Friday, August 04, 2017

Calvin's CLoud

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

Charlie Chaplin

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Artist's Soul Series: In Conversation with Nartaki Nataraj

I had watched Nartaki Nataraj perform a few years ago at Kalakshetra. It was a mesmerizing performance. That memory stayed with me and I hoped to meet the artist in person another day. How was I to know I will be meeting her in person soon in the next couple of years. As part of the Artist's Soul series, curated by AVIS Vishwanathan, it featured Nartaki Nataraj, the superstar among the third-gender. 

Apart from her grace and humility, she speaks candidly about the atrocities and hardships she faced way back in the 80s when such gender issues were repressed and considered abominable. Both Nartaki and her friend, Sakthi who has been with her through thick and thin come from extremely influential families, but were rendered penniless when they came out of the closet. While the morning woke them up to the harshness of life, ironically, the nightfall gave them freedom to escape to the fields and dance away their sorrows. Their village had one shack where the films were played. So they grew up watching stalwarts in dance like the Travancore Sisters and Vyjayanthimala Bali. Who would have thought that destiny had greater plans for both these outcasts? We forget life pretty much has the last laugh.

Both friends decided to pursue dance and found out that the great dancers of those time learnt under Guru Kittapa Pillai. Not knowing his greatness, these naive, but sincere seekers found themselves at the Guru's refuge to learn dance. The Siddhapurusha as Nartaki refers to her teacher, made them wait for an year to determine their seriousness and finally accepted them not just as his students, but into his household. He was well aware of the stigma and insensitivity his two students will continue to face and even put away a small portion of money towards their future. Such was his grace, kindness and humanity. During her dark days, Nartaki plunged into Tamizh literature. Her command over the language and expression completely bowled me over. Most of all, her kindness and devotion to her art reigns supreme. She has also started a Trust to give back to her community through the very art that saved her life and changed her destiny forever.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Vikram Vedha (2017)

The film opened on July 21st and I managed to get a movie ticket at a theatre nearby. First, it was the title that intrigued me. It was an extension of Vikramaditya and Vetal, stories that have captivated children and adults alike. Second, Madhavan looks great on camera - a perfect destresser on a Sunday afternoon over butter popcorn and cheese. Third, Vijay Sethupathi is a natural actor. I have been following a few of his movies, favourite among which, is Naduvula Konjam Pakatha Kanum and Soodu Kavvum. With such a potent combination of a strong story line and actors, it was bound to be a delectable treat.

This cat-and-mouse chase is a cerebral game to enjoy, atleast once. R.Madhavan as the Encounter Specialist Vikram, opens the scene to a slew of whistles; a chase ensues, and the man is cool; he slays it. He is the good cop who is justified in killing criminals in encounter style killing. He is able to sleep peacefully inspite of shooting a few no-gooders. Shradha Srinath, who plays his lawyer-wife whose paths cross often, has no real value on screen and so does Chandra portrayed by Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, girlfriend of Pulli, the only educated chap in the locality and brother of notorious gangster, Vedha. 

The latter is a dreaded criminal wanted for 15 murders, portrayed beautifully by Vijay Sethupathi. If Madhavan comes across as a cool cop with a penchant for guns, Vijay Sethupathi is even cooler, just with his dialogue delivery. Just his swagger setting the tone for his entry had the theatre drummed up in excitement, howls and whistles.

The scripting is well thought out and beautifully layered. We are so blinded in going after what we want, we miss the most obvious things. When you stop to think, then it gives you an opportunity to make sense of the situations and put the pieces together. The eternal moral questions every individual faces boils down to situations and perspectives. In this case, is the one who ordered the kill the villain or the one who killed, the greater villain who needs to be punished?

Madhavan's shorter punch lines were excellent and well-timed. However, he still needs to bring out the depth of character. Vijay Sethupathi plays an understated role, bringing in different shades to his criminal persona, which elevated the chemistry with Vikram, a notch higher. 

