Bollywood is a part of the Indian psyche. It is firmly entrenched in our collective consciousness. However, in a country where collectors appreciate beautiful and unique things, Bollywood memorabilia used to be largely ignored. That is, until OSIAN, India’s pioneering Arts Institution and Auction House earnestly attempted to collect and preserve Indian and World cinematic heritage.
It all started with the landmark auction ‘The Historical Mela – ABC: Art, Book and Cinema’. This event pioneered a new and refreshing viewpoint- that of looking at film memorabilia with a collector’s eye. Two other auctions firmly strengthened the demand for Indian film memorabilia. Osian’s auction of Rare & Vintage Indian Film Memorabilia in September 2014 and consequently in June 2017 wooed collectors and film enthusiasts with priceless pieces of film history.
Film memorabilia can play a major role in the education of many subjects beyond film and media studies. Given the fact that Indian cinema itself is well over 100 years old, it provides crucial references from a historical point of view. “It is not very far away when the finest scholars and researchers will flock to India to understand the profound role the cinematic and related arts have played in developing culture and a thousand influences thereon. The auctions have facilitated this journey just like Film Festivals facilitate a film appreciation culture. One has to only see the growth of the Hollywood memorabilia market to understand the vast energies that get energized when the film fraternity, media and the public work in unity to respect one’s history, and hence one’s current creativity,” explains Founder Chairman, Neville Tuli.
The Greatest Indian Show on Earth is the catalogue pertaining to Osian’s auction of Rare & Vintage Indian Film Memorabilia. The two catalogues artfully present the rich and diverse treasure of Bollywood memorabilia that Osian has collected, salvaged, sourced and preserved over years.
The catalogues are works of art in themselves. Akin to a bespoke coffee table book they bring out the rare and precious moments and milestones of Indian cinema that would otherwise be lost. Flipping through the pages will take you down the Bollywood memory lane.
The enticing cover depicting Dilip Kumar & Meena Kumari in their famous embrace in Yahudi tempts the viewer to delve inside. One of the very first images in the catalogue is a painting by Arpana Caur. It depicts the famous song ‘Pyaar hua, Iqraar hua’ showcasing the legendary under the umbrella song scene of Raj Kapoor and Nargis from the film Shree 420. While nothing can beat holding the actual painting, viewing it in the catalogue is grand enough and sets the tone for a nostalgic journey. This catalogue is packed with such artfully done posters, prints and photographs.
It showcases some of the earliest films made by Prabhat Film Company. It then moves on to the Kapoors- India’s first family of films. Right from Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi and Randhir Kapoor to the Manish Malhotra costumes worn by Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor inspired art by artist-fan Nitin Utge, the catalogue depicts in finesse rare cinematic moments. It also features vintage and rare Bengali & Classical Music Cover Designs with inspiration drawn from artists such as Jamini Roy with Paritosh Sen actually designing record covers for Rabindra Sangeet and his plays.
The iconic images of superstars such as Dharmendra, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan among a host of others appear as one browses ahead. Of course, how can one forget the enigmatic leading ladies? Right from the gorgeous Madhubala, to Hema Malini (along with her brand campaigns), Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Aishwariya Rai and more, the beautiful belles of Bollywood make an appearance here. Pictures depicting international locations, information about collectibles, pictures of some veritable collectibles like show cards, tickets, rare music records and so on also add to the element of interest.
While the visual delight on browsing the catalogue is definitely a key feature, the nuggets of information that appears along with the artworks and photographs is also very interesting, and highly educative. These little bits of information and some rare stories make for some great trivia which will be of interest to anyone who loves Indian cinema.
This catalogue continues the enthralling depiction of Bollywood at its finest. This one is also quite informative, with a lot of text to complement the images and enhance understanding of Indian cinema. It starts with a depiction of the early years of Indian cinema- 1925 to the 1940s. Again, there is a focus on the Kapoors with a depiction of photographs, movie posters and artwork. There is a section on Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Helen and Amitabh Bachchan as film legends. Mughal-E-Azam, one of the greatest Indian films ever made, also gets a dedicated section. Besides the movie posters and photographs, it is interesting to see paintings on the same by M.F.Hussian. The catalogue also explores Satyajit Ray as a draughtsman and artist. These are but a few highlights.
