Mixing Life with Art

>> We love talking to artist Subhash Awchat for his earthy unpretentious comments on art and life. Unlike most painters Awchat, doesn’t live life tucked away in a garret but enjoys it in its full vibrancy — as a father, Mumbaikar, bon vivant, traveller and good and loyal friend to many. In that respect, his art is not compartmentalised but permeates every thing he does.

Which is why his recent Dharavi Mixed Media series of 30 ten by twelve paintings have struck such a chord in whoever has seen them.

Vibrant, unapologetic, dynamic they have captured the area’s soul and suffused every day objects with a lyrical beauty. The reason why Awchat embarked on them is poignant. “I used to pass by this wonderful kite and toy shop in Dharavi run by an old Muslim gent every day,” he says. “And then one day after the riots I found it had been burnt down, so I went and took a picture of it. And in it I saw something. So I went back and began capturing other vignettes,” he told us in his simple whimsical style. “It’s a world of its own, and I found only a combination of photography and artwork could capture its dynamism.” The exhibition will be held sometime next year, till then feast your eyes on this sumptuous work!

Of a man and his bird
>> Author, Indophile historian, and cultural impresario and over all force of Nature, William Dalrymple lives up to the stereotype of the ‘eccentric Scotsman’ with his choice of writing companion: an Indian-born ethnically Australian,¬†sulphur-crested cockatoo called Albinia.

“She’s been with me since 2006 and is noisy and sociable in company, but really seems to understand the need for silence when I’m writing,” he told us, adding, “Many writers write with animal company — Flaubert had an African grey parrot and Donna Tart has a pair of pekes — but I don’t think any dog could be as intelligent and companionable as Albinia...” Incidentally, the author has recently finished writing his newest offering Return of a King: The First Anglo-Afghan War and the Birth of the Great Game, which will soon be in a bookstore near you.

Flamingos in Sewree
>> Reader S Venkatnarayan has brought to our attention the imminent threat to migratory birds, particularly the magnificent Flamingos that grace our city with their presence each year. “MMRDA has entrusted companies to construct a 22-km long eight-lane sea bridge starting at Sewree jetty to Nhava-Sheva across the creek connecting the New Mumbai mainland. Sewree mudflats around the starting point of the sea link are feeding grounds for many species of migrating birds particularly Flamingos,” he says.

“The construction of the Sea Link would disturb the birds, probably making them end the annual stopover to Mumbai! It is suggested by environmentalists that the bridge should be angled 500 metres to 1,000 away from the feeding location of the flamingos and care be taken to not threaten the birds during construction, if not suspend operations, during the stay period of the migratory birds.” In the seesaw battle between development and environment, it appears a reasonable compromise. What do our eminent environmentalists think?

Hermes’ unlikely muse
>> Every now and then this diarist stumbles upon a factoid so curious that she is compelled to say — who would have thunk it (sic) ?
Something of this nature occurred yesterday when Salman Rushdie posted an article from the Telegraph website about a profile written Luke Leitch on the Dumas cousins, Pierre-Alexis (45), and Axel (41), at the helm of the world’s foremost and best-regarded luxury company Hermes.

‘The regard is reflected in its performance: last year, its profits rose 41 per cent to £495 million. Its exquisitely printed silk scarves are lusted after, but the cult of Hermès is predicated primarily on its handbags.’ (For the uninformed these include such mainstays of the luxe world as the Kelly, the Verrou clutch and the pinnacle of every well-heeled fashionistas dream.) But here’s the clincher: According to Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the entire vision for the brand was shaped by an article he read by Salman Rushdie about ‘being deep . … Taking the time to appreciate what we have.’ He is reported to have said, “This is not an area in which I ever expected to exercise influence!” said Rushdie with his characteristic dry wit.

Composer and Maestro
>> One of SoBo’s most delightful and well-kept secrets is the jewel-like salon, which celebrated music composer Vanraj Bhatia runs. Crammed with Faberge eggs, damask, fine bone china, exquisite crystal and a grand piano the tiny bed-sitter is a lesson in how to live elegantly and alone, surrounded by the things you love.

Bhatia, who composed most of the haunting melodies for Shyam Benegal’s films and turned 85 yesterday is still wowing listeners with his scores across continents. Last month, the first sections of his Opera AgniVarsha based on a play by Girish Karnad was performed at the Renaissance Charter in Queens, New York. Vanraj and librettist Rani Day Burra, who were present for the rehearsals and performances, were overwhelmed by the positive audience response. Happy Birthday Vanraj. And encore! ¬†

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