Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Darshan Singh Maini and Diwan Singh Bajeli

1. For a few random comments on James's politics (listed in alphabetical order by critics), see the appendix. The curious mélange of comments offered there hardly yields a significant pattern.

2. In Marxian circles, the subject continues to be vigorously debated. While Arner Zis paraphrases Ernest Fischer as arguing that ideas hardening into ideologies become "petrified moulds or intellectual stereotypes serving to promote the interests of the ruling classes," the view is effectively disputed by Zis and others (see Zis 57-58).

3. It is believed that James modelled Rosy on his own invalid and hyper-sensitive sister Alice, though in the process he inverted the world-view of the latter. For nearly all the references to her in James's letters, as well as her published diaries, clearly establish her radical, anti-imperialist sympathies.

4. James has, it appears, in several striking images used the Keatsian motif throughout the book in relation to Hyacinth's sensibility and aesthetic "mysticism." For a full discussion of this motif, see Tintner. The famous passage about looking at "the good things of life through the glass of the pastry-cook's window" (PC 283) is, incidentally, echoed in W. B. Yeats's poem "Ego Dominus Tuus." The poet sees Keats as "a schoolboy" "with face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop window."

5. In a comprehensive and insightful essay on The Princess Casamassima, Martha Banta applies Fredric Jameson's Marxian views on the relationship between history and fabulation in an elaborate manner. It is her argument that James uses the Hegelian concept of history as "the realization in matter of World Spirit" and that Hyacinth Robinson experiences the pull of "two other allegiances: an aesthetic of history . . . and an ideology of history" (100). Without going the whole hog with her in point-to-point application of Jameson's ideas, I must, nonetheless, say that I share largely the premise of her larger formulations, though I doubt if James himself had any coherent, integrated, and enveloping sense of history in the manner of a Shakespeare or a Tolstoy. 
His "sense" of such things and phenomena is, at best, Balzacian. In such writers, the historicism of the book stems less from a truly historical imagination than from an instinctive grasp of the sociological changes their aesthetic and ethical antennae pick up. I believe that it is in this sense that Lukács considers both Balzac and Scott as having a prognasticative consciousness despite their avowed reactionary world-view. Darshan Singh Maini: Books, Biography, Blog ...

Sep 11, 2013 - Eminent theatre critic Diwan Singh Bajeli relates why he chose to write a book on the theatre of Bhanu Bharti

It is interesting to note that books across a wide spectrum of genres are being published in India these days. Particularly comforting is to see more and more books on theatre. So from an interested reader’s point of view, so also from that of a student of the stage, a book like “The Theatre of Bhanu Bharti” — recently published by Niyogi Books, must be a welcome change. Its author, eminent Delhi-based theatre critic Diwan Singh Bajeli, certainly notes this “change of trend” in our publishing industry with relief. [...]

But how relevant are these Western authorities to understand our theatre practices, our society? Bajeli concedes, “Every society has distinct characteristics and theatre is a mirror of society. Therefore, theatre is not an importable or exportable commodity. At the most, we can take certain elements from the others, incorporate them into our system, our reality.” The basic idea is, “the process should have thesis, antithesis and synthesis…only a few directors have achieved this. Habib Tanvir is one, Bhanu is another.”

Bajeli compares the subjects of his two books thus: “The book on Bhanu is more objective. He is a highly trained professional artiste who seeks to unite both form and content in his work. He seems to be closer to the Nehruvian ideology, a believer in a secular and democratic society that has a socialist pattern. My approach to the book on Upreti was more emotional as I was a member of the Parvatiya Kala Kendra founded by him.

Inspired by Maxim Gorky, Upreti used the folk form as an instrument to make people aware of the exploitative society. For him, the stress was more on the content.”

Next on Bajeli’s list is a book on Kumaoni folk theatre forms. Within its ambit would be “Jaagar, a theatre of guilt and expiation; Hurkiya Baul, a celebration of the transplantation of paddy; Haal Yatra, a collective worship of the plough and Thul Khel, an enactment of Ram Leela in Kumaoni dialect.” Thul Khel, he adds, “is on the verge of extinction.”

