November 12, 2012

Maimouna Guerresi: Architechure of Faces

Vogue India fashion editorial

Before I discovered the world of fashion blogs, my relationship with fashion magazines was admittedly quite different: I initially bought fashion magazines by the dozen although I now ruefully admit that there were very few trends that I channeled or could channel and rarely purchased products suggested by them. Similarly, while I very much enjoyed looking at the fashion editorials, I could never quite appreciate how it would translate into every-day wearability for well...ordinary mortals such as me;) I increasingly perceived fashion as an elitist space when located between pages of these magazines, admission only granted if you had primed yourself about the brands or designers or personalities...rather than savoring the simple, unadulterated joy of putting an outfit together. For me, the moot point was about having fun with your clothes -  fashion is not synonymous with possessing 'It' bag or slavish allegiance to catwalks or being too self-conscious about it. It's about enjoying the art of costuming yourself, performing your personality through the props of your clothing, accessories, and make-up. Once I discovered fashion blogs, which were more individual, quirky, and inspirational, the magazine stack on my bedside table became considerably smaller or instead dismembered and used for scrapbooking or making collages (never underestimate the power of collaging when it comes to destressing!)

Having ranted and now contradicting myself said all that, though, Verve is one magazine that I have been following for many years now; one of the things that I most appreciate about it is that it's an entirely home-grown Indian magazine brand, rather than international magazine franchises tailoring themselves to Indian markets, such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Vogue, to name a few. This is not to say that the latter are doing a bad job (I particularly liked Marie Claire in its earlier years) but I have always been a champion of local endeavors and an entirely indigenous so go Verve! Verve has always been a monthly reading staple and apart from enjoying its wonderful writing, it's always been a pleasure to extend and cultivate my personal style sense by discovering new artists, artistes, authors, designers, and creative personalities through its issues.

I spotted the work of Italian artist,  Patrizia Ma├»mouna Guerresi, who works with photography, video, and sculpture, in her exhibition, 'Silent Dialogues' (brought by Tasveer Gallery and Tod's) in Verve's latest issue here:


In the interview, Maimouna describes the influence of Islam and its architecture in her photography and specifically, in 'Silent Dialogues', she says:

" my recent works, I am trying to concentrate on the highest and most exposed part of the body: the head. I cover and crown the head with a series of objects in the shape of hats/minarets which are made by hand in a ritualistic manner – with simple materials and pieces of fabric collected and then composed according to the Sufi Muslim tradition of manually producing their own clothes. The minaret hats are tall and narrow architectural forms that I then photograph. The models in my photographs sometimes hide their faces with a hand gesture, or are blindfolded, or simply have their eyes closed. They seem to detach themselves from the world in order to tune into the divine cosmic spirit."

( Verve, October 2012)

Blue Sangat (Triptych)
This is the sort of photography that makes you immediately stop in your tracks and makes you look look, your contemplations eventually precipitating a more meditative state. I found this confluence of photography, spirituality, and architecture really fascinating - I didn't find the posturing or posing at all stylised or deliberate in the photographs, the images appearing like vignettes from a dream instead. Interestingly enough, the image below is entitled 'Kalindi's Dream':

Kalindi's Dream

However, the more I engaged with these images, a series of curious realisations struck me. Would I choose to hang these images upon the walls of my home? Probably not. Would I choose to visit this exhibition again and again? Yes, I would. Would I change my mind about the former question in a couple of years? Quite possibly. Like our style sensibilities, our art inclinations too are in a state of constant flux and evolution...

If you want to know more about Guerresi's work, here's another interview...

November 10, 2012

Adieu...Yash Chopra

It's been days since Yash Chopra unexpectedly passed away and yet, I still continue to read tributes to one of Hindi cinema's most significant film-makers. For me, Chopra's cinema counted amongst my favorites, films such as Lamhe, Chandni, Kabhie Kabhie and Silsila having merited several watchings. While Chopra had been largely associated with his signature trademark of chiffons, Swiss Alps, and luxurious escapism*, I feel that one of the greatest qualities about his films and which many of his admirers have highlighted is how he depicted the textured nature of human relationships. Admittedly, he faltered in places, the representation sometimes being uneven and shallow... yet there was a powerfully identifiable element to the relationships and scenarios that he presented in his cinema, which was in deep contrast to the melodrama and excess that his contemporaries subscribed to.

