March 29, 2012

The Country of all that Orangeness: Trishla Jain

Since I was a child, I have had an aversion to orange, the color - or perhaps, more accurately, wearing the color. It is that one color which you will never ever find in my wardrobe or my accessories or anything that I own, really: I find it much too bright and overwhelming to wear (strictly my opinion, of course). During my teenage years, I lived in neutrals, hardly even daring to experiment with color although that has dramatically changed - whether its turquoise or lime-green or fuchsia, I have learnt to embrace color. (Although I do have my neutral or what I call 'camouflage' days!) However, when it comes to orange, I don't think I can wear an orange outfit although I have found myself making concessions and wearing clothing, which has minimal orange accents. My aversion previously extended towards yellow as well but for some reason, I have changed my mind about the color and am actually on the hunt for the perfect yellow tunic/blouse/top...yes, I know what you are thinking - perhaps, I will have a change of heart when it comes to orange as well but I somehow don't see that happening just that soon:)

Trishla Jain: Unicorn

 The funny thing is that while I cannot even think of wearing orange, I am increasingly being drawn towards visual art dominated by the brighter shades of the color spectrum, specifically reds and yellows and oranges...and when I discovered Trishla Jain's amazing art-work few months ago through her most recent exhibition, Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies (February 2012), I had so much fun looking at it!

Trishla Jain: Life of Pi

As the quirky, whimsical name suggests, the exhibition is brightness central, drenched in an artistic joie de vivre. When it comes to my preferences in visual art, I adore quiet, unadorned minimalism as much as a maximalist piece, where the colors and textures and patterns are literally having a party. In Jain's case, it is as much fun to look at her pieces as it is to peer closer and try to decode the madness that's joyfully reigning through the works (for example, there is a running motif of chandeliers throughout the collection).

Trishla Jain: Comic Coffee Table

 Apart from two-dimensional works, Jain has also used furniture such as chairs and coffee-table as canvases; I like this particular example and interpretation of marrying art with functionality...what an incredible riotous splash of color it would be to place one such piece in a minimalist, white-hued room - it would be like living in Holi the year around! Anymore though and it would be a visual surfeit...nonetheless, I would have very much enjoyed seeing these works in flesh, so to speak, but had to content myself with seeing their virtual selves.

Trishla Jain: Summer Salt

I also liked Jain's titles for each piece - having often struggled with titling works (poems, short stories, articles, photographs, even these blog posts), I think the relationship between the title and the work is enormously important and impacts the way the audience perceive the work. Also, for me, in many cases, it is the final flourish to the work, the summing up of my perception and associations with that it. And while many artists do choose to title their works as simply Untitled, I do think that by providing a title, you are investing the work with yet another layer. For me (as an audience member), at least, it is an invaluable framework through which to perceive the work. 

My relationship with visual art is not necessarily what I would always describe as fun:) I find art to be a sanctuary: it calms me down. It has made me think and contemplate. At times, I have simply reveled in the sheer aesthetics of a work. In this case, I had great fun looking at the pieces and may I add, it was quite a difficult task to curate pictures simply for the purpose of  this post. I wonder if the presence of all those bright pops of color were responsible for creating the fun element? Whatever the case and my feelings towards wearing orange, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing splashes of it adorn my walls and interiors!

What is your relationship with color? Is there a color that you simply cannot bear?

Images courtesy Trishla Jain

March 21, 2012

The Eternal Randomness of the Mind

Work has been keeping me rather busy for the past few weeks so I thought I would indulge in a post in which I talk about the particular randomness that is making up my days: the surrounding environment, what I am listening to, what I am reading....

I am seeing:

Martian sky just before sunrise

For the last few days, the northern parts of Oman have been caught in a sandstorm, coating Muscat in a thick shroud of dust; figures alternately appeared and disappeared in the fog-like atmosphere, the sun appeared like a full-moon when seen through the veil of dust. In the nights, the usually clear, star-studded Oman sky is the color of what I imagine Martian skies to be like. Contemplating the absence of stars, for some reason, I couldn't help but think of the night sky that I encounter in Bombay whenever I visit it.**It permanently appears to be the color of Martian skies, the stars there virtually invisible. If the daylight renders stars invisible, Bombay makes the stars redundant during the night. Who is to say when it is night or day over there? Truly, I now understand why it is called the city which never sleeps.