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Art is what you respond to

The Navhind Times ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
Ceramic artist Priya Sundaravalli from Auroville is in Goa to showcase her art at Gallery Gitanjali, Panaji. In conversation with NT BUZZ Priya speaks ...
On a concluding note when asked about viewer appreciation for her art she says that it is something that comes from within. “A viewer either has the vibration or sensitivity to appreciate a piece of art or not. To me pottery items being sold by a lady in a market-square are most precious objects, although these are actually dirt cheap. For me art is what you respond to, what’s inside you and what frees you,” says Priya.
(Gallery Gitanjali, Fontainhas, Panaji is hosting the opening “SYN.APSE” an exhibition of the ceramic works and art installations of Priya Sundaravalli on October 10 at 6.30 p.m. The exhibition is on till October 31 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The Hindu - Issues regarding children took the centre stage at the fourth Auroville Film Festival which drew to a close on Wednesday. Questions were raised on ...

KAVYA CHRISTOPHER, TNN | Jun 3, 2015, Jun 3, 2015 - First, the audience decides whether it wants to watch a film or not much before the film is released — irrespective of what the reviews say. Second, I have done subtle films earlier, with very little of what is quintessentially entertaining. Back in the day, they did not work as well as I thought they would. These days, we add those bits of entertainment and they seem to be working. I think the audience has a certain image of an actor, so much so that they know what to expect from him. Having said that, I also don't think the audience has actually expected too much of me from any of my films. At the most, they will say, he performs, and that his films are quite clean. If I do an extra fight, or dance, or a solid dialogue delivery, then that is a bonus. I understand some people are good at those things, so they need to do it. Even I will watch them. But I can't see myself doing all of that all the time.

Do you think that may have affected your popularity at some point?
Every actor goes through phases and I have been through my share of phases too. I wanted to do cinema that I believed in. But one day, I chanced upon a report that featured me in the third line, much after a lot of newcomers. I tried to analyze why I was so far behind and figured that it is not about your talent at all — an actor is defined only by his box office collection. And I knew that I wanted to be there. Talent is a myth. You will just receive compliments. There is nothing more that you can get out of it. But when you are successful, nobody speaks about how talented you are, it is only about how successful you are. I thought, if that is what is required for one to be called a popular actor, then so be it. It was not a small change. It took me at least four to five years to gain some sort of a foothold in the industry. I thank that report to make me want to come forth. I don't know how much ahead I am, but I know where I stand today.

Times of India-26-Jun-2015
After five years in the industry, Aditi Rao Hydari still hasn't lost her spunk .... I agree that bodies and faces are replaceable, but talent cannot be ...
What made you take up a realistic commercial film with male central characters?

For four years now, people have told me what I must do. 'You look too sweet', 'You must look more sexy' are things which I've often heard. It would really confuse me earlier. But I want to be myself now. People must love me for who I am not for who I am trying to be. I love it now because filmmakers pick me for this. Subhash Sir has used the vulnerability in my look that everybody sees and has given me a role that is driven by my acting. He made me play someone else and that is what gives the mystery angle to the character as well as the film. She speaks only with her dagger eyes. Her character is in layers and that is unspooled gradually in the film. I don't want to say too much because there is a lot more that is best reserved for theatres. I am glad my character is such that I got to be one of the boys in the film.

Are you trying to strike a balance between glamorous and meaty roles?
I had come into this movie just after Boss. I enjoy these glamorous roles. But now I have inculcated the mindset that I don't want to be replaceable in a movie. I agree that bodies and faces are replaceable, but talent cannot be replaced. I feel there is more to me and filmmakers are beginning to see that now.

Bollywood Life-06-Oct-2015
Aditi Rao Hydari is arguably one of the hottest women in Bollywood. She is stunning, talented and insanely attractive. Basically she is the ...

Satyajit Ray, ‎Sandip Ray - 2013 - ‎Art
Satyajit Ray, Sandip Ray. toy was an expensive one), and the ... made good films as well as bad ones. Bearing in mind that talent is a rare thing anywhere at any ...

Satyajit Ray - 2005 - ‎Motion picture producers and directors
Satyajit Ray. to cinema. The truth is that, in the absence of a suitable artist, it is futile to expect the creation of great art. Genuine talent is rare in any place, at any time ...

