Movies, visual arts, theatre, fashion, food and music

Questioning photography with Guftgu

In Urdu, “guftgu” means conversation, usually a dialogue that is charged with free-flowing whimsy. It’s an exchange where words cross paths with abandon, feelings intersect, emotions meander and sometimes converge into common points of truth. A similar energy flows through the nine stand-alone chapters that form the eponymous new project by Offset Projects, an art initiative conceptualised by artist, curator and editor Anshika Varma.

Seeing photographer Sunil Janah in a new light

In 2012, after Sunil Janah died at the age of 94, tributes poured in from all over the world, celebrating the Assam-born photographer’s luminous, although relatively unsung, career. Indeed, it was likely that several generations of Indians heard of his name for the first time with the news of his death—which was deeply ironic, considering how woefully poorer the visual history of 20th-century India would be without Janah’s uniquely original contribution.

Finding the Raga by Amit Chaudhuri: Beauty of digressions

Amit Chaudhuri’s new book, , is an ode to the , a genre of classical music that traces its provenance to the ancient cultural repositories of the subcontinent. However, much like the meandering whimsy that the word evokes, his narrative also takes frequent detours into areas not conventionally associated with Indian music: into the realms of world literature and linguistics; jazz and blues; rock ‘n’ roll; Western classical musicology; and, above all, the inflections of ordinary life.

Badri Narayan and what it means to be a modern Indian artist

In the well-worn tussle between tradition and modernity in Indian art, painter Badri Narayan occupies a unique niche. A self-taught stylist, he created a visual language that was at once idiosyncratic and, yet, also strikingly apart from that of his more celebrated contemporaries—M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, S.H. Raza, F.N. Souza, and others, who came together to form the iconic Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group in 1947.

Suresh Punjabi: The man who captured the Great Indian Dream

Suresh Punjabi was born in 1957, the year Guru Dutt’s iconic film, , was released. It was an odd coincidence, considering the key role the movie would play later in his life.

Those were heady days for the 10-year-old independent nation. Its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had envisioned big dreams of economic reform and scientific modernisation, aspirations that spread among the teeming population of the infant republic.

'The Surgeon's Cut': How the world’s greatest doctors stay human

If you go to as a fan of, hoping for the heady excitement and nerve-wracking suspense that characterise the US medical drama, chances are you may be a tad disappointed. However, once you reckon with the fact that the four episodes in this limited series, produced for Netflix by BBC Studios, are all based on actual people and their real battle with disease, you may sober up considerably, and marvel at the stories that unfold.

A forgotten artist from Bengal gets a new life

Earlier this month when Princeps, the auction house, put up the works from the estate of Bengali painter Atul Bose (1898-1977) for sale, the founder Indrajit Chatterjee didn't know what to expect. But the response from the bidders was overwhelming. "I was surprised the lots sold at all," he says, "let alone generate the kind of interest it did among collectors across the world—from the UK and the US to Europe and all over India." Eventually, the sales totalled to Rs 1.64 crore.

Revisiting Ram Kumar’s unsung genius at Art Basel

It may be hard to believe that Ram Kumar, retiring and reclusive as he was all his life, belonged to that fiery bunch of trailblazers who came together to form the Progressive Artists’ Group in 1947. Initially known for his Hindi short stories (it was his brother, Nirmal Verma, who would end up as one of the greatest writers in the language), Ram Kumar had a humble start. After a degree in economics, he worked in a bank.

‘The Social Dilemma’ review: Can we clean up big tech’s big mess?

Jeff Orlowski’s The Social Dilemma, a documentary which released on Netflix this week, follows a familiar plot. A bunch of Silicon Valley “whiz kids", who once helped establish and perpetuate habits of internet addiction on a global scale, come on record to express their horror at the beast they have unleashed. They admit to writing codes and creating programmes specifically targeted to feed the business model of the attention economy.

As former employees of big tech companies who nurtured this

How Ravi Shankar defied classical music’s orthodoxy

The year 1967 was a watershed moment for the global music industry. That year, The Beatles released one of their iconic albums, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which soared to the top of the charts all over the world. Millions lost their minds over the fab four from Liverpool as the frenzy of Beatlemania turned into a contagion. It was an annus mirabilis—a year of miracles—for another musician too, groomed in a tradition that had nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll. As the world became drunk

Charles Dickens and the legacy of a Calcutta Christmas

At the school I went to in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the 1980s and 1990s, students were subjected to one “rapid reader" after another for several years in the junior classes. The idea was to introduce us to texts that were easy to read, comprehend and enjoy. If this trinity hit its mark, chances were it would instil a love of books in our 10-year-old hearts—in those days at least, this was one of the primary aims of a well-rounded school education.

It was through one of these rapid readers that
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