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Archival and intense

Raffa Gasso’s images arrived in the mail and it seemed like an incessant encounter with his “ways of seeing” in places all over the country. Of course India can be many things to many people. And if you’re a foreigner who decides to capture the country’s mirth, more than any other emotion through its cities there is plenty to probe and unravel. At the Instituto Cervantes on Humayun Road, the venue of Gasso’s exhibition “Indian PALabras” you could begin this curious eye on India from anywhere.

Unlike the usual Pushkar images which assault the senses – from the clamour of the ramshackle camels resting to the moustachioed men in turbans – you have seen this Pushkar a zillion times. Here the insights are of quiet reflection and reverie – the little lanes with shops are far more eloquent as they take in their trades and catch brisk business.

Gasso has an uncanny zeal for capturing light in its enigmatic elegance. His Hampi image of the little agile youth lunging into the air before he dives into the waters is a nugget of an everyday epiphany. Of course it reminds me of those vintage images of Raghu Rai so many decades ago, but what entices is the edge and the moment of decision in the nuances captured. No gaggle of tourists or long lines of explorers but a glimpse into the importance of catching a quiver within a pocketful of images that meet the shutterbug’s quest.

Gasso is quick to add that this is an exhibition that is open ended. “Indian PALabras is a work in progress between the entertainment and the need of recording in a more personal way – words and photography – all the peasantry of an India that will never be published in media.”

Of course we could look at it many ways – the sadhu with his ash smeared face is a microcosm of the rituals and nomadic norms of religiosity. It is Gasso’s tenor of the sky laden with potent possibilities that makes you preen closer. Forget the fact that this is post-colonial India – Kolkata is more than just a city ravaged by power-hungry politicians, the image of the crows in the sky and the typical skyline of the city is a mirror of moorings – you think of many things – yet somehow think of how it resolves a morass of cultural, social and religious conflicts through both its hustle and bustle as well as its deeply tenored inimitable Bangla bhadralok motion. Today, comprising populations of Hindus and Christians and Muslims, Jains and Marwaris, Sikhs and sadhus, Kolkata is a place where India meets itself, remembers to forget the Raj and looks across the horizon as it invites development at any cost.

It is at Delhi’s oldest lanes that Gasso captures the intrinsic Bollywood signature of pop art posters in Kareena Kapoor’s image in the old and outdated Pepsi advertisement. If one were to look beyond the superficial – Gasso emerges as someone who decides to go beyond the obvious – his love for the lucid and the latent moods of life’s leanings become the very pulse of the city or mood he wants to capture. The viewer is left with different notions of time in its testimony of what is seen in Delhi’s vibrant street life, and passion for colours.

Gasso’s ongoing journey stamps India as a country that is not just steeped in history, but one that has a date with its indigenous civilizations dating back thousands of years, long periods under colonial rule, distinct social stratifications, multiple languages and faiths, and in contemporary times, as rapidly developing powers in the global scenario. The show also gently suggests that there are many more things to savour in India other than tall sky scrapers and air-conditioned malls. This is a show with a signature that is archival and ardently intense.

The exhibition is on till July 15.

Timings: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:12:30 AM |

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