Andrew Robinson - 1989 - ‎Biography & Autobiography
'A Satyajit Ray script is so clear and natural that no discussion is necessary,' says ... This definition does not exclude the rare and lucky breed that gets five or ten ... experience is that people with talent suffer from an inhibiting fear of rejection ...

Wichita Eagle - ‎

Monday, September 21, 2015

Exhibition on Odishi by Sri Geetagovinda Parthishtan

Narthaki - Indian dance online - Forthcoming Events
September 26 - October 4, 2015 Pondicherry
Sri Geetagovinda Parthishtan presents photo exhibition SPLENDOUR OF ODISSI by Dr. Susil Pani
At: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Exhibition Hall, Seaside Gate, next to the Hotel Promenade, 10 to 11.30 am and 4.30 to 7.30 pm

RSS-linked bodies weigh in with suggestions on new education policy

Times of India-10 hours ago
The article says intellectuals like Satish Chandra Mukherjee, Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, Lala Lajpat Rai, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Sri Aurobindo and ...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Camp on Spirituality in Indian Art

The Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research is organising a two-day ‘Living Within’ study camp on ‘Spirituality in Indian Art’ on September 19 and 20.

Indian perspective
According to organisers, the camp will be an exploration of some of the fundamentals of the Indian perspectives on art and art appreciation, with emphasis on the approach of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother apart from other notable thinkers.

While Sri Aurobindo was of the opinion that Indian art was “identical in its spiritual aim and principle with the rest of Indian culture”, The Mother offered the view that supreme art “expresses the beauty which puts you in contact with the Divine Harmony”.

The sessions, led by educators Beloo Mehra and Ananda Reddy, would include themes such as the purpose of art, the way of an Indian artist, artistic appreciation, sacred roots of Indian art and art in contemporary India. The camp will involve speaker-led presentations, discussion, film screenings and group activity to help participants assimilate the exploration.

New Race Archives

From the Editor's Desk... A Reflection on Contemporary Art... “Art should never degrade itself to the low level of the general public’s use or understanding. It is they who ought to be raised to the level of necessary health and plenitude where art is meant for the wise and the strong.” … “The future of India will look at the world with the vision of Truth and create anew” said Nandalal Bose, one of the great exponents of Bengal school of Art. Do we actually see his prophetic vision coming true? Have we raised ourselves to the level of Art or have we brought the Art to such a level where everyone calls him/herself an artist without knowing what is expected of him/her. Unlike the Greeks who assigned Art the function of schooling the adults, Indian Art always emphasized on that which would take artist as well as the aesthete a little deeper than the appearance. It is indeed sad to see the nature of Art that is emerging these days. Anything in the name of abstract Art, anything that does not make sense makes  beautiful Art! Perhaps it reflects the inner chaos of the Artist; the inner poverty to see beauty in colour and form. Form may not be required or necessary, but Art, even if abstract, could have a harmonious play of colours. Truly, it is said that Art reflects life. In this  age when  our lives  are almost  directionless and our mental,  emotional  and physical beings most disorganized, the Art thus created could not be expected to be harmonious. However, this chaos does not lead us to conclude that Art would always remain so disharmonious and dark. Perhaps in its evolutionary curve it would degrade further before it takes a deeper spiritual turn. For even now it is portraying the truth of our present consciousness and when humanity turns more and more spiritual, its expression in Art, Literarture and all other forms would reflect his/her inner true self. It is a cyclic movement now in which there is an acute downgrading of everything, later, along with the rise of consciousness in general humanity Art would also rise. A few evidences of this evolutionary cycle may be seen in the contemporary paintings of Sri Krishna which have transcended the affectation and ornamentation but have captured the soothing and meditating poise of the Lord. Such paintings contain simple lives and curves with minimal use of colours but they convey the inner quietude. They are more suggestive than imposing. Art in future is expected to be more and more subjective and suggestive. It may have to go through the outer paraphernalia of presenting the commercial attitude of the society even towards Art. Yet there is a hope, the lines of which are quite clear that the greater dawn of Art is just  across the  horizon. It  remains  with each artist  how soon  he reaches that  zenith and expresses it. Shruti

