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City Lights
Countdown to the concert
VOICES OF THE BIG NIGHT: Hariharan and Sonu Nigam

First night, first show: A.R. Rahman. Picture by Pabitra DasAn animated scene with Kipper: Coming soon to your tellyvoices of the big night: Hariharan and Sonu Nigam

From Deen Isai Malai, his debut album of Muslim devotional songs, and Set Me Free, Allah Rakha Rahman has come a long way. Now, at 37, the melody monarch has already waded into Bollywood’s hall of fame, made a splash in Broadway, and is paddling feelers from Hollywood. These days, of course, he is busy tying up the last loose ends for his February 1 mega-show at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake, Calcutta.

A.R. Rahman’s Unity Of Light Concert, presented by The Telegraph, in association with Hero Honda and Emami Beauty Secrets by Madhuri, with ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers as the official host, promises to be the biggest audio-visual extravaganza the city has ever experienced.

The top names in Bollywood playback singing — S.P. Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Sukhwinder Singh, Sadhna Sargam, Vasundara Das and Mahalaxmi Iyer — will get the giant stadium swaying with their combined repertoire of superhit soundtracks.

“There will be 20,000 watts of pulsating sound, delivered from omni-drive long-throw, array speakers,” says Deepak Gattani, managing director of Mumbai-based production house Rapport Global, which is helping Rahman put the huge show together. Dutchman Benny Ball and Kiwi David Seaton, “both master light designers”, will create magic inside the stadium with “intelligent, pre-programmed” lights.

The 90 ft-by-60 ft split-level stage has been designed by Umang Kumar of awards nites fame. “It’s really special and gives you the feel of a ship with layered decks. I haven’t seen a stage like this at any Indian event before, and Calcutta can surely expect a real wacky show,” says Hariharan from Chennai, where more than 150 people have been working “day and night for the past eight months to make it happen”, and happen just right.

The 30-strong string and brass section, the percussion ensemble and the electronic group have all been jamming together at Rahman’s state-of-the-art Panchathan Record Inn studio in Chennai for weeks. “We have been doing dress rehearsals on a complete mock set-up with music, light and choreography, and the last full preparation drill has gone off smoothly, with Rahman on keyboard and piano at the helm,” Gattani declares.

The countdown to the February 1 mega-show is truly on, and the cry for a ticket to the enchanting evening is fast reaching fever pitch.

Flashback track

To celebrate 150 glorious years of the railways in India, South-Eastern Railway held Art Ways 2002 at Visakhapatnam late last year. This brought together 19 artists from all over the country who created works based on their memories, dreams and romance of trains and journeys. Most of the artists painted their canvases at the camp itself. Many others preferred to present works finished in their studios to South-Eastern Railway. These canvases are being exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts now.

With dextrous lines Jatin Das depicts familiar figures from railway stations. A coolie carrying luggage on his head, a woman waving out to a friend as the train leaves the station, and a woman with a load. These are large paintings and the figures are in two-dimension.

A nude male torso is placed next to a riveted railway structure in steel. In stark grey, it has a hint of the sinister that one associates with the work of Rameswar Broota who contributed it. A solitary uniformed waiter stands stock still at one corner of Vasundhara Broota’s diptych. Train tracks painted bronze on silver slither behind him.

Sunil Das makes the only concession to the railways by painting miniature trains above his two figures of women standing next to each other in bright red and white. The coolie and a woman in a white sari sitting in a large field through which a steam engine is chugging appear in Paritosh Sen’s two canvases.

Pradip Moitra presents huge watercolours painted years ago of steam engines and railway yards where he skilfully used this tricky medium. Subrata Gangopadhyay discovers the prettiest of pretty women in the most mundane of railway stations. These are more like large illustrations than paintings. Sanat Kar paints a sweet and sentimental spirit above a steam engine.

For perhaps the nth time, Suhas Roy’s Radha appears for no reason at all above that most cliched of all railway images – the chhoo chhoo train, as children call it. By contrast, Shyamal Datta Roy’s canvases are quite matter-of-fact. Chandra Bhattacharji turns the railway signal with its red and green lights into an icon. It could have been executed with greater care.

There are only two artists who depict journeys in the territories of imagination. Locomotives are evocative of wanderings through memories and the mind itself, and without ever depicting a steam engine or any reference to real-life scenery, Ganesh Haloi evokes a “View from the track” in his large watercolour. It is only a stretch of green interspersed with mounds of yellow. But it is tightly composed with the artist in total control of the way he decides to use the space.

Jayashree Chakravarty begins with the scenery viewed through the train window and ends up with a flurry of brushstrokes, laying on thick layers of paint. In spite of all the turbulence, her two paintings create a sense of tranquillity.

Of subtle shades

Krishna Reddy, who lives in New York and is in his late 70s, is known internationally as a master printmaker. As a student in Santiniketan, his mentor was Nandalal Bose. Experimenting with printmaking, he took away the element of unpredictability from simultaneous colour printing. Yet, this did not limit the tone and range of colours used. He uses subtly graded infinitesimally subtle shades. Even at his age, his life is full of activity and he still takes part in lectures and workshops and shows. Recently, he has donated some of his sculptures, of which little is known or seen here, to India.

Ratnottama Sengupta has written a book on this artist that was launched at the crowded Galerie 88 on Wednesday evening by Governor Viren J. Shah. Krishna’s Cosmos: The creativity of a master printmaker, published by Mapin, is a handsome volume, rich with illustrations.

An exhibition of Reddy’s prints is also on now at the gallery. It is easy to point out the various modern masters who left their stamp on his work. But it is amazing how he processed them inside his brain and created works that left these influences way behind. Reddy’s signature is quite unmistakable in each for their consummate artistry.

A couple of Reddy’s pen and ink drawings are on show, too. They give us an idea of how his mind works. His draughtsmanship is rigorously disciplined but he can as easily allow himself to go, as in some of his prints.

Tot TV

Parents out there who have been concerned at the “adult” content of some cartoons, will have a “safe” zone to tune in to. Cartoon Network’s Tiny TV, to be launched on January 27, will have a range of “leisure and learning” programming designed for kids, and their moms. On weekdays from 11 am to 2 pm and weekends from 10.30 am to 12 noon, shows like Make Way for Noddy, Kipper, Bob the Builder, Oswald and Pingu will keep kids entertained. The content, promise channel reps, will “familiarise toddlers with social concepts such as co-operation, sibling rivalry, positive ‘can do’ attitude, importance of family and friends and etiquette”.

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