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Category: Art

Why I Love Clichés

It was a normal November evening, humid and hot, almost 10’0 clock as I walked to the exit of the office building I was sure I had missed the last bus for station had left and so I looked around and found that none of the government facilities of transportation(read taxi) were available. I walked down the alley, wondering when the rain gods are going to shower their blessings as the humidity became unbearable. Well I am not that a great believer of God but during that very minute it started pouring, pouring like cats and dogs. It was within seconds that I was drenched from head to toe, using this as an excuse I remembered my mother telling me that you should be always careful of what you ask for; one may not know when the lords might be listening. Now was exactly when I understood what she meant by that. Cursing the rain and appreciating the waterproofing of my bag, I reached the common bus stand of the area. I inquired about the next bus to Civil Lines; it was due in another thirty minutes.
I took shelter under the bus stop. Like all writers have a habit to brood over issues, I thought about myself, a 28 year old young man, in a city like Mumbai working at a publication house and all he has in his life are books. The idea didn’t sound that great. I think so much of thinking was happening because of the pouring rain. May be it was because after a long time I could hear my own voice in the chaos around me. Rain, a man and his life. Sounds like a cliché. Well clichés became clichés because we love them so much. As I pondered into my own dreams, I didn’t notice a young couple coming and taking shelter just like me. They weren’t really drenched, may be they listened to their mother more often than I did. The girl looked like a post-graduate or something and the guy had to be a year or older than me. It looked like a complete book written scene, a dark and stormy night. The alley lit by just a dim street light. Perfect setting for a murder by a stranger. My editor keeps on telling me to apply my work into my life. I guess it really has started happening.
If I were to really apply my work to my life in the present surroundings, I would go ahead with few of my favorites. If this where to be a scene by Mario Puzo, like a typical Godfather scene. The man could be from the Corleone family and the woman would be his wife. She would be dressed in a typical long skirt with stockings and a wail. Her aura would be of a good wife, a woman who believes that her husband commands her life and her sacrifices where nothing in front of his but she would be a woman equally strong. The man would look like a walking bull, wearing a nice tailored suit depicting the Italian touch to it. A man of power, authority and command, someone who believed in himself. As a black limousine pulls in the alley the man looks at his wife, smiles and she gives out a sigh of relief. They both know that life has given them another chance. They have escaped death yet again. They both in a hurry like breaking the silence before the storm, get into the car and as the car gears to move, there is a loud screeching of tires and another black car pulls in. Gunshots are fired from the following car. The air boomed with the noises of speeding cars, gunshots and yell from both the cars equally. Both cars leave the alley in a fraction of seconds. Leaving the alley like nothing really happened in there. The whole scene gives a feeling that the mafia world in the 1950’s was aloof of all the rules and regulations of the administrative system.

Or if this where to be a scene from PG Wodehouse, the man could be Barty Wooster dressed in a neat pair of trouser and fiddling with his bowtie. The woman could be his fiancée breaking up with him telling him, “This will not work. I will cherish these moments with you but you can act quite like a blockhead. Well you are a block head.” Being the usual Wodehouse story, Barty in his 1920’s English would appropriately reply by saying, “Right ho then. If you are ought to give a heave-ho, pip-pip,Toodloo.” Then he would hail transportation for her and bend to open the car door for her. Make sure that she is seated comfortably and give the address to the driver telling him to drop her carefully. The alley would have been bright and it for sure would have been day time.

As I was day dreaming into the whole idea of a Wodehouse, I saw a very faint view of a tattoo on the girl’s hand. And then I wondered to myself what if this had been a scene from a Dan Brown, then I can totally imagine myself being a nosy parker and listening to their conversation. The girl would have had an unusual pattern tattooed over her hand and the man would be inquiring her about it. They would have been dressed like they are right now. Just if the scene were to be made a little more Dan brown-ish then the guy would be more dressed in tweed coat and would have been unaware about his good looks. The tattoo would have been at a very random place like in the inner wrist or on her ring finger. Then she would have told him about the story behind the encryption, taking a promise of never mentioning it to anyone as it was a secret to be protected by life, the secret organization had spent years and years in keeping the secret safe and if it comes out it’ ll destroy every existing belief, faith and tradition. Taking the clue from there the man would try to find out more about the girl’s murdered father and realize that he has very little time to save the world. Well not bad, it does sound like a stereotypical scene from the author. Living by my book world isn’t that difficult after all.