I am listening to:

                                        Mujhse Milne Ke - Chitra Singh

I discovered this achingly beautiful ghazal through a TV soap, Love Story many years ago; having been a long-time admirer of late Jagjit Singh's ghazals, I immediately gravitated to this song sung by his wife, Chitra Singh. For many years, though, it remained in my mind that Chitra renounced singing following the tragic death of her son in a car accident - and I cannot help but be aware of it whenever I hear her voice. It makes me think: should you allow the artist's life and tragedies to color the way you approach their work though? Coming back to the song, I appreciate it for as much as the way Chitra sung it as for Seemab Akbaradi's poetry.

I am (re) reading:

Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman

One of my all-time favorite novels, I discovered Olivia and Jai in high-school; I remember finishing it in one weekend, I was so enthralled. At that time, I was more absorbed in the thrilling, exciting quality of the love-story and of course, the unforgettable characters, Olivia and Jai. Now, of course, while I must confess that I find the writing to be a tad over-wrought and flowery, I find the story much more intriguing from a historical perspective. Having extensively studied colonial India in university, I find colonial dynamics between the rulers, the English and the subjects, Indians very interesting along with those inhabiting the twilight zone: the Eurasians or now known as Anglo-Indians in post independent India - and the novel is an excellent exploration of these dynamics. The novel predominantly set in Calcutta, 1848, I also loved the descriptions of colonial Calcutta - since then, I have encountered Calcutta in various literary avatars, such as A Suitable Boy or The Namesake, for example. Unfortunately, I have only visited Calcutta once and that too before I had discovered its literary waiting for the opportunity to re-visit it!

And to end...

While I am all about celebrating the randomness that crops up in my life, I still need to know about the randomness in advance, so to speak (a seeming contradiction, perhaps): it's hard for me to accept life in shuffle mode:) What about you? Do you take life as it comes or do you need to know the playlist in advance?

** My observations of the Bombay night sky would probably apply to all big cities - Bombay just happens to be a city that I am much more familiar with and so using it as an example

March 14, 2012

Photographing Moods

During the last two weeks of my final term at university, I happened to break my camera lens. I still had an old-school analogue camera in those days and I only discovered the camera injury when I went to get my film developed. (Does anyone still remember - or even miss -  the excitement of dropping off your film at the chemist to be developed - and eagerly returning a couple of days later to see how the pictures turned out? OK, just me then;). The developed photographs were perfectly clear except suddenly becoming blurry, almost watery, in the center - and I was quite disappointed that the camera got damaged when I most wanted to record a time that I knew would never quite come back again...

Over the time, though, whenever I leafed through those photographs again, I realised what perfect metaphors they had become for memory and how we perceive memory. When we flash-back and become nostalgic about a certain time-period of our lives, we are convinced that we have meticulously preserved all those memories and associations about that time - and yet, as we trawl through our memories, we realise that yes, while certain aspects are still crystal clear, others have become so terribly vague  that they are on verge of disappearing from our memories.

I often think about why I so enjoy taking pictures. For me, photography is not always necessarily about taking a pretty picture -yes, I do often photograph what I perceive to be unusual or visually interesting but more often than not, it also involves documenting a particular mood or response to a place or event or person, preserving it in my memoryscape. When I look at a photograph that I have taken, I am reminded as much as of the subject as what I was thinking about it then - it is as much a photograph of the subject as of my thoughts at the time. In that case, the picture necessarily does not have be technically or aesthetically perfect - it just  needs to make me.

So, now, I instead see the surreal blurriness of those final term pictures as reflective of the lazy, sunny, summery haze that my friends and I had inhabited at the time - we were at a pivotal crossroads in life, unknowing where our paths would take us or how divergent they may become. But for the moment, that fact had become irrelevant and present was all that mattered.