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

Check out @The_RHS's Tweet: could I miss this excellent post?! Anyway, better late than never. The wit, sarcasam and humor of your post is fantastic, and totally on the point. But I have a serious point to make :) Yes, our culture is not weak that it can be so easily shaken by those ill-informed books, non-sensical portrayals in films etc. And I am totally with you on the positives that we should be working on (like not defacing our monuments, protecthing and preserving our heritage temples, encouraging and promoting classical art forms etc.). But I still feel that there is a need for a strong, well-informed, well-articulated defense. I say this because in present times the global discourse on global cultures is still very asymmetric. And culture as a soft power is commonly used for the purposes of international and foreign policy purposes. I am not saying this, many serious thinkers have been documenting this for quite a while now. Of course you would know that I am not speaking of the sort of misinformed and misapplied aggression that protestors of valentines day and those advocating covering up women etc. Every time a book that speaks of Shiv-lingam as phallus (and only that, and nothing else) is used as a textbook in a classroom in the US or anywhere else in the world, a seed for the misperception of Hinduism is planted in young minds right there ! And this is just one small example, there are many such things that happen on regular basis. It is such things that need to be challenged and challenged strongly.


  1. Beloo! I differentiate between the 'preserving' means of upholding culture and the 'destruction' means. A true response to an ill-informed book about our culture IS a well-informed one that gets written and widely circulated and NOT burning copies and filing cases to ban the book. What the latter does is ensure that THAT book gets more publicity and higher circulation than before, if not within this country outside the country.

    In other words, I would rather that we ignore these things, by way of not even referring to them, and concentrated on building a better understanding of our own culture among both our people as well as others. In that, what I mean is that we do tackle the arguments posited by these people but NOT in direct reference so as to be seen to be making a defense. To me, the idea of defending my culture against ill-informed people is to give too much stature to ill-informed nuts :)
  2. Totally with you on this point about not giving too much or any publicity to the ill-informed nuts. And also on the point about doing well informed critiques of controversial books. But my concern still remains that the nuts who oppose a certain book or film and demand their ban and pulping get more publicity in our asymmetric discourse than the well-researched critique. This makes the problem even worse. Ultimately I agree the best defense is to strengthen our own bonds with our cultural roots and encourage others to do the same through meaningful education. But unfortunately there is a lot of apathy, ignorance and indifference among the so-called educated Indians about their own roots.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Conflict between Aesthetic and Ethical tendencies

[Oscar Wilde and Sri Aurobindo in a conversation on the blog, about art, aesthetics, ethics and utility. All Art is Quite Useless": What a Wild(e) Idea! Beloo Mehra
A new post in the series - Satyam Shivam Sundaram A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that...]

[Wilde added this Preface to the book, along with several other changes, after the first, 1890 edition of the book was highly criticized. He used it to "address the criticism and defend the novel's reputation." The collection of statements in this Preface also "serves as an indicator of the way in which [he] intends the novel to be read." 
But the main reason why I became fascinated by this Preface is this: It serves as an excellent illustration of what Sri Aurobindo refers to as the conflict between Aesthetic and Ethical tendencies of the human mind. In his major work on social philosophy, The Human Cycle, he writes:]

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Joseph Allen Stein: Less is more

Joseph Allen Stein: Less is more
~Elizabeth Kuruvilla (HT Sunday Magazine , October 14, 2001)

Monday, October 08, 2012

Friday, October 14, 2011

Creative Voyage curated by Ranjan Mallik

You are cordially invited to Inaugural Function of "Creative Voyage", an Exhibition of Paintings at the Lokayata Art Gallery, Mulk Raj Anand Centre, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi on 14th October, 2011 at 5 P.M. I am participating along with eminent and young artists. (See Invitation Card for details.)
Looking forward to your encouragement and appreciation.

Lipsa P. Mohanty S.K. Mohanty
e-mail: Cell: 9818236472

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creative Voyage curated by Ranjan Mallik

You are cordially invited to Inaugural Function of "Creative Voyage", an Exhibition of Paintings at the Lokayata Art Gallery, Mulk Raj Anand Centre, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi on 14th October, 2011 at 5 P.M. I am participating along with eminent and young artists. (See Invitation Card for details.)
Looking forward to your encouragement and appreciation.