I was always told in my childhood that the job which you choose should have the requirement of your basic traits. Like for an astronaut should have the basic sense of physics and math, like a teacher should have the ability to be patient beyond belief, imagination is something I now realized is so important. But that isn’t the reason why I chose to be a writer; I was always a curious kid.

As I was growing up my mother told me that I had to look for a job in which curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Following my basic trait, I went up to the couple and thought I’ll break into a conversation to kill my curiosity and know who they really are. The couple gave me a warm welcoming smile. I went up to and introduced myself.
“Hi, the rain is really bad”.
The man got up shook my hand and said, yes it is.
They weren’t from Mumbai, that I was sure. The woman introduced herself as Nandini and the man as Raghav. They told me that they were theater actors and had come from Bangalore. I chuckled to myself that this is the irony, the people I was putting in so many situations where used to the idea of wearing different masks in reality. They were into street plays and had come to perform and conduct workshops about the art in Mumbai. As we started talking I came to know that they were a couple engaged. They had been in this profession for a quite some time. Observing them individually I realized that both did apply their personality to the work they did. They were versatile and very expressive. I realized what my boss had meant by applying my work in life.
In all the conversation I came to know that Nandini was a professional classical dancer and Raghav had been studding in the National Institute of Drama in Delhi. They seemed to quite an intelligent pair and highly dedicated to their work.
Raghav said, “We are performing at the Sophia Bhabha Hall this weekend. Why don’t you come and see us? To which Nandini added, “We’ll feel good to at least see one recognizable face in the crowd”. I smiled and told them that I would surely try. We shared good pleasantries about work and the cities.
By now the rain had stopped and the taxis came into clear view. They hailed a cab, exchanged e-mail ids and left. All by my own now I was thinking about the evening, the dark and stormy alley dint look so dark and stormy. The idea of being a 28 year old young man, in Mumbai working at a publication house with books all around him didn’t sound bad at all. I was just meant for this job. Delighted by my sudden discovery I saw the bus pulling in. I got onto it, and realized why I loved clichés.


Art: The new language of protest

World over, art is becoming the new language for protesters. In the form of graffiti, cartoons, advertising, morphed and edited photographs, more and more people are showing discontent against governments, superpowers and corporates. Basically, anyone in power. Apart from this, religious beliefs are also a favorite among these ‘protesters’. These ‘protesters’ include anyone and everyone who want to make a change. It is done mainly to make people aware of the reality around them. Art is a convenient yet effective way to raise a voice. It is accessible to one and all. Anyone with an imagination can use art to put forth a message. And if used effectively, it can be used to put forth a message better than any other means.

On a wall of a former Soviet prison in Estonia

Messages against the war written on Egyptian prison walls to protest against wars, graffiti against paid media in America, fashion brand advertisements against Hijabization in France, morphed pictures against politicians and governments across the world are making art revolution a world wide phenomenon. In India, for a long time now, cartoonists have been attacking political power through their cartoons.


Image against America’s paid media

Edited image against Bush making rounds on the internet

Graffiti against paid media in the USA

Graffiti on Egyptian prison walls

The recent case of Aseem Trivedi didn’t come as a surprise. Neither did the reactions to it. He was charged for with sedation for having ‘tampered’ with our national emblem. In my opinion, an entirely baseless accusation. The main aim of a cartoon is be critical about and express discontent over an issue, which is exactly what Aseem Trivedi did. And to be very honest, it is kind of true. Our country is in a messed up state at the moment.

