From the Jacket
Interacting with artistes and artists on stage or through their art may give a glimpse into the legacy of their genius, but the legacy of their genius, but their personal sons the glamour of the are lights is hardly ever explored. These are the people who have made this century special by their sheer presence. This collection is an attempt to understand the events that shaped their personality, which in turn had an indelible impact on their art. It cuts across both performing and plastic arts to give a pan-Indian overview of the culture and heritage of the sub-continent.
About the Author
Writing on the performing and visual arts since 1980, Alka has been published in several newspapers and journals including The India Express, The Times of India-where she was on the editorial staff-Hindustan Times, Economic times, India Magazine, Swagat and Frontline. Former arts editor of the Pioneer, Alka also had a weekly column on theatre for The Financial Express for ten years. She has traveled extensively both in India and abroad to cover art events and file investigative reports on the arts. She has received training in Kathak and Hindustani vocal music. She presents and produces programmes for All India Radio and Doordarshan. She was honoured with the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding woman media-person of the year 1993. Alka is presently media consultant to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, a trustee of the Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, and director of the Art Education Trust.
Art is perfection, and the constant quest for it sets the special individual apart from the crowd. This is not to say that artistes or artists attain it every-time they lift their brush, tie on their ghungroos, touch their instruments or open their mouths to sing. They do not. But when they do, that creates a moment of magic and wonder that is worth all the pain, the effort and the heartbreak of the journey.
And time is measured only in those moments of totality. Like all good things of life, such moments too are rare. This book is a collection of such moments with legends who have so helped refine the aesthetic perceptions of an era, that they have become almost synonymous with their chosen art forms. In interviewing and writing about these representatives of a special age in the history of India's artistic heritage, the attempt is not to analyse and chronicle their lives, but to understand their struggle and the legacy of their genius.
Speaking to each individual is fraught with its own peculiar set of problems. After you have chased them and pinned them down to a meeting, you might find them surrounded by a plethora of hajngers-on Then, they may take an instant dislike to you and decide to clam up they are sensitive souls.
Fortunately, that never happened to me. What did happen in the initial years was that my aesthetic or artistic appreciation of their genius often left me tongue-tied. It was much later that I discovered that this was an effective tool for interactions! My working knowledge of Bhojpuri, Avadhi, Punjabi and Tamil helped me establish a rapport which was virtually instantaneous. In many of these meetings, I often switched language. But then as they say, words constitute only seven per cent of communication.
It is this faith that one is communicating to a kindred soul that makes any interaction meaningful. As a consequence, I have been privy to a lot of information that has not found place in the published piece for some of it was shared in a moment when it was just two persons talking and not a writer speaking to an artiste.
That they are all creative, goes without saying. Some of them are also selfish, egoistical and eccentric. Parallel to the need to express is the need to share the manifestation of that expression. Otherwise how can they even want and expect to hold the undivided attention of hundreds and thousands in a darkened auditorium? Or share their paintings and sculpture with veritable strangers?
It is death for the artiste if the motivations of their creativity are not understood, ageing some before their time and making others wiser. To many, appreciation has come not a day too soon. Perhaps that is why they value it more and fight to retain it.
In this day and age, the concept of connoisseur, the 'rasika', in the classical sense of the term is no longer valid. Neither is that of the true 'kalakar' or artiste/artist. Some of the artistes have withdrawn. For others, the need to share has become even more acute. Some have become part of history while this book was being compiled and I am glad that I was fortunate enough to have shared these moments with them. moments they may be but they are not transient that is why the urge to share them in a book form. There is a great deal of interdependence in Indian arts and by including artistes from all disciplines, the idea is to present a holistic view of Indian culture with all the hues that make the rainbow glisten with a special light.
Many of them have drawn a lot of flak before emerging as "one of a kind." Experimentation within the parameters of tradition has been the core of their creative genius. This is the thread that binds them together and makes them what they are Legends. Undoubtedly.
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