Mat­ters of the Art

COMIC ARTISTS, IM­MER­SIVE THE­ATRE PRAC­TI­TION­ERS AND VINTAGE DANCE MU­SIC BANDS, BAN­GA­LORE IS NUR­TUR­ING NEW TAL­ENT LIKE NO OTHER CITY.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Prachi SiBal

Comic artistes, the­atre prac­ti­tion­ers and vintage dance mu­sic bands, Ban­ga­lore is nur­tur­ing new tal­ent like no other city.

SURAJ STEPHEN D’SOUZA DOODLING AWAY in his note­book in sec­ond grade and of­ten be­ing pun­ished for it, Suraj Stephen D’souza, 25, never imag­ined it was some­thing he would make a ca­reer out of. In fact, un­til he left school he didn’t know one could ac­tu­ally go to an arts col­lege. “My brother got ad­mit­ted to Chithrakala Par­ishath and that’s when I dis­cov­ered the ex­is­tence of a new world, of art col­leges and the at­mos­phere in them”, says D’souza. He com­pleted a five-year long course at Ken School of Art and be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with mixed me­dia, pho­tog­ra­phy and sculp­ture. While art re­mained his first love, D’souza needed a job to man­age his fi­nances. That’s when he de­cided

to be­come a part-time bouncer at Ge­of­frey’s Pub, Royal Or­chid Ho­tel. “Since I was well-built, it was a rather nat­u­ral choice,” he says. “But to my luck I met a lot of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple at my job and even got to put up my own stall at an ex­hi­bi­tion at the ho­tel. My art­work ac­tu­ally started to sell,” he adds.

It is in Novem­ber this year that D’souza fi­nally quit be­ing a bouncer and turned a full-time artist. An ex­hi­bi­tion at Kala Nike­tan, Mysore and a nom­i­na­tion for the Lalit Kala Academy Award had a lot to do with that he ad­mits. He spends his days paint­ing and is keenly ex­plor­ing sculp­ture as a medium now.

Mu­sic for the Soul PARVAAZ

EN­THRALLING MU­SIC lovers in Ban­ga­lore for nearly six years, Parvaaz is known for per­form­ing Urdu and Hindi po­etry with clas­sic rock sounds. Started as yet an­other col­lege band by two Kash­miris—Mir Kashif Iqbal, 29, and Khalid Ahmed, 29, old friends who met in col­lege in Ban­ga­lore and be­gan jam­ming, Parvaaz re­leased their first full-length al­bum Baran in 2014.

All self taught mu­si­cians, their in­flu­ences range from Ra­dio­head and Aracde Fire all the way to In­dian Ocean and city-based Ther­mal and A Quar­ter (TAAQ). The band has been through a few line-up changes and now in­cludes Sachin Banan­dur, 26 on the drums and Fidel D’souza, 29 on bass gui­tar. From be­ing rel­a­tively un­known to hav­ing a steady fan base that even trav­els for their gigs, Parvaaz has come a long way. “We are still more ap­pre­ci­ated for our live per­for­mances and are go­ing through a more rig­or­ous record­ing process for our new al­bum due for re­lease in 2017,” says Kashif Iqbal. “We are also record­ing live songs and re­leas­ing them as EPs,” he adds. Their song writ­ing process is rather fluid, start­ing off with a jam or ideas or pieces of old po­etry. “We still share mu­sic with each other but end up fol­low­ing more In­dian bands than In­ter­na­tional ones now,” says Fidel D’souza. Be­tween five to six gigs a month through the sea­son and an al­bum in the off­ing, Parvaaz is well on the road to star­dom.

Many Tal­ents, Many Medi­ums NITHYA J RAO

ALL OF 24 YEARS of age, Nithya Rao could be spot­ted do­ing as many as five dif­fer­ent things dur­ing the day. From di­rect­ing to act­ing, con­cep­tu­al­is­ing a re­search fel­low­ship all the way to con­sult­ing pa­tients as a trained psy­chol­o­gist, there isn’t a dull mo­ment in her life. It is no sur­prise then that she is bub­bling with en­ergy and ea­ger to talk about her work and we try to keep up. “I come from a fam­ily of artists. Ev­ery child had to learn at least one art form. For me, it was Bharatanatyam at first, then Car­natic mu­sic un­til I be­gan vol­un­teer­ing at Ranga Shankara where I watched a lot of plays”, says Rao. It was then that she de­cided to pur­sue a de­gree in per­form­ing arts over med­i­cal col­lege.