Here are some of my mood shots below and their back-stories:

Peek  a boo: Haveli as seen through a lattice window one monsoon afternoon
Marigolds on fire: Wedding preparations at where I pursued an artist's residency several years ago

Doors with many stories: A metal door in Barka
Moon shining in a sunny blue sky: A peep-hole window in a blue wall in a temple en route to Ajmer

*Edit: I chanced upon this article which talks about how some photographers are unable to take a picture of a certain moment or subject - and the stories behind that pivotal decision...

March 7, 2012

Tanhaiyan: Sound of Loneliness

Marina Khan and Shehnaz Sheikh portraying the sisters, Sanya and Zaara in Tanhaiyan

Growing up in Oman and with no significant Hindi (or otherwise) television programming to speak of until Zee TV arrived in 1994, our source of TV entertainment were Hindi film videos (which explains my penchant for terrible Bollywood from the late 80s/90s:P), popular Hindi television epic, Mahabharata, and Pakistani dramas. Over the time, though, I only had vague memories of Pakistani drama cult-classics such as Dhoop Kinare, Tanhaiyan, Chand Grahen, and Sona Chandi (actually, that was one of my most favorite dramas ever - the lead characters were simply so adorable!)

It was funnily enough when I heard last August** that Dhoop Kinare was being remade as a Hindi soap, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge that I found myself re-visiting the dramas, especially Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinare. I must confess that I found myself instantly taking to Tanhaiyan and saw all the episodes in a short period of time but I still need to finish Dhoop Kinare though...

Revolving around two sisters, Zaara and Sanya and how they deal with life after an unexpected twist of fate, Tanhaiyan, or Loneliness, is also essentially dealing with the solitary figure that Zaara cuts through life. Yet, it is all very much about her family,  intimate world, and the city that Zaara inhabits and through which we engage with her. This is a drama without frills or pretensions, whether in its sets, performances, dialogue or the overall atmosphere. I think what I most liked and appreciated about the drama were the characters: each character is so lovingly and interestingly detailed that you cannot help but become absorbed in their individual story arcs as well as the way they fit into the overall narrative. Duty-bound, perpetually three piece suit clad and chaste Urdu spouting, Qabacha and his hate-crush-love relationship with the ebullient Sanya adds much lightness of spirit to a drama that often hinges on being melancholy while Zaara and her relationship with her childhood friend and confidante, Zain evolves and grows over time, their conversations and interactions laden with so many layers. Sanya and Zaara's aunt, Ani, her landlord and future husband, Farhan, his dominating, irrepressible older sister, Begum Apa, and her butler, Buqrat may have seemingly less significant roles to play and yet their involvement in the drama is simply a treat to watch.

Behroz Sabzwari provides comic diversion in form of Qabacha

In this post,the blogger says that he very much appreciates the fact that Tanhaiyan embodies Pakistani's unique cultural identity  and I personally found that very fascinating.  For example, there are references to songs and rituals that I was not otherwise aware of  - for example, when Farhan surprises Ani with a rather unexpected marriage proposal, the sisters' nanny sings a particular song about the groom coming to the bride's house. And of course, my fashion eagle eye could not help but appreciate the dramatic 80s sharp angles and lines in the joras that the women wear in the show. Even though I could not follow the Urdu at all times, I nonetheless enjoyed listening to its particular dialect in the show, making me wish nonetheless that I had further knowledge of the language.

Incidentally, I would love to hear from Pakistani readers as to how they personally perceive Tanhaiyan and other Pakistani dramas...and of course, Indian readers and viewers such as myself:)

**I watched Tanhaiyan for the first time in the last week of August and several months have passed since then; naturally, in that interval of time, much happens and you grow as an individual and it's interesting how I perceived certain scenes differently to the time when I first watched them. It reminds me of many who ask me as to how can I reread a book or re-watch a film? I find it curious and fascinating that whenever I re-read a book or re-watch a film, I find myself discovering and paying attention to a new nuance as a result of whatever I have experienced since I last read/watched the book or film. The way I see it, my personal experiences are enlarging the extent of my engagement with the book, for example, often making me feel as if I am reading the book once again for the first time.