In essence, both the catalogues provide a visual feast for anyone who loves Indian cinema. The explanatory text that accompanies the images, gives a context to them. It also presents vital information and trivia. These auction catalogues have helped increase awareness regarding the history of Indian cinema. This has also complemented other major platforms of Osian, such as the Library and Archives and the Osian’s-Cinefan film festival, which aims to nurture a cinematic culture rather than just being content with a love for cinema. India still truly lacks a great cinematic culture, despite having so much passion for cinema.
It may not be possible for all Bollywood lovers to obtain and own such a vast collection of Bollywood memorabilia. Osian’s auction catalogues which describe the collections that were up for auction, are quite relevant for a Bollywood enthusiast and collector. These catalogues provide a detailed glimpse into a rich treasure trove of pictures and informational nuggets about Bollywood. They constitute in themselves a rich compilation of Bollywood memorabilia.
Today, we see that the market for India’s film memorabilia has evolved considerably. However, it is a long journey ahead before we can call it a mature market. Osian’s auctions have placed Bollywood memorabilia at par with modern and contemporary fine art and rare books. This in itself is a fait accompli. The show will go on!
Note to readers: Many items of interest are documented on www.osianama.com. Anyone interested in Bollywood memorabilia, film memorabilia and publicity material pertaining to Indian and World Cinemas can contact:
Ms Attreyee Roy Chowdhury
Senior Vice President-Communications
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +91 22 6156 3108
‘In the City: A Library’ is an exhibition of photographs that are a result of a tryst with books at one of the city’s oldest public institutions. The People’s Free Reading Room and Library was and continues to be one of the iconic grand old structures, reminiscent of Mumbai’s or rather Bombay’s old world charm. Of course, if you were to visit it now, you would see a glaring advertisement obscure a part of the building. However, this does not undermine the glorious beauty that the building once was.
Photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri and Author Jerry Pinto spent about a year and a half, chronicling and exploring this iconic library in the modern context. ‘In the City: A Library’ expresses what they found.
Bookedforlife chats with Chirodeep Chaudhuri to read between the lines…
The handwritten notes, the bus tickets, little scribbles in the books, pressed flowers, a tram ticket…all these objects are a foreground in the photographs. How did you think of making these objects the story?
Before I start any project I make little notes to myself. As a broad concept, one of the ideas that I wrote down was to include mentions of things left behind…the kind of stuff that one finds left inside books. In old libraries especially, the chances of finding such stuff increases. But, when we did find things between the pages of books, we left it where it was. Things that have been left so long leave impressions. They become a part of the narrative.
One of the most interesting objects that we found were tram tickets. The last tram ran in Mumbai in 1968. And, the last stamp in a book in which we found a tram ticket, was around that time as well. So, these could well have been amongst the last tram tickets ever! Another interesting find was a pressed flower in Shakespeare’s Complete Works!
You found some really funny stories in the books didn’t you? Like a guy who kept writing about homeopathy. Can you share a couple of these instances? It’s almost like being let in into someone’s little secret!
Yes, we did find many scribbles. We found a letter from a daughter to a father about a holiday. There was an entire letter to the police commissioner requesting for speedy processing of the passport! We also kept finding books where there would be scrolls on the virtues of homeopathy. We found about 18 to 20 of them, and photographed about 4. There was one book where somebody wrote a review of the book on the title page itself.
Through all this material, you can build the portrait of an era!
Have you consciously tried to capture the physical interactions that people had with books? All the objects within, the notes, the torn dilapidated conditions. This is in fact what is absent in the digital age. Do you feel that it is this aspect that we are losing collectively as a society?
I think so. Just think about the people around you. How many are members of libraries? A library is indeed the most democratic space. Just think about it. You need to be only a seeker of knowledge to go there. It is tragic that people don’t inhabit it anymore.
When you were photographing the books at the library did you encounter people who actually used the books for reading? I think these days its more about students using it as a study-area!