Rao pro­ceeded to work as an ac­tor for sev­eral city-based and na­tional the­atre groups in­clud­ing The Ac­tors Collective and Ranga Shankara Pro­duc­tions. She also co-founded Lahe Lahe, a newly launched ex­pres­sion space in the city that hosts per­for­mances. How­ever, Rao’s deep­est in­ter­est lies in shar­ing real life sto­ries through the­atre lead­ing her to co­found the the­atre group Kathar­sis Pro­duc­tions. “I am very in­ter­ested in us­ing art to bet­ter fam­ily re­la­tion­ships. The idea is to in­vite peo­ple to share sto­ries which can then be per­formed. The ex­pe­ri­ence is truly cathar­tic,” she ex­plains talk­ing about the idea be­hind Kathar­sis and a se­ries of per­for­mances ti­tled Kathar­sis Kar­i­ca­tures.

Be­sides bring­ing her knowl­edge of psy­chol­ogy into the­atre, Rao is also de­ter­mined to break the fourth wall and per­form mu­seum style the­atre in the fu­ture, where the au­di­ence moves around the space to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent per­for­mances.

Comic Re­lief MADHAV NAIR

A GRAPHIC DE­SIGN stu­dent at Sr­ishti School of Art, De­sign and Tech­nol­ogy, Madhav Nair, 21, was al­ways look­ing for a rea­son to draw. It was as a part of an ex­change pro­gramme in Nether­lands that he got to study illustration and be­gan look­ing at comics. “It was like an epiphany”, he says. Nair pro­ceed to in­tern at Kokaachi, a comic pub­lish­ing house based in Kochi where he worked on a 30-page graphic novel that is due pub­li­ca­tion.

It was on a visit to a book­store that Nair bumped

Many Tal­ents, Many Medi­ums NITHYA J RAO

ALL OF 24 YEARS of age, Nithya Rao could be spot­ted do­ing as many as five dif­fer­ent things dur­ing the day. From di­rect­ing to act­ing, con­cep­tu­al­is­ing a re­search fel­low­ship all the way to con­sult­ing pa­tients as a trained psy­chol­o­gist, there isn’t a dull mo­ment in her life. It is no sur­prise then that she is bub­bling with en­ergy and ea­ger to talk about her work and we try to keep up. “I come from a fam­ily of artists. Ev­ery child had to learn at least one art form. For me, it was Bharatanatyam at first, then Car­natic mu­sic un­til I be­gan vol­un­teer­ing at Ranga Shankara where I watched a lot of plays”, says Rao. It was then that she de­cided to pur­sue a de­gree in per­form­ing arts over med­i­cal col­lege.

Rao pro­ceeded to work as an ac­tor for sev­eral into his artist hero, graphic nov­el­ist Ge­orge Ma­then aka Ap­pu­pen. “We spoke and Ge­orge saw my work. When he was work­ing on some graf­fiti as part of ST+ART fes­ti­val, he in­vited me to join him”, he says. Ever since, Nair has been work­ing on Brain Ded, Ma­then’s Face­book page of comic strips and is in the process of cre­at­ing a ten-episode se­ries ti­tled Room Ser­vice. “As a comic artist, there is of­ten a lot of pres­sure to lean to­wards po­lit­i­cal satire. But that doesn’t in­ter­est me now and I stick to fic­tion,” ex­plains Nair. “I am still try­ing to find a voice and ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent things be­cause you need to be able to draw ev­ery­thing be­fore you de­cide on a style,” he adds. city-based and na­tional the­atre groups in­clud­ing The Ac­tors Collective and Ranga Shankara Pro­duc­tions. She also co-founded Lahe Lahe, a newly launched ex­pres­sion space in the city that hosts per­for­mances. How­ever, Rao’s deep­est in­ter­est lies in shar­ing real life sto­ries through the­atre lead­ing her to co­found the the­atre group Kathar­sis Pro­duc­tions. “I am very in­ter­ested in us­ing art to bet­ter fam­ily re­la­tion­ships. The idea is to in­vite peo­ple to share sto­ries which can then be per­formed. The ex­pe­ri­ence is truly cathar­tic,” she ex­plains talk­ing about the idea be­hind Kathar­sis and a se­ries of per­for­mances ti­tled Kathar­sis Kar­i­ca­tures.