Lipsa P. Mohanty S.K. Mohanty
e-mail: Cell: 9818236472

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Solo showcase of ceramics and paintings by Adil Writer

Textured with feeling The Hindu October 20, 2010 SRAVASTI DATTA
Renowned artist Adil Writer uses sand and clay to render a tactile element to his paintings
Meet Adil Writer. He is a renowned Auroville-based artist with an important mission: to bridge the gap between paintings and high temperature ceramics. He knows his stuff and is quick to correct any misconception you might have about art: […]
Sitting on a potter's wheel and throwing clay on it is both a creative and a spiritual experience for Adil. He is loath to categorise art into watertight compartments. “There is no differentiation between art and craft. It's all kalaa. In schools, art and craft are taught separately. We should sensitise young artists that no such distinctions exist,” says Adil.
Adil has had a number of successful exhibitions of his works nationally and internationally.
This month, Bangaloreans can look forward to his solo exhibition “Treasures” which will have on display ceramic works and paintings. An interesting part of the exhibition is that it will feature miniature treasure boxes made of a variety of clays that are “small, intimate objects that want to be held, you can discover hidden secrets within”. You can also “cradle them, turn them around and explore”. His paintings of acrylic on canvas will also be on display. Some of these paintings are categorised as “painted media” that essentially started out as “bad' pixelated pictures on phone cameras, then got edited, later printed on canvas, stretched on wooden frames, and finally painted upon, almost to a point where the original photographic images are past-life memories.
On October 23, a workshop “Fun with clay” will be held. “You don't have to be a potter or an artist to participate. Besides, it's going to be seriously fun,” Adil says with a smile. Prior registration is required. There will be a charge of Rs. 2,200. All material for the workshop will be provided.
“Treasures” will be on display at Gallery Time and Space, 55, Lavelle Road from October 21 to 30 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call: 22124117.
Treasures, a solo showcase of ceramics and paintings by Auroville-based artist, Adil Writer will be on display at Gallery Time & Space.

Friday, September 24, 2010

How language came into being from the nervous system of the human body

THEORY NOW by (Mark Cameron Boyd)
Thank you, Ms. Lipinski, for the invitation to attend the exhibition of Mr. Boyd's work and help panel a discussion related to the show. I would be honored to accept. I am not sure, however, if I would be a voice that would celebrate the kind of approach that this show intends. I look forward to seeing the work myself before I draw any conclusions. In general, though I feel I should admit my own bias: especially when it comes to the topic of Divinity, I find art that is used as a tool of philosophy ends up as limited art and limited philosophy. This begs many questions, I know, like are art and philosophy mutually exclusive, etc. and we could discuss this, but God and art are matters of the heart, for me, and not of the head, and so other faculties of knowing than the intellect are engaged in a primary way. You may know from Nora that I am a sculptor as well as a PhD candidate in Religion and Culture and my work deals in issues of devotion to God, so I feel I could contribute to this discussion from both an academic and artistic perspective. My academic work is based on the thought and legacy of Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950), an Indian who was a revolutionary, poet, thinker, yogi and teacher.
Knowing all this (and I am sorry to be so disorganized in my thoughts), if you still would like to have me on your panel, I would be delighted to contribute. Thanks again for the email and give my very best to Nora. Patrick 
 Dear Mark,
I too am teaching these days, all day on Wednesdays. So, I am glad to get your response and have a chance to reply. It has me thinking more of the connections I see between Derrida, et al. and different understandings of the silence as experienced and addressed in mystical traditions. To deconstruct language is to expose it to that silence that is broken up by words and sounds--by noise. I have more experience in Christian, Sufi and Hindu worldviews of mysticism so I would approach it from these angles. That "there is nothing but the text" is not the experience of those in these traditions, but there is some overlap I think.
The Hindu-based thinker I am writing my dissertation on is Sri Aurobindo Ghose (d. 1950), who has an interesting view of language. He knew Vedic and classical Sanskrit (among about ten other languages, both Western and Eastern) and saw an evolution of how language came into being from the nervous system of the human body such that the meaning and the word used for it were organically connected, where it was not arbitrary but a natural linkage, I suppose totally onomatopoetic. I have been studying Sanskrit myself and one can see there the way it preserves this kind of consciousness in its root words, which can actually feel like they sound and feel like they mean.
Gradually (and this has been the case for most of recorded history in his view) language came to be abstracted such that ideas/meanings had nothing whatsoever to do with the word used and they were linked conventionally. I will leave our conversation for November but I liked very much how you made clear the connection between Heidegger and Derrida. That was not so conscious before for me. I wish you the best of success as you continue to build your show. Cheers, Patrick
A Modern Meditation on The Five Proofs of God: The Art of Mark Cameron Boyd; An exhibition at Salve Regina Gallery, Catholic University of America, November 11-December 17, 2010. POSTED BY MARK CAMERON BOYD AT 4:17 PM

