Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nishikanta-Dilip Kumar combination that resulted in memorable compositions

ALL THE BEST: Tale of two legends
It is not often that one encounters so many legends in a single week. Art lovers speak of Ramkinkar Baij with the same reverence that connoisseurs of music refer to Dilip Kumar Roy. At the same time came a living legend in the world of dance from Germany, Pina Bausch who had taken Kolkata by storm more than 12 years ago with a production called Carnations. Her performance has been discussed elsewhere and hence we can concentrate on the two who have their roots n Bengal but whose legacy is cherished all over.
Dilip Kumar Roy was born in the same year as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and while the latter spend the better part of his life striving for the freedom that came when he was not around, the former strived for freedom of music compositions that stood apart in an era dominated by Tagore. The point was stressed in an absorbing lecture by Sudhir Chakraborty which was the highlight of Sura Kavya Trust’s 111th birth anniversary programme on Dilip Kumar Roy at the GD Birla Sabhagar. The idea was to emphasise the “parampara’’ that made Dilip Kumar what he was ~ a scholar with a universal outlook but whose creative genius distinguished him from Tagore and who found his m├ętier in several thousand songs which have not yet been comprehensively compiled.
It is left to organisations like Sura Kavya Trust to preserve the heritage through publications, music albums and, most important, getting the new generation to imbibe the power and passion of Dilip Kumar’s music. The programme revealed exciting new talents. One of them was Sujata Majumdar who accompanied Sudhir Chakraborty as an illustrator of the musical legacy handed down to Dilip Kumar from his father Dwijendralal. The raga-based compositions were illustrated with Sujata’s rendering of Barasha elo which was followed up with the Nishikanta-Dilip Kumar combination that resulted in memorable compositions like Tomar andhar nishaye and tunes adapted from the Scotch, Irish and English compositions. The speaker, an acclaimed musicologist, covered different phases of the musical careers of father and son with such depth and perspicacity that the audience consisting mainly of admirers of Sri Aurobindo’s ardent disciple must have returned with a clearer understanding of the musical genius.
The second half was also devoted to the musical spirit handed down by father to son, this time resulting in a visual delight. Alokananda Roy made a stunning presence with movements that were wonderfully in tune with the songs rendered by Shikha Basu and Prabuddha Raha reinforced by Debraj Roy’s commentary written by Biswajit Ganguly. The DL Roy selections were in the patriotic mould but there were images of sheer joy reflected in songs like Ami eshechhi. There were also beautifully nuanced compositions that Shikha Basu used her experience and competence to give the audience a taste of the spiritual strength that went into all of Dilip Kumar’s work.
An equally comprehensive view of Ramkinkar Baij is presented by Anant Art Gallery. This is the most well curated show one has seen in recent times. The highlight is a series of photographs taken by Devi Prasad when he was a student of Ramkinkar at Santiniketan. Most of the photographs of the sculptures were said to have been taken at night with controlled lighting and they produce an ambience that is just right for appreciation of Ramkinkar’s memorable sculptures ~ the Yaksha and Yamini statues, studies of the human form, a study of Rabindranath that has been discussed again and again and images of mother and child, love and innocence.
Along with the sculptures come original paintings in water colour and oil. Most of these have a spontaneous flourish ~ village scenes and quick sketches that carry the energy and universal humanism that he brought to all his work. The credit for all this must go Naman Ahuja of the School of Arts and Aesthetic, JNU, who first presented the show in Delhi to an overwhelming response. In Kolkata there is an audio-visual section that includes an unfinished film on Ramkinkar by Ritwik Ghatak. It adds up to the most intimate portrait of the man who revealed so many shades to a colourful life.
POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps the least talked about side of Satyajit Ray’s creative genius was his contribution to the visual arts. If the show mounted by Ray Society at the Academy was any guide, there is no doubt that the energy and inventiveness Ray displayed elsewhere is reinforced by the plethora of illustrations, book covers, posters, typefaces, set and costume designs, advertisement art works and much more. The question is, where do all these get preserved? Swapan Mullick the Saturday, 9 February 2008

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