We were shooting in full view at the library for about one and a half years. What really surprised me was that never even once…no one ever asked what we were doing! We were quite conspicuous. We would pull out the books, stand on stools to photograph them and so on. But, no one wondered! I believe that this in itself is a statement. I found this very strange.
The collection of photographs points out to the neglect of books and libraries in general. But, do you feel the story would be same (albeit in varying degrees) in other iconic libraries of our city or our country?
Well, top libraries do have funds at their disposal and they use it. But what we saw here is indeed the fate of many libraries. We can lament here, but I must also say that the apathy is on both sides. Sometimes, institutions do not give the vibe of being member-friendly. At the end of the day, institutions are alive if people are using them. The tragedy is that we are not using them!
For a booklover not to be moved by these images is impossible. But the poignancy of the situation hits us more, when we read these words written by author Jerry Pinto, who co-authored the exhibition.
That edifice which looks so imposing, those rows of books which look so welcoming, they are as susceptible to the passage of time as you are. Time ravages books just as much as silverfish, mildew and blades wielded in secret and in silence. The book has many enemies. So have libraries.
But the worst enemy of all is the sound of receding footsteps, as people walk away from libraries. Tell me, when did you last go to the library? – Jerry Pinto
In the City…a Library is perhaps a gentle nudge to all booklovers, to go and claim a part of a dying heritage. After all, libraries only die when we let them.
We all know that connectivity is the mantra of the day. India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, an ongoing exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai takes on a different lens to look at how India was connected to the world in the distant past.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories is an ongoing exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Mumbai. This exhibit is in collaboration with the British Museum, and the National Museum in New Delhi. It presented a landmark exhibition opening in Mumbai in November 2017 and will run in Mumbai till 18 February 2018. Thereafter, it transfers to New Delhi in March 2018. India and the World: A History in Nine Stories showcases some of the most important objects and works of art from the Indian subcontinent, in dialogue with iconic pieces from the British Museum collection.
There are two books which highlight the essence of this exhibition. They distil the key facts, conclusions, thoughts and descriptions illuminated through this beautiful exhibit.
The smaller book, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, is presented in an innovative way. Using the technique of paper folding, each page in the book is neatly folded into a smaller square and on opening reveals the rich text and images. Neeta Premchand from the Bombay Paperie is credited with the concept and text. Rachana Devidayal Shah has done the design and layout of the artistically presented book.
Each page talks about a concept and story through which one can view India through an object, and then again through similar objects from other parts of the world. Navigating through the book by folding and unfolding the pages is a tactile experience in itself!
One does not really need to go through it chronologically or in order, and that is fun part. This book is quite apt for reading to children. This book is available at the exhibit.
The other book, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories by Neil MacGregor is more detailed. It aptly accompanies this collaborative exhibition that creates dialogues between the rest of the world and India through the displayed artefacts. It shows how different people have responded to situations in their own way. It also highlights a deep understanding of an intricately interconnected global history.
So, what do you exactly look out for in the exhibit? In simple words, you look at objects from the past- objects from India and similar objects from another part of the world, mostly during the same time period in history.
This sounds simple, but as anyone who corroborates and coordinates objects knows, it is a herculean task to curate such an exhibit! Yet, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories is a fantastically curated exhibit that is quite illuminative.
When you look at the same object and how it was so similar across the world, in eras where there was almost no global connectivity, it kind of gives you an idea of how similar human beings are, and how connected we are in our collective subconscious.
As you enter the exhibit, some of the very first objects you will see are hand-axes from different parts of the world- India, Tanzania, Jordon and Europe. There was no communication between these parts of the world before ages, and yet there is a striking resemblance in these creations. The same thread of thought runs through the entire exhibit.
While many of the objects were quite enamouring I found the “Heads” of a Kushan King, Roman Emporer Hadrien and head in style of Alexander quite interesting to compare.
The representation of gods across geographical locations was also fascinating. Two architectural fragments from two great capital cities of two great empires Persopolis and Pataliputra were also striking.