The cartoon drawn by Aseem Trivedi

But apart from political discontent, something that particularly grabbed my attention were the advertisements that commented on the ‘anti Hijabisation’ in France. Fashion brands like H&M used black paint to paint off the face of their models in a way so as to show that they were wearing Hijabs. This was a strong comment to show the discontent among people (non Muslims in this case, I am assuming) about the entire Hijab controversy that has been taking place in France for the past few years now. This was particularly striking because all this while there were individuals making these cartoons and images as a sign of protest, but in this case, advertising, what is considered to be a means to influence thousands, was being used to make a comment of an issue so communally sensitive.

H&M ad criticizing Hijabization, put up in a subway in Paris

Over all, I think art is a great means to show discontent because of its visual property. Also, with something like a cartoon or a graffiti, it is likely to stay in one’s mind for longer than an essay or a speech would. Also, something like an edited image or a cartoon adds the humor and sarcasm element to the message to be passed, making it more effective. In addition to that, as I mentioned earlier, art is available to one and all, giving almost anyone a platform to express discontent. Also, art doesn’t have a language, thus making it understandable for people across all cultures.

This kind of an accessibility and effectiveness is slowly making art the new language of protest.


Shruti Shenoy

Kaleidoscope 2012 surely did Rewrite The Future

This was Niharika Pandit’s last Kaleidoscope who brings out to you how K’scope 2012 was bigger and better this year!

Kaleidsocope 2012 poster

Margaret Jeyaraj, who is now an ex-Sophia student, was a part of Kaleidoscope for five years before she left college. But to her, this year was different. “Indeed incredible!” she remarked on being asked.

Margaret is not the only one; there are several other ex-students who were awed to see Kaleidoscope 2012 scaling new heights. “I miss being a part of this K’scope when things have become so organised.” says another ex-student Ishani Chatterjee.

‘What was so different about Kaleidoscope?’ Is the next question which pops up in your head. One of the best college festivals of the city, Kaleidoscope proved to be true to its idea of being bigger and better this year. Although it had no ubiquity like Malhar; no full page ads in Bombay Times or news space devoted to the ‘hep’ things in Mumbai Mirror or even international bands performing at Mood Indigo, but yes it had a number of good events, varied food stalls, Man-U café’s Karaoke and a lot of other things to do.

Quite rightly, Kaleidoscope 2012 was a place for anybody and everybody. Foodies could hog onto a variety of food stalls and no, price was never an issue. One could easily grab a dosa for thirty bucks and at the same time spend lavishly on a crispy cheese pizza. And there was yogurt, shwarma, chicken wraps, coffee and pastries. “It was a one-stop restaurant for me. Nobody ate in the hostel when Kaleidoscope was on. And it was a happy spending.” says Richa Gidwani, who spent seven hundred bucks for food in a span of three days and devoured every bit of what she ate.

Other stalls comprised silver junk jewellery, funky knick knacks, and printed college tees.

Kaleidoscope 2012 also tied up with Femina Miss India when the former winners of the pageant selected Sreyashi Bhattacharya, a student of Sophia College as a direct entry to regional finals. “It was unexpected! I am really excited to go to the regional round of Ponds Femina Miss India.” exclaims Sreyashi.


At all points of time, students had something to do. While some of them were busy participating and running around for events, others serenaded (pun intended) at the Karaoke café. I am Yours by Jason Mraz, Wonderwall by Oasis, Yellow by Coldplay, Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne were some of the most loved songs by these singers.

Unlike previous years, sponsors played a vital role in making Kaleidoscope what it turned out to be. Swathes of banners, gifts and freebies on campus gave students a greater incentive to join the festival. Idea gave out freebies such as net setters in several contests organised on campus. Winners of events were mesmerised to have received Wildcraft goodies, Remanika merchandise and Victoria’s Secret hampers.

It weren’t only for college students but kids under Teach For India programme too had a gagalicious time, giggling on jokes in Dus Ka Tees (DKT) and What-a-Riot. And then there were celebrities like Rani Mukherji who caught eyeballs.

Indus Creed Live at Kaleidoscope 2012

‘Well begun is half done’ proved quite right when Kaleidoscope After 8 had performances by Indus Creed live in the Sophia Bhabha hall. Audience wanting to listen to the band live queued up since afternoon to procure a guest pass.