Be­sides bring­ing her knowl­edge of psy­chol­ogy into the­atre, Rao is also de­ter­mined to break the fourth wall and per­form mu­seum style the­atre in the fu­ture, where the au­di­ence moves around the space to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent per­for­mances.

Vintage Love CLOWN WITH A FROWN

WHAT DO A bunch of teenage mu­sic lovers do when caught in a sin­gle room? Dig out their par­ents’ old favourites from the 70s and be­gin jam­ming. That is lit­er­ally how the city’s best known funk rock band Clown With a Frown came to be in 2011. “We were lit­er­ally blown away by some of the mu­sic from the 70s. We re­alised there was no band do­ing retro mu­sic and we started jam­ming”, says Jonathan Reuben, 24, Gui­tarist and one of the only two mem­bers from the band’s orig­i­nal line-up. Jam ses­sions brought them to­gether reg­u­larly and the CWAF had soon carved a niche for it­self win­ning as many as 28 col­lege band com­pe­ti­tions at a time. They grad­u­ated to play­ing at pres­ti­gious mu­sic fes­ti­vals in the coun­try such as the NH7 Week­ender and Straw­berry Fields at NLSIU. The band with five per­ma­nent mem­bers, has since gone through 22 changes in its line-up and of­ten plays as 10-piece with a full horn sec­tion.

Their de­but al­bum Love In­tox­i­ca­tion, re­leased in Novem­ber this year is a col­lec­tion of their songs pro­duced be­tween 2011 and 2016. The five mem­bers, all full-time mu­si­cians in­clude Pramod Pratap on the drums, Pradyun Manoj on the key­board, Jonathan Reuben on the gui­tar, Keerthana Su­dar­shan on the vo­cals and Aashish Paul, the youngest mem­ber of the band at at bass gui­tar.

Be­sides play­ing to a large au­di­ence of fans in the city, the band is busy tour­ing around the world play­ing at fes­ti­vals and work­ing to­wards an al­bum re­lease in March. “Our new ma­te­rial will be a lit­tle more to­wards cross­over mu­sic, with more mod­ernised sounds and no horn sec­tion,” Reuben ex­plains.

Drama of the Senses ARUNA GANESH RAM

SHE BE­GAN HER the­atre jour­ney in school with a sin­gle line in the play Twelfth Night, but it was per­form­ing arts beyond the prosce­nium that al­ways in­trigued her. Aruna Ganesh Ram, 31, Cre­ative Di­rec­tor, Vis­ual Re­s­pi­ra­tion, once a well-known the­atre artist in Chen­nai is now break­ing bar­ri­ers to cre­ate a new body of work in the city. Armed with a de­gree in Ad­vanced The­atre Prac­tice from the Royal Cen­tre of Speech and Drama, Ganesh Ram spe­cialises in Im­mer­sive The­atre, a form that en­gages all your senses dur­ing a per­for­mance. Her 2013 |pro­duc­tion Re­play about tra­di­tional In­dian games saw the au­di­ence be­ing placed in a large ludo board and be part of the per­for­mance it­self. A Mo­ment of Mem­ory, her sec­ond pro­duc­tion, brought au­di­ence into the per­form­ers’ world and ended with a serv­ing of tomato chat. “At a re-run of one of my ear­lier plays Swami and Friends in the city, we tried to recre­ate the smells of the house­hold in the per­for­mance us­ing cof­fee and in­cense,” she says. She calls her form of ex­pres­sive, experimental per­for­mance ‘ex­per­i­mence’ and re­cently con­cluded a solo show on food memories at the Serendip­ity Arts Fes­ti­val, Goa in col­lab­o­ra­tion with chef Manu Chan­dra. Af­ter pho­to­graphs, smells and sto­ries, Ganesh Ram is keen on ex­plor­ing gen­der through per­for­mance. “I want to ex­plore how gen­der bias creeps into chil­dren at an early age. I am work­ing with Nir­mala Menon of In­ter­weave Con­sult­ing that ad­dresses gen­der bias in workspaces for that,” says Ganesh Ram.

Cover photo by NILOTPAL BARUAH

Pho­to­graphs by NILOTPAL BARUAH

Mem­bers of the band Parvaaz

Per­form­ing artist Nithya J Rao

Comic artist Madhav Nair Per­form­ing artist Nithya J Rao

(Top right) Funk rock band Clown with a Frown; (be­low) Per­for­mance artist Aruna Ganesh Ram

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