Rockscape Metroplus

Rock-forms and Gestalt

A picture of ‘The Giant Couple’ that was taken by Venkatesh Chakravarthy

A picture of ‘The Giant Couple’ that was taken by Venkatesh Chakravarthy  

Pritham and Venkatesh Chakravarthy are well known artist-scholars from Chennai working in theatre and film. Visiting over the years to teach and perform in Hyderabad, they have witnessed and had the opportunity to analyse the growth of the city. Venkatesh speaks regretfully of the fragmented spaces of the city: the neglected old city, the “new” Hyderabad across the Musi, colonial “lashkar” Secunderabad and finally the furiously developing Cyberabad, all pulling in different directions because there seems to be no common inclusive vision of development. They have also seen the havoc wrecked on the city’s stunning rocky silhouette and beautiful lakes over the years.

Currently based in Hyderabad as faculty at the Ramanaidu Film School, they are reluctantly witnessing the destruction of the rocks around their home in Manikonda. Manikonda was a typical Hyderabad lake bounded by rocks, but now it is yet another unplanned overbuilt neighbourhood losing its water body as well as its rocks rapidly.

Pritham who recently performed Nirvanam (storytelling on transgenders in Chennai) and Mirror (written by Venkatesh) in the city, misses the walks among the rocks that were an integral part of her earlier performance visits to the city. “There used to be beautiful spaces where you could sit on rocks and look at the lakes. When you stand on top of any rock you feel a little taller and higher and can even aspire to enlightenment!”

It was delightful to hear the recounting of an everyday experience, of exercising in her home, transformed by her storyteller sensibility and insight into a riveting reference: While doing her daily yoga/performance exercises in the balcony she would hear the sounds of the rockscapes there being imploded and carried away. It called to her mind Sivagami dancing in the Tiger caves in Mahabalipuram for Narsimha Pallava (5-7th C), from the Tamil tale Sivagamiyin Sapatham. “Unfortunately, while Sivagami was hearing the caves being sculpted, I was hearing the rocks being broken.”

Of the same rocks Venkatesh says, “I took a mobile phone shot first, but the rocks were so beautiful that I was impelled to take a professional camera out.” He has named the formation in the photograph “The giant couple!” People see all kinds of things and meanings in the rock formations around us. “These are sculptures created by nature and human beings connect the dots by their sense of gestalt. For instance, this ability creates even the zodiac signs that we see in the sky. These are gestalt forms that we make out in the stars.”

His absorption with this developed in college with a friend who was crazy about stars. “When Scorpio rises, it fills up half the sky! It is one of the largest constellations. You see its claws and tail come up from under the sky...” He speaks with a contagious enthusiasm communicating the wondrous appearance of this sign of Scorpio in all its majesty in the sky. One sees he carries the ephemeral quality that underwrites the best directors/teachers, that of rendering an insight unforgettably.

As Dean of the Ramanaidu Film School he sees not only the beautiful campus rocks daily, but also the many birds, peacocks and animals amongst them. “Imagine when there was no Jubilee Hills, they would have run all the way to KBR park!”

“The rocks are a unique geological heritage of Hyderabad. Even in the worst of summers, when in Chennai the lake beds crack with dryness, lakes don’t go dry here because of the rocky geology.” He adds with a laugh, “The worst part of being in Hyderabad is also because of the rocks. For two months in summer it’s like being in a stone oven! But if you get through this you are rewarded the rest of the time.”

Unfortunately Hyderabadis seem unappreciative. Our geological heritage, uniquely beautiful and ecologically sound rock-lake-green cover synergy, with all of its accompanying life forms are being blasted recklessly in the model of development we are following.

“Can’t you build without destroying so much? There is a lack of civic consciousness here. What is the citizen community doing about this?” Unfortunately, as he says, there seems to be no collective sense of interest in a responsible and inclusive imagining of the future of the city.

(The writer Uma Magal is a documentary film maker, writer and teacher).

This is the 25th in a series of articles based on research for a documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 5:33:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/rockforms-and-gestalt/article6221578.ece

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