I must admit that I was largely disappointed with Veer Zaara though and was not particularly looking forward to watching his swansong production, Jab Tak Hai Jaan (sorry SRK/Katrina fans!)...even though his romantic films located in a lavish, plushly padded world of spacious rooms, gleaming marble floors, blood-red rose petals, sprawling gardens, debonair men and elegant women, the backdrop nevertheless managed to remain just a backdrop, rather than overwhelming the film's protagonists and story-line. Veer Zaara was a magnificently appointed production yet I experienced a distinct lack of pathos in the narrative and Jab Tak Hai Jaan did not seem any more promising either.

His passing away has made all the difference though and I will now be curious to interpret his last cinematic thoughts...meanwhile, here are some notes on my personal favorites from Yash Chopra's stable:

i) Silsila...

I first watched Silsila during my university days, previously having only glimpsed it in bits and pieces on TV; since then, I have enjoyed re-watching it although I continue to remain hugely perplexed by its ending, which I felt was artificial and in complete dissonance with the film's overall tone. It is now but common knowledge that the original heroines for this movie were Smita Patil and Parveen Babi and they were replaced at the last minute by Jaya Bachchan and Rekha. Keeping the discussion strictly to reel, rather than real, life, apart from some great performances and scenes (Sanjeev Kumar was outstanding and made his presence felt inspite of the electric triad of Bachchan spouses and Rekha), Silsila also had a wonderful musical score. Till date, I can't help but remember the song, 'Dekha ek Khwab' whenever I see a tulip:) I also enjoyed 'Pehli Pehli Baar', which celebrated Bachchan and Rekha's incredible chemistry and 'Sar se Sarke', which is admittedly uber schmaltzy...and yet has been one of my favorite songs for years.

ii) Lamhe

I have written about Lamhe in an alternative context earlier; it's undoubtedly a film that I can repeatedly return to despite the fact that it is problematic on so many levels. A teenage girl, Pooja falling in love with a man, Viren who has harbored an unrequited passion for her mother, Pallavi for many years, the film has been touted as Chopra's most provocative venture. Nevertheless, what I like most about the film is the depiction of relationships: Viren's unarticulated feelings towards Pallavi, Viren's best friend, Prem's unstinting loyalty towards Viren, and Viren and Pooja's mirror-relationship with their mother-figure, Dai-ja are the notable relationships that Chopra fleshes out in detail. Yet, every time I watch the film, I can't help but think of the many other stories concealed within the frames and begging to be narrated: who exactly is Prem? What of Daija?

Surprisingly, even though I have watched the film countless number of times, I have never been such a fan of its sound-track; as a child though, I simply adored 'Morni' or 'Meri Bindiya' and must have listened to the tape endlessly. As an adult, the only song that really registers with me and encapsulates the essence of the film is the title track, 'Yeh Lamhe'

iii) Chandni

Chandni is a fluffier film in comparison to the ones above and yet, if you peel away the celluloid glossiness of Switzerland, wedding sangeets, Delhi languor and Bombay glamour, and ubiquitous chiffon saris, the film is full of stories of flawed characters, much like a family of cracked crystal figurines. The film is a little more shallow in comparison to the others...nevertheless, as a casual watch, though, it's pretty enjoyable as is fun musical score: the infectious 'Chandni O Meri Chandi', the haunting 'Tere Mere Honthon Pe', and the mother of wedding songs, 'Mere Haathon Mein Nau Nau Chudiyan' are undoubted classics.

iv) Kabhie Kabhie

Surprisingly, even though its title track is a long cherished one of mine (and millions of others!), I haven't watched this film too many times. In fact, I remember watching it alongside all of the films mentioned above as part of a Yash Chopra film marathon during university and while the above films certainly engaged me, I was rather disappointed with Kabhie Kabhie for sundry reasons. The reason why I am including it here is probably because I thought that the film made for an interesting exploration of the intimate relationship between writing/poetry and life. I especially liked Bachchan in his portrayal of a poet and when later having renounced his writing; his rendition of 'Kabhie Kabhie' is one of the most outstanding moments in  the film. Plus, having extensively written poetry during my childhood, I completely related to the sentiments of 'Main Pal do Pal'..but nothing beats the exquisite beauty of the title track sung by Mukesh...

 What is your favorite Yash Chopra movie?

*Yash Chopra showcased plenty of grit in movies such as 'Mashaal' and of course, the iconic 'Deewar' - I remember reading an article about the making of the film in 'Filmfare' when I was a teenager and shocked to learn that Chopra had directed strongly had he become synonymous with all things beautiful and escapist!