Children will love the interactive activities at this exhibit at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya (CSMVS) Mumbai. They can make their own bookmarks with Ashokan edicts, weigh different stones and materials, stamp their very own coins in a variety of designs and do some more printing at the Harappan stamping station. At the end of the exhibit there is a nice reading corner with a curated section of books on world history.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, both the exhibit and the books present a unique world view of India!
Jenny Bhatt is a well-known name on the Indian art scene, best known for her series of paintings that revolve around the theme of “moksha” or “salvation”. Her web comic series, MokshaShots, grew out of her art. Much appreciated for its meaningful wit and humour, the series became a rage online. Selected work from this series now appears for the first time, in a book form.
Bhatt’s work falls under the Neo Pop or Pop Surrealism genres. It fuses lines between fine art and popular art, borrowing inspiration from digital graphics, advertising and pop-art. Another feature of her art is the element of accessibility for the common man. Her art has happily grown into designs on items such as T-shirts, mouse pads, mugs, figurines and so on, that meets her desire for her art to be accessible to all, much beyond the paintings, which only a select few can buy. In the form of a book, it once again becomes accessible to a wider audience.
To make a great comic you need great characters. Bhatt already had a series of characters in her webcomic series, which worked well online. “There are some concepts that are very complex. But, if you talk about them in words and pictures together, there is greater clarity. Serious issues also become more palatable in this form. I started off this concept with a comic strip online. The next step naturally, was the book. I want the ideas behind art to be accessible to all,” she says.
Bhatt believes in the healing power of humour. The accessibility of humour links well to her art and this has been a constant feature in her paintings. The name MokshaShots in itself makes the reader smile. Don’t we all crave for “moksha”? Little doses or “shots” of moksha is her offering for the audience!
She believes that an artist could lead people to question and think. Hence, embracing satirical humour to comment on social and cultural practices, is quite a way of life for her. “My concern now is to make people think about their own reality in a different way. Somebody is always trying to conquer your mind, or influence you. Once you become self-aware, it is half the battle won,” she says.
Bhatt believes that once this questioning and thinking mode is switched on in people, they will change their own realities. “I can only be instrumental in making people think,” she states. Her way of fulfilling this goal is to make more and more people take a “MokshaShot”!
The book will appeal to a wide audience of thinking people to whom subtle social commentary works well. Bhatt sees her online web comic and the printed version gel well with each other rather than compete. “I may have read something on Instagram and liked it. But then, I may also want a physical copy to access whenever I feel like,” she says. Well, here’s to a good dose of MokshaShots for one and all!
Food art is an innovative way to express love for food! Yasra Khoker’s love for food and art have found a mélange in Food Swings, an illustrated travel journal with exceptional food art, that covers a 10-day trip Khoker took to Hyderabad, Goa and Mumbai. Bookedforlife feasts on the delightful journal as we chat with Khoker about what went into making it…
The idea behind ‘Food Swings’
While traveling, we often come across new visuals and ideas (however small or insignificant they might seem) that could be strangely appealing. I always record my findings in a journal that I unfailingly carry. This later took the form of a published book ‘Food Swings’, available for others to buy. The book is a replica of my sketchbook. The pages haven’t been designed for publication. Nothing has been omitted from the original. So, everything you see in it is what I saw and thought of and of course, ate!
Focus on food…not recipes
I’ve always been very interested in food. When I say ‘food’, I don’t just mean the cooking or eating of it but other aspects too, especially visual. There are always stories and recollections around food and a lot of times, I believe it’s more fulfilling for me to paint an experience rather than put it in words. If you take a look at my work, you will probably be left with a happy feeling (at least that’s my intention). I try to create that through food stories or events that play in my mind while I paint. The idea is that food isn’t ‘just food’. It is FOOD. Apart from being a life essential, it nourishes our senses. Moreover, it adds richness to existence.
The book is available as a paperback simply because a hardcover would cost more. Right now, the book is priced at Rupees 320. I haven’t set aside any margins for profit. The price covers my cost of printing and shipping. Publishing wasn’t planned so the target audience is just about anybody who shares my interest in food, art and travel. I didn’t think very much before doing this (or most things I do actually). So, I just went ahead after I received a number of requests for a copy of my journal.