Though predictable in parts, it makes for a great watch.

Image source:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Calvin's CLoud

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

Jalaluddin Rumi

Monday, June 26, 2017

Wandering Artist: In Conversation with Rehane

Poochi Venkat invited me to join him for the program curated by Avis Viswanathan at The Wandering Artist. I was not sure what to expect, which was great. All I was told was the place is an interesting spot for hosting workshops including programs that I was attending that evening. Avis Viswanathan also hosts a monthly program at Odessey called the Bliss Catchers. It features conversations with folks who have taken the road less travelled and have made it their own. These interactions in my opinion are very important to help us stay grounded, stick to our dreams, and plod on inspite of the pressure to be materialistically accomplished in life. 

Rehane's journey in the fashion world, one would consider is a privileged one. Her father was in the Indian Foreign Service and that enabled the family to become a global citizen since they travelled a lot. Rehane herself was born in Paris and educated in Rome, and now married and settled in Chennai. However, she did not have it easy either. Her parents divorced when Rehane was 15 and she made the decision to live with their father, which also included her youngest sibling Saba. It was a lonely period I gather to grow up without the love of your mother, but it was a conscious choice and she went through with it. At the most important juncture of her life, she received the news her mother had been murdered in the most tragic circumstances and this made international headlines. When she was asked about how she coped with the loss, Rehane matter-of-factly says that she never had any bonding with her mother after their separation. So while she felt sad, it did not emotionally wreck her. 

In the world of fashion, she had to make her mark. One of the most important takeaways for me in this conversation was her response to tailoring fashion to different regions. Chennai is considered conservative, Bombay and Delhi, probably more fashionable and so on. So how does she manage to make it work in Chennai! She makes an important point about being a global citizen. Since she has lived everywhere, making a move to Chennai was like any other city. It did not hinder her thinking nor did she think the city had limitations. Instead she worked with what she was offered and what she could find. In keeping fashion relevant to the times, her answer was bold and hard hitting. She said, "Your work should be relevant to you, not to the world. Everything has a market. Everything."

In my own journey as an artist, I am sometimes consumed by self-doubt about my work. Are oils more commercially accepted than watercolors? Is realism still relevant? I am not ready for abstracts. I love art. So it shall be. I continue on this journey of self-discovery as an artist, on my own terms, at my own pace.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Calvin's Cloud

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.


Sunday, June 04, 2017


Meeting acclaimed artist Senathipathi was a dream come true. I was offered the opportunity to accompany Poochi Venkat to meet the acclaimed artist at the Cholamandal Artist Village. I knew I could not pass this one up. As I stepped into his office, I felt I was walking into a dream. The walls were adorned with beautiful ink drawings and acrylic works, depicting Ganesha playing the Veena, Hide and Seek, and other famous themes for which Senathipathi's work is known all over the world. 

He gave me a lovely tour of his works including those of his children, who are artists and metal sculptors in their own right. His warmth and hospitality made a huge impact. He showed his canvas, the medium, the use of a simple ink pen and bottle of ink, which form the base for his ink drawings; and the white texture and knife painting brush to make the canvas base for the acrylic works. 

His use of black struck me. Black is a solid, overpowering color, which I feel in my limited experience, should be used intelligently. Senathipathi, with his every stroke had captured the bhava, or the spirit of his characters, be it mythology, love between a man and woman, or mother and child with the use of black predominantly. His characters expressed every rasa in each canvas: Insecurity, playfulness, affection, intimacy.

What I really loved was the relevance of his works. It will resonate for generations to come. Any one at any point in time across the age divide will always feel connected to his painting. 

I would love to visit him to watch him at work and maybe, when the time comes, afford one of his paintings to go on my wall. You can learn by listening, by watching demonstrations, or by simply being in such great company.

In that short interaction of an hour, I knew I wanted to pursue art more than ever. As Ludwig Van Beethoven quoted, "Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."

Today, I experienced it.

Make good art.