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Session: Art & Activism: Should the Twain Meet?

The second edition of Arth was a potpourri of culture & expressions

The fest aimed to rediscover, reconnect and revisit India through art, culture, literature, politics and society

By Ankit Santra
  • Published 23.02.20, 6:53 PM
  • Updated 23.02.20, 6:53 PM
  • a min read
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The City of Joy hosted the second edition of Arth — A Culture Fest partnered by The Telegraph on January 4 and 5 at Raajkutir Swabhumi. Amidst a gathering of art and culture connoisseurs, the fest aimed to rediscover, reconnect and revisit India through art, culture, literature, politics and society. Besides an array of panel discussions hosting nearly 200 eminent artists, the festival also upheld local and national culture through workshops, performances, visual art installations, live art and more. Exclusive sessions were curated for children, which included masterclasses and puppet performances. There were folk music concert by Gautam Das Baul, a Chhau performance, a dance performance by students of Adamas University but the cherry on the cake was a performance by Mamata Shankar and her troupe titled Amritasya Putra. While Day I saw Usha Uthup and Bickram Ghosh regale the audience, Day II concluded on a musical note with Euphoria taking over. Glimpses:

B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
The Chhau act curated by Tarapada Rajak depicted Mahishasura Mardini where a troupe of masked performers stole the show with their dynamic performance.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Gautam Das Baul held the audience to their seats with his folk songs and steps matching the rural beats put together in a power-packed performance
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Amritasya Putra presented by the Mamata Shankar Dance Company portrayed the stages of life through a graceful performance.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Session: Tete-a-tete with Prosenjit Speakers: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Sharmistha Goswami Chatterjee Moot point: Preceded by the lamp-lighting ceremony, the first session of Arth, in the form of a tete-a-tete with actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, raised issues that concern the Tollywood industry. Prosenjit, in the 30-minute session, pointed out how we belong to a land known to have art and activism hand in hand. “I have played Lalan Fakir (in Moner Manush), because I have done Shankhachil, I can say it raises the issue of a medical visa, Lalan Fakir discusses religious tolerance. When I am armed with the power of a language (cinema), why not use it in my own way?” said Prosenjit.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Session: The city as a muse: Kolkata in popular culture Speakers: Kunal Basu, Pradeep Sarkar, Supriya Newar, Bickram Ghosh; moderated by Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee Moot point: Kunal Basu, Supriya Newar and Pradeep Sarkar discussed how they perceived Calcutta in their own ways. Supriya listed terms like adda, goppo, dhop. It ended with Bickram reciting a self-written poem Roots. “I have tried to leave Calcutta four times. But there’s something about Calcutta,” said Bickram. “It’s not love at first sight, you have to let it grow,” said Supriya. “Wherever you place the camera, you get a picture,” said Sarkar, while describing the city.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Session: Art & Activism: Should the Twain Meet? Speakers: Babul Supriyo, Rituparna Sengupta, Anik Datta, Bauddhayan Mukherji and moderated by Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee Moot point: The need of the hour is to strike the right balance between art and activism and the panel weighed a fair share of both, inviting filmmakers Anik Datta, Bauddhayan Mukherji, Tollywood star Rituparna Sengupta and singer Babul Supriyo to address and deliberate on the topic. With a dramatically potent conversation and cathartic personal experiences, the session was one of the most interesting ones. “Never forget your craft, that is absolutely the most important thing. If you have forgotten your craft, what you make won’t be crafty enough, and if it is not crafty enough, it will not appeal to the people you want it to appeal to,” said Bauddhayan. “Activism need not be only political. It could be social, though politics becomes an intrinsic part of almost anything. I’m not naturally a political creature, I didn’t grow up with that grooming. Initially it was passive activism by not participating in events or taking awards but I didn’t make a hullabaloo out of it. But then I felt the need to express certain things and I did,” said Anik.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Session: A life like no other: Sonal Mansingh in conversation with Vikram Sampath Speakers: Sonal Mansingh and moderated by Vikram Sampath Moot point: The half-an-hour talk with Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancer Sonal Mansingh hand-picked instances from her early days, mentioned in her biography A Life like No Other. While diving into her past, she remembered her guru using the reference of a monkey to teach her the need of expressions for generating bhava. She engaged with the audience and drew parallels between modern rap and ancient verses to explain the holistic nature of Indian culture. “My grandfather made me make two promises. One, never treat your art as business. And two, never compromise on your self-respect. Till date I’ve been following these,” said Mansingh.

When my children started growing up, I realised I didn’t know enough to tell them about our culture. Hence, to dig deeper, the idea was to bring it into a concept where people are free to come in and get in touch with their own roots. Culture isn’t only about music and dance and so on, it permeates every aspect of our lives. It’s an all-encompassing thing, so I don’t believe one can separate them

Shreyasi Goenka, founder and director, Arth

I think all the panels at Arth were a huge reminder of the fact that we are all tracing the history of our civilisations and arts and almost culminating into an osmosis of everything taken together, especially the craft, heritage and cultural history of the country. All the panels present a storytelling experience somehow or the other

Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, who anchored and moderated many of the sessions at Arth.
B. Halder
Photo Credit: B. Halder
Sundeep Bhutoria in conversation with lyricist Manoj Muntashir (right) on the session titled ‘Meri Fitrat Hai Mastana: A conversation on the poetry landscape in India’.