“You don’t ask male artists why they choose male subjects, so why pose this question to female artists,” asks Nalini with a laugh, when CS asks her why she’s chosen female subjects in her works. In a career spanning more than four decades, she has stood out with her interpretations on women influenced by mythology, society and culture. In a freewheeling chat, Nalini talks about the theme of her ongoing show, cultural terrorism and need for artistic education:
The character of Cassandra in Greek mythology is similar to that of Sahadev in The Mahabharata. Both of them had the gift of prophecy. Apollo, the Greek God had given the gift of making predictions to Cassandra but when she refused to be his consort, he cursed her saying that no one would believe her predictions. So, when she tells her father King Priam about the destruction of Troy, he puts her into prison. I believe that there’s a bit of Apollo and Cassandra in each one of us. This is the theme of my show. To give you a more realistic example, you see people making so many projects in Mumbai but the majority of them don’t actually benefit the common man. Yet, many people make them as they have interests involved.
In a regressive mode
The Khajuraho Temples are in India. In Jayadeva’s Geet-Govinda, we have poems dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. All of them have erotic overtones. In Hinduism, erotic love was divine love. We celebrated sensuality and we were an open religion. People are using religion to gain publicity and fuel their ambitions. This new moral attitude of society is very shocking. This was not the case in the 1960s-70s; we were a very open society then.
Need for art
India’s cultural heritage is vast. From Khayal gayki in the North to Carnatic music in the South, our musical legacy is super-rich. We have artists like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Gangubai Hangal. Sadly, children in India’s average schools have zero access to artistic education. So many regional writers in India have produced great literature, but why can’t a student in Maharashtra read a book written by a Manipuri writer. Because there’s no cultural exchange in India right now. We are too isolated within our states. Recently, we have seen some horrific incidents of aggression against women. This can be reduced if we take efforts to humanise the education system. Arts need to be promoted in a better way.