In all, this Kaleidoscope will long live in the memories of those who have seen the fest becoming bigger and better every year.

Quite certainly, Kaleidoscope 2012 has rewritten its future.

Photo credit: Sakshi Parikh | Photography and Kaleidoscope official page

Poster creative by Saloni Singh

The Maker of Idols

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Vitthal Shanbagh- artist, sculptor, painter and an ex-HOD of the sculpture department at the J. J. School of Arts and have a conversation with him about the inseparable relation between art and the Hindu religion.
Mr. Shanbagh, a firm believer in God, resides in the Parleshwar temple, Vile Parle. He sculpts the Ganesha idol that is worshiped in the temple during Ganesh Chaturthi.
I approached him and told him that I wanted to know more about the art of sculpting Ganesha idols, without getting into the religious details of the festival. To this he said to me, “It is almost impossible to separate the two.” “This,” he said, “is because, the Hindu religion is based entirely on art.” Initially I did not understand what he was trying to say. However he later explained to me, that, “our Gods are a piece of fiction. They do not exist in the form as we know them. It is us who have given them that form. We have created the elephant headed Lord Ganesha or blue bodied Lord Krishna on the basis of stories, mythology, imagination and most importantly, aesthetics. Thus without art, our Gods wouldn’t be in place.” Similarly he said that Ganesh Chaturthi, likeDurga Puja among some other Hindu festivals, without the art of sculpture, would not have the kind of charm and beauty it does. However, he added, that “it is a sad state of affairs that we are so blinded by religion that we very conveniently overlook the major role played by art and sculpture to make the festival what it is.”
“Rhythm, is life,” said Mr. Shanbagh. “Without rhythm, there is and can be no life. Look at your heartbeat, there is a rhythm in there. The moment the rhythm stops, you die. Look at the way your body is shaped. There is rhythm in there as well. Look at anything and everything! Waves in the sea, the way the wind blows, the way the trees sway to the wind, the sound trains make; there’s rhythm everywhere! Similarly, when you make a sculpture, it should have rhythm. Or else, it will not look alive.”
I was lucky enough to be in his studio as he was working on the Ganesha idol, worshipped in the Parleshwar temple. For making the idol, only a specific kind of clay brought in specially from Gujarat was used. Armed with the clay and just about three or four basic tools, he set to make an idol, three feet tall. He divided the clay into 21 balls, all of the same size. Placed one on something that looked like a potters wheel and began working on the idol. “Always start from the base, and then move upwards,” he said. “Sculpture, is different from a painting. Paintings are 2D, a sculpture is 3D. This means that while making a sculpture, it should look proportionate from all angles. Also, proportion plays a very important role. The arms should be in proportion with the legs. The fingers should be in proportion with the nails. The stomach should be in proportion with the chest. The trunk should be in proportion with the ears, and so on. Without the right proportion, the idol will have no rhythm. And as I said before, no rhythm means no life.”

Mr. Vitthal Shanbagh working on the idol

As he was making his idol, I asked him about how he was planning to decorate the idol once it was made. “Minimal jewelry and clothing,” he said. “It is an insult to the artist if the idol he/she sculpts is decked in jewelry and rich cloth. It means that there is some imperfection in the idol that you are trying to hide by decking it up. But I will make sure, I decorate the idol with flowers. After all, flowers symbolize life.” However, he said, the colors used in the idol should be in sync, not only with each other, but also with the size of the idol. Bright colors look better on smaller idols whereas if the idol is huge, it’s better to use a softer color.
He talked about how to make a Ganesha idol through the evening and even let me try my hand at it!
Without meeting Mr. Shanbagh, I wouldn’t have ever thought of Ganesh Chaturthi as a festival celebrating art. There is an artist, an expert, who is behind the festival, and in my opinion, his/her contribution to the festival is way beyond that of the priest who offers his services to the idol. This meeting changed my view on festivals. Festivals are now, way beyond religion for me.

Shruti Shenoy