates her own image this time by using paper, partially burning it and hanging the strips like pictures. She does three separate works and hangs them. Prasanta Sau creates a world which incorporates the printed word in this new era. But on the other hand, traditional artist Swarnakumari does not stray from her idiom. Such is the tension created by the artists, and works take on new meaning by the way they are juxtaposed.

Meera Devidayal has done a Dreamhome using traditional drawing techniques. As in engineering drawing, she depicts her dream home through line drawing. It is a tenement block where dreams and flowers are crushed underfoot.Tension is also created by the juxtaposition of the traditional work with contemporary work.

The traditional artists from Madhya Pradesh arrive in a burst of colour and energy which is so different from the more cerebral images of artists such as Jitish Kallat, who uses modern technology in his work. Naina Kanodia may have a consciously naïve style, but she makes social commentary through her work depicting The Business Lunch.

— Soumitra Das

Skate away, rev it up

The two-inch-thick sheet of feet-itching, inviting ice spreads over 3,200 sq ft. Enough for some fun skating and enough, for some, to relive those nostalgic days. The Calcuttan’s long-lost dream is back.

Cheek-by-jowl is a 350m go-karting track, with a flyover to boot, the first and only such in India. The nine Zip karts work up 5.5-bhp power each, but zip like real racers, somewhat snazzier than the karts used in the JK Tyre National Karting Championship, the city leg of which will be held on this track this Sunday.

Packed into 2.5 acres in the Patuli township of Baishnabghata, Clown Town is back in action. Started in 2000, it was rather basic in infrastructure, and co-promoters Sanjay Maheshwari and Sanjiv Kabra decided to shut it down a year later to rework the facilities and incorporate stuff from your dreams. The new facilities were inaugurated last Sunday.

For Sanjay, it was a personal milestone. A chartered accountant, he served in the corporate kingdom for 15 years, living six of them in Russia, Germany and the UK. It was fun while it lasted, but back in Calcutta, and faced with a Mumbai transfer, he had to take a few drastic decisions. So, he went into business with his St Xavier’s buddy Sanjiv, who hails from a business family.

The rink has a refrigeration system using brine, and though it could yet be a risky proposition holding competition-level skating (it is not oval or round), the fundamentals will be well ground.

Entry is Rs 25, but to skate, you dish out Rs 100 (Rs 125 on weekends) for an hour’s bliss on ice.

There is a trainer, too — a national champion from Delhi — and plans are afoot to take in schools and offer training at nominal rates. The fine south Calcutta rink — now catering to an endless stream of nondescript exhibitions — is, for all practical purposes, dead. While Clown Town’s location can’t match the earlier pride, there wasn’t any alternative, whatsoever, so far.

The multi-level karting track, the only one of its kind in India, is ready to pump up the adrenaline. There isn’t an age limit in karting (starting from as early as eight), but helmets are compulsory. If average speeds of 30-50 kph seem low, just get behind one of those steering wheels (there are disc brakes — so you’re safe — and karts don’t turn turtle, the centre of gravity being so low), and you’ll see how exciting driving can be.

“Even my own relatives were uneasy at first. ‘Will anybody go that far'’ they asked,” says Sanjay. “But, the brand recall, I see now, has been brilliant.”

— Sujit Bhar

Art for a cause

The department of English and The Fine Arts Society of St. Xavier’s College are busy organising an event with a difference. Red & Black 2002, a unique arts and crafts exhibition, competition and sale to be hosted on November 26, presents an opportunity for budding artists from various colleges to display their creativity, pick up cash prizes and even register a sale or two. Artists and craftsmen will congregate to express their talent in oils, water-colours, sketches, ceramics, sculpture and other art forms. The event will also exhibit a number of professional painters. The competition events will be judged by Wasim Kapoor and Niranjan Pradhan. Kapoor and Tanushree Shankar have lent unstinting support to the event. The organisers have also received financial assistance from various companies willing to step forward and support the arts.

St Xavier’s College hopes to make this an annual event. Proceeds from the sale of art pieces at the event will be donated to Homes for the Aged.

A question of answers

While a quiz of one kind or the other is almost a daily feature in Calcutta’s culture calendar, there are only two events that are open to all. One among those stands out in many ways. With 80 teams in the fray and an audience of over 600 in attention for two days, it is aptly called ‘a quiz with a difference’.

The Telegraph presented the 24th annual Close-Up Argus Quiz at the Dalhousie Institute over the last weekend. Among the many facets of the event were two outstanding features — one a theme round on a computer matrix and the other two rounds dedicated to war.

Hammering Maniacs won the event with 105 points. Dalhousie Institute, with 81 points, and Answering Service with 80, ran them close.

Disney date

Koolkidz, the fun-zapped kids’ zone situated at 22, Camac Street, in association with Pantaloons, is organising a Disney Party for the young ones this weekend. The three-day event will have fun and games and activities based on Disney. Kids can have a ball in the play arena, participate in a fancy-dress competition and painting competition, and get a chance to win prizes in a lucky draw and refreshments. Pantaloons has recently launched the Disney Collection at its stores.

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