Monday, June 07, 2010

Timeless Deities: An Invocation to the Spirit of the Ancient Mother

To Shri Tusar N Mohapatra, President, Savitri Era Party & Director,
Savitri Era Learning Forum
Dear Mr Mohapatra,
I am writing this to share a small project titled Timeless Deities: An Invocation to the Spirit of the Ancient Mother- these are paintings albeit symbolical ones that talk about the evolving consciousness in nature and about the cosmic love and the resurrection of it.  The series is, of course, inspired by Sri Aurobindo and Divine Mother,  it has one central image which is An Invocation to the Spirit that can be checked at:
The rest includes a. River-Ant b. Zen-Poet c.Grace-Eagle d. Snow-Cow
e. Time-Hen f. Wild-Horse g. Sky-Rat. and can be checked here:
I thought I should share this with you, hope you like it. Regards

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pastoral idyll are repeatedly painted or photographed by him

‘The Making of a Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman – Devi Prasad’: Naman Ahuja from Kafila This is a guest post by Naman Ahuja. Naman Ahuja teaches in the School of Art and Aesthetics, JNU 

As we move toward concretising a national policy on culture for a liberalised India, we can look upon the period from the 30s to the 60s with historical hindsight. Gandhian, and Tagorean definitions of cultural practice, even in the latter’s cosmopolitanism, was avowedly located in philosophical bases at the grassroots, with roots that stretched via Coomaraswamy and others to the context of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  The resulting ideology for artisanship and design was founded in a structure of educational pedagogy which certainly stands buried today, even if its mandate has not been achieved. […]

In her monumental 2005 exhibition at LACMA, Wendy Kaplan argues for a telling of Arts and Crafts history that shows the inexorable link between ‘Design and National Identity’ that arose from the philosophies of ‘Art and Industry’ and ‘Art and Life’.[1] As that exhibition’s catalogue demonstrates, in all countries involved, the idea of ‘the land’ was a potent force; one to be reclaimed as industry and urbanisation were destroying time honoured social modes and relations of production, and destroying also a pastoral (if, as some argue, a ‘medieval’) idyll, and equally, the currency of the Movement gained as the emerging ideas of ‘nationhood’ depended on holding on to some essential place considered the heart of the nation. Tagore and Gandhi both tried to locate that essential ‘place’ in their ideologies and in each of their ashrams – Santiniketan and Sevagram – places with which Devi Prasad was intimately connected. [Art, the basis of education (Creative learning series)]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Abanindranath's art was a hermeneutic negotiation between modernity and community

Friday, Feb 12, 2010
Debashish Banerji seeks to set the record straight about Abanindranath Tagore.

Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), was the founder of a ‘national' school of Indian painting, popularly known as the Bengal School of Art. His admirers term him as the first modern Indian artist to have successfully inculcated among his illustrious students a sense of belonging and allegiance to the rich tradition of India's culture. But then, his legacy of artistic nation building is often debated.
Professor Debashish Banerji, the great-grandson of Abanindranath who teaches at the Pasadena City College and at the Department of Asian and Comparative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, has attempted to provide a revisionary critique of the art of pioneering artist in his latest book, “The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore”. Published by Sage, this well researched book, illustrated with many of Abanindranath's creations, has created a debate in the art and history circles. Excerpts from an interview with the author:
Why a book on Abanindranath after such a long gap?
I have been working on it for over five years. I felt that the accusations on Abanindranath that he was precursor of an anti-colonial political revolution and being an elite artist, neglected the underclass or ‘subaltern' cultures, needs to be sorted out now.
How did you do that?
I have argued that the art of Abanindranath which developed as part of what has been called the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th to 20th centuries, was not merely a normalisation of nationalist or Orientalist principles. Instead, it was a hermeneutic negotiation between modernity and community. It worked towards the fashioning of an alternate nation which resisted the stereotyping of identity formation of the nation-state. I have established through his various plates that his art which was embedded in communitarian practices like kirtan, alpona, pet-naming, syncretism and storytelling through oral allegories, sought a social identity through dialogues within the inter-subjective contexts of locality, regionality, nationality and trans-nationality.
Are his works in suitable condition still? We don't get to see them anywhere.
That's the saddest part. I had very difficult time in picking his works. There is a private organisation run by a lawyer in Kolkata. It has shut his important works in a trunk in a dingy room which is never opened. These works hence don't get displayed and they have all got damaged inside.
I have also learnt that they extort money from those who come to see these works or take photographs. It is in a state of utter neglect. Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, has some wooden toys he made towards the end of his life which are again inaccessible to commoners. Albert Museum in London has some of his letters that I could see.
Was he overshadowed by Rabindranath Tagore and his charismatic legacy?
I would say that he was well recognised within the country and especially Calcutta (then) but not in the school that developed around him which was marginalised. His making was sophisticated and he was immensely impressed by the style of Rabindranath, who introduced him to Y.B Yeats. What he felt about him is very clear in a ‘theatrical' portrait in which he gags his eyes and ears in 1929. He respected him but the portrait suggests he certainly felt the pinch. RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

Monday, February 08, 2010

Debashish Banerji, great-grandson of the protean genius, Abanindranath Tagore

Shoe ad on Ram's slippers Calcutta Telegraph - Sunday , January 31 , 2010
The man who wrote Buro Angla and Kshirer Putul, and was an artist, also produced a jatra. It was a retelling of the Ramayana.
Abanindranath Tagore had called his take on our oldest epic Khuddur Jatra. The text, written between 1934 and 1942, draws on a multitude of images from the time, particularly from advertising, cinema and politics. What makes the manuscript special is the way he has added layers to the story by doodling and sketching on subjects as varied as fashion and natural history, and pasting whatever he fancied — emblems, labels, wrappers or advertisements.
The manuscript lay all this while with Abanindranath’s grandson Sumitendranath Tagore and then his wife Shyamashree. It has now surfaced in print courtesy Priyabrata Deb of Pratikshan.
The printed facsimile preserves the feel of the manuscript, including a folded flap. The pictures pasted on the sidelines provide commentary on the text and vice versa. “We can see the period through his work and his criticism of it,” said poet Sankha Ghosh at the launch.
Next to Ravana declaring war is a picture of Hitler. When Bharat carries his brother Ram’s wooden slippers on his head, he has an advertisement of Radu shoes for company. The shoe ads recur where Manthara, the scheming maid, exults over Ram’s expulsion. At the beginning of Lankakando is a picture of a chilli. Beside a page describing Ravana’s room are bathing beauties in a still from the 1926 film A Roman Scandal. Hanuman searches for Sita in Lanka next to a newspaper cutting with the heading “Information wanted”.
As art historian R. Siva Kumar said: “Everything about Abanindranath is happening late not because of weakness but because of the strength of his work. We are trying to match up to his concepts 70 years later.”
But one needs to sample how he has played with the language, giving it a lightness of touch and a flippancy of tone that underlines his irreverence. In one chapter, Sushen, the physician, enquires on the state of soldiers wounded in war and is told by Jamboban how all are cringing at the arrows like caterpillars. Says Jamboban: “Ar khobor, baney baney sobai gutishuti gutipokar baba shuopokar borabor…
“There is scope for research on the interrelation between picture and text or even what the pictures stand for,” feels Samik Bandyopadhyay, who has provided an English commentary and a shortened translation. There is also a transcript of the hand-written text.
Man who wrote pictures
The school of art that Abanindranath Tagore founded had too many facets to be just labelled “Bengal School”. Debashish Banerji, great-grandson of the protean genius, who described himself as the “man who wrote pictures”, argues in his book, The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore, that “the art of Abanindranath, developed during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th-20th centuries, was not merely a normalisation of national or oriental principle, but conducted a critical engagement with post-Enlightenment modernity and post-colonialism,” to quote the press release.
The book, brought out by Sage Publications, was released on Thursday evening at the Oxford Bookstore by Tapati Guha Thakurta, a professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta.
Guha Thakurta said with the recent publication of several new books on him in English, Abanindranath was enjoying a wider audience today, and he was being “relocated” beyond the nationalist framework.
The later Abanindranath of the 1930-51 was a complex figure who was outside the public domain, although the Jorasanko household itself was like a small township. Banerji, who is a professor of Indian Studies and the educational coordinator of the University of Philosophical Research, Los Angeles, read out a section of the book in which he analysed Abanindranath’s painting of Sindbad. SUDESHNA BANERJEE