So far, the response has been great. My first batch of 50 books has sold out. In addition, I’ve ordered a second batch. I’ve received a lot of love through mails and messages from people who bought it and some who have seen my work online. People are fascinated by ‘food illustration’. It is something unheard of.
I sketch what I see while traveling. Depending on the amount of time I have at a particular location, I indulge myself in a leisurely drawing or a quick sketch with runny paints. I have almost always sketched during flights (the videos are available on my website and other social media), while waiting at airports or elsewhere. After all, it’s a nice way to distract yourself from the ‘waiting’!
Sometimes, I begin a sketch knowing well that I won’t have time to fill in details. So, I do whatever I can with a quick sketch and either leave it that way or modify it later if I can. The idea is not to produce a photograph or even a likeness, it is to translate something of visual interest on a flat surface so I am taken back to that memory later while flipping through the journal. Often there are imperfect lines and that’s alright. It’s not about perfection.
I use a lot of other media but while traveling, I find watercolours and ink easy to handle so I stick to these. That is for my convenience mainly. Art work that is commissioned privately, is sometimes on paper, canvas, tiles or even a wall. Depending on the surface, you can choose media that suits best. I’ve used gouache, pastels, oil paints, coloured pencils, markers and so on many-a-times.
Illustrations versus photographs
Photography is a great media. Cameras and mobile phones are great tools to record a journey, an event or just about anything. Illustration is a different kind of visual expression and I can’t compare the two because while retaining a few similarities, they are very different in essence. One can’t be better than the other, I guess it’s about interest and convenience. You might come across an image of food that captures much more than its form. The same goes for an illustration. Your skill and manipulation of the medium matter.
With these thoughts, we leave you to enjoy food art in book form. Food Swings is a book that takes food art to an entirely different level! Now that we’ve got a taste, we just can’t wait for the next helping!
In order to buy Food Swings or look at Yasra Khoker’s work, visit https://doodlenomics.com/buy-food-swings/
A soul-stirring tryst with poetry is not what one generally expects young children to do. But, that would be underestimating the power of poetry. It is said that poetry is language at its most distilled…and most powerful. No wonder then, poetry can be a powerful tool for change. That the simple act of writing a poem could spiral into a strong movement for change, is indeed a miracle! Since 2011, 100 Thousand Poets for Change has been working with poets, writers, artists and musicians to help organize events around the world for peace, justice and sustainability. This global movement has spread to more than a hundred countries in the world.
The sweet fragrance of this movement has seeped right into India as well. Kitab Khana, the popular bookstore in Mumbai, and a hub for cultural activities and events hosted this poetry festival for the sixth time. The four-day event, curated by Menka Shivdasani and co-presented this year by Deepankar Khiwani, took place on October 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2017, with the generous support of Mrs Amrita Somaiya, Director, Kitab Khana, and her team.
The festival was packed with many events and sessions. However, the cherry on the cake was clearly the popular Sunday morning event for children, conducted by Rati Dady Wadia, (Former Principal of Queen Mary School) on October 29. Mrs. Wadia, who hosted the event that morning, is an educationist and through her long and successful career, she has experienced first-hand the power of words and the miracles they can bring. Kitab Khana was packed to the brim- quite literally with a huge gathering of people eager to witness the event, and metaphorically, with the collective energies of the children and adults present there!
The event started off with the book launch ‘I Believe’ (2015) ‘Beauty is a Step of the Divine’ (2016), a poetry book that featured poems written by schoolchildren in Mumbai, representing various schools (Activity High School, Campion School, Queen Mary School, J.B. Petit High School for Girls, Cathedral and John Connon School) and students of Writer’s Bug. The beautiful illustrations and impressive cover of the book were designed by renowned author of children’s books, Katie Bagli.
Chief Guest Urvi Piramal launched the book. She is well known for her business acumen, but what truly came to light on the occasion were her ambitious philanthropic goals which include positively impacting one in every five people globally. Her inspirational and encouraging speech set the tone for the morning.
It has come up in many cities in the country. In Mumbai, we have been having it for seven years.
Poetry has rhythm and music in it. It is very powerful because of that. It touches the heart so much. One has to be sensitive towards it- not only poetry but also music and art. In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Jessica says that she feels sad when she hears music and Lorenzo replies that this is because she is intrinsically sensitive by nature. One has to be sensitive to all the five fine arts: music, poetry, sculpture, art and architecture. Our 2016 poetry festival was in fact centered on ‘The Five fine Arts’.
It is very important for us to encourage children to get aesthetic joy. With the 2015 edition of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change, we took on the theme of the five elements for the poetry festival. I feel that as parents and teachers we all need to hone the tastes of our children. We must take them to art galleries, music concerts and give them the opportunity to write creative poetry. There is such a sense of satisfaction even when you write a small verse! All the fine arts should be a part of our lives. We need to make our children sensitive to this. Try to fill your children’s lives with all that is beautiful. There are so many families that do not experience this kind of joy at all!
In between mouthfuls of some delicious starters and sips of steaming coffee, a group of young and young at heart people are settled in a corner, doodling away to their heart’s content.
The hip and happening Aka Bistro at Fort, just a stone’s throw away from Mumbai’s cultural heart, Kala Ghoda is hosting participants of an Ink Doodle workshop organized by the Bombay Drawing Room, an inclusive community of Artists & art-lovers, founded by a self-taught Artist & Architect, Snehal Patil.
To me, this looks like a great way to spend a weekend evening. I chat with Shalvi Jhawar, a psychologist by profession, and an artist with Bombay Drawing Room, who is conducting the session.
The flow is that first we recreate basic patterns in these small squares on the practice sheets. Then, we move on to more intricate patterns. Following this, we provide a sheet with a basic shape and practice doodling in it. Finally, we take a final line drawing in which the participants apply all that they have learnt. So, towards the end of the workshop we have two artworks that they can take away.
Prior experience is not necessary, nor do the participants need to be from an art background. We start with basic lines and patterns. We completely understand that our participants may not necessarily have an art background but instead are art enthusiasts. Our worksheets start from lines, broken lines, checks and so on, progressing at each step.
In our Doodle Ink workshops, people are really happy. This has no norms. You have a shape and what you will fill inside it is exactly what you feel. There are no rules here. For example, in acrylic painting you know that the sky is going to be blue. But here, there is no such thing. It’s just how you feel. It allows you to express what you feel at a very subconscious level on paper.
It’s a good mix. We’ve had kids from six years on participate in the sessions! We have people from different backgrounds, ages and profiles. It’s quite a mixed bunch.
It allows participants to socialize with a lot of people. There are no rules and no time restrictions. We keep a casual approach from the beginning!
Zentangle gets a little meditative. Doodling is also meditative but here you can feel free to draw anything. Zentangle is more about shapes, while doodling includes everything.
Doodling is something that we all do in life. If you are sitting in office and getting bored you may doodle. We all have been doodling since school. We help to channelize this and give it a look that is aesthetically pleasing.
What Bookedforlife recommends: Well, the Ink doodle workshop is a great way to pass a few productive hours over a weekend. No better way to get your creative juices flowing! It could be an apt activity for gatherings and parties as well. It could also turn into a good bonding activity. Try participating with your child, partner, friend or parent!
Image credits: Priyamvada Sinha
The Bombay Drawing Room does not insist on any special equipment or brand, and all materials are provided.
If you are keen to try doodling on your own, here are some of our finds, which could be helpful:
2. Doodling pens
Santosh Das, renowned artist who is known for creating magic with the Mithila painting style, looks every bit the quintessential artist, as he sits in a contemplative mode at ARTISANS, the culture hub tucked away in the beautiful by-lanes of Kala Ghoda.
A white long flowing beard and an air of peace around him strike any visitor. He is sitting amidst Mithila paintings hung up on the walls around him, and copies of his latest book, Black – An Artist’s Tribute. Published by Tara Books, this is an illustrated handmade book in a limited edition of 1000 copies only. In a short while, he will be conducting a workshop on Mithila painting for an urban audience.