Georgina Maddox  IE »  Story: Thursday , Feb 04, 2010

Of the three prolific Tagore siblings Rabindranath, Gaganindranath and Abanindranath, the latter’s work is perhaps the least applauded. In fact, art historians like Ananda Coomarayswamy who wrote in the ‘50s and ‘60s slotted Abanindranath’s Bengal Renaissance as quaintly Revivalist. Now a new book titled The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore, authored by Debashish Banerji, also his grandson and published by Sage at Rs 995, explores his work again.
“The Colonialist reading of art done in the Pre-Swadeshi period thrust upon us a certain preference for the masculine brand of nationalism: something that was not sentimental about the past,” says Banerji. It is perhaps ironic we are discussing this at Delhi’s Imperial Hotel that celebrates the Raj through its wonderfully nostalgic interiors.
“The style fostered by Abanindranath was marginalised and given a very narrow reading,” says the 53-year-old art professor who teaches in Pasadena City College in Los Angeles. The book is not for the layperson and does not fall in the coffee table category either. It’s for those interested in either history or art. However given that there are fewer books that attempt to reclaim our histories, it is an essential piece of scholarship.
To put it very simply, the book attempts to reclaim Abanindranath’s space on the stage of those who contributed to an emerging Independent India. “Abanindranath may have been sidelined for his miniatures on the Arabian Nights since it reinforced the one nation theory of India and Pakistan,” contemplates Banerji. “His painting Bharat Mata was first known as Bongo Mata of the Sakti cult. Abanindranath was a Neo Vendantist and a Sufi, not orthodox and believed in the fluidity of religion,” says Banerji.
While Banerji met Manindranath, Tagore’s youngest son and his uncle, and gleaned details of his grandfather’s personality, he also had to keep a distance as a scholar while approaching the artist’s work critically. “Abanindranath was very introverted but he was also observant and took in details of the world around him,” says Banerji.
We wind up with a final glimpse at Tagore’s painting Last Days of Shah Jehan a painting that has often been described as romantic but is layered with a comment on India’s pluralism. “Let us not forget that Shah Jehan had a Mughal father and a Rajput mother,” concludes Banerji.

Spirit of love and family bonding Calcutta Telegraph - BOOK READING
January 28 at Oxford Bookstore, Park Street; 6.30 pm: Oxford Bookstore and Sage Publications host a book-reading session on The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore by Dr Debashish Banerji, to be followed by a panel discussion with Prof. Tapati Guha Thakurta.
Fashion for a cause Calcutta Telegraph - Jan 29, 2010
January 30 at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, 8 Shakespeare Sarani; 6.15 pm: Dr Debashish Banerjee will speak on Sri Aurobindo’s Record of Yoga: Shakti Chatusthaya and The Mother

Thursday, January 28, 2010

As passive spectators we risk consumerist oppression

Jacques Rancière (Author), Gregory Elliot (Translator)
Following up on his acclaimed work The Future of the Image, Rancière explores the meaning of critical art and suggests how we may overcome the potential trap of being a spectator. As passive spectators, he argues, we risk consumerist oppression and an upheaval of social relations. Suggesting a more active part in the process of observation, Rancière reveals how we may affirm the status of spectatorship and build upon it. In our contemporary age of mass visual media, Rancière’s lucid perspective stands alone in a sea of trivializing critiques of spectacle.