We start talking about the book, but not before we touch upon the wondrous world of Mithila painting, which occupies a central place in the book- and in his life.
Das works in the traditional Mithila painting style from Madhubani, Bihar, where he was born. Mithila painting, also called Madhubani painting is a well-known form of folk art. The roots of this art are deep, and skills continue to be passed through generations. Since time immemorial, women in his community have used natural pigments to decorate the walls and floors of their homes for special occasions like birth, marriage, and religious festivals. Precise geometry and detail depict ancient epics, folktales, and religious scenes along with the stuff of daily life.
Das’s mother used the black colour from the night lamp and expressed her skills with this ‘handmade’ colour. “Black means a lot of things to me. Anything one draws is black. Even if I draw an image with a pencil, it is also a form of black. Black also has a spiritual significance. It shows a certain kind of steadiness and determination. This quality of the colour black inspired me to focus on it. I have been working with this colour for 40 years, a very long time!” he asserts.
“The rightful place for an artist, his real world, is a pot of black ink. I believe it contains all the magic, all the forms, everything that human beings can imagine and render. It hides inside itself the seeds of creation” he adds.
Today artists like Das are bringing traditional arts in the contemporary context. “This transition is very difficult, but it allows you to see things in a different perspective. There are challenges but it ensures that you make efforts to make a traditional language very relatable. Once you know the essence of a traditional language, you will realize that you can indeed use it to express something different”.
What Das does moan however, is the fact that very few artists today choose to evolve. They learn and apply traditional work, and thereby may churn out numerous pieces that sell well. But, he sees the role of an artist as something higher. After initial training, he feels that one needs to do different things as an apprentice with a master. This would prevent stagnation. Every art needs a catalyst.
What makes Das’ work so fascinating is that he follows strict aesthetic traditions while responding to current local, national, and global issues. His work on the Gujarat riots was very well received.
The idea of the book took birth in Chennai at a workshop. “Black” is an autobiographical story. It focuses on the journey of Santosh Das: his becoming an artist and his relationship with his many muses, particularly his mother.
Published by Tara Books, the limited edition copy is numbered and screen-printed on recycled paper, then hand-bound into a work of art itself.
Inside its pages lie the simple story of Das’s childhood and his myriad inspiration. The prose is simple but poignant. The illustrations, which are Mithila paintings are all in black. Together they make for a conceptually rich reflection on an artist’s relationship between the real world, imagination, and storytelling through art.
As mentioned before, the title “Black” references the colour his mother painted with, which was made of the soot that collected on a night lamp. His fascination for black makes him explore the different shades of black. This makes the black of morning different from the black of night and the black of dust different from that of the sky. “Black has a lot of shades, once you get to know its potentiality, you can explore further” explains Das.
Who is the ideal reader for the book? “Maybe those who are related to art, maybe writers, students…” he muses. However, moments later, he smiles and says, “Everyone”. It is true. It is a book for all those who love and admire the beauty of art and words.
Boundaries become blurred. Art and publishing combine. It is a mélange of two beautiful worlds. The publishers of this book, Tara Books are known for their hand-made visual books. The aspect of touch and feel, of tactility and graphic assume importance here. Of course, unusual paper and brilliant design are the perfect accompaniments here!
This book brings folk art to an urban audience, thereby creating awareness of the art and also providing an object of beauty. However, there is something more happening here. It is merging the world of art and book publishing.
“It is a good means of promoting rural art which is high potential in terms of artistic merit. Through a book, art can reach out to a larger audience. Such an endeavor is highly appreciable. It is a good way of promoting art from different districts. It is only then that you can know the diversity of India’s heritage. It is a good way to take it forward,” says Das.
Black – An Artist’s Tribute by Santosh Kumar Das
Published by Tara Books.
Available also at ARTISANS, https://www.facebook.com/artisans.centre.9/
Original works by Santosh Ji are available at ARTISANS’, Contact [email protected]