Reimagining creativity

Multiple truths: Tannishtha Chatterjee

Multiple truths: Tannishtha Chatterjee | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The COVID-19 pandemic taught artists and artistes to respond to the challenge and use the value of their arts as a coping tool during stressful situations. Their innovative thinking across domains not only serves to buffer against negativity but also encourages us to be more caring and connected to each other. Here is how:


It was not just the reposeful  margam (path) that moved the audience when Geeta Chandran took the stage last week after a COVID-19 induced break of two years. The way the Bharatanatyam exponent contextualised the pandemic by aligning the poetry of Jai Shankar Prasad to the Carnatic idiom, sent both the discerning and the common audience down memory lane, keen that they were to fill the vacuum the virus has left in their lives.

Chandran says the classical has to move beyond the technique to remain relevant. “What could be more timely than Prasad’s “ Beeti Vibhavari JaagRi” as a metaphor for setting aside the darkness that has wilted a part of every heart in the last two years,” she says.

Geeta Chandran returned to stage after two year pandemic-induced break

Geeta Chandran returned to stage after two year pandemic-induced break | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The pandemic, Chandran says, allowed her the opportunity to look within, and rework the pedagogy. It’s the experiences of 30 months that resulted in “In Search of Infinity.” 

After the initial shock, Chandran realised her art was capable of feeding her soul and save her from a downward spiral.

Her concluding piece called for social tolerance in view of the fact how polarised the world has become in the last two years. In the piece written by Swami Annamacharya, Chief patron of the Tirupati Balaji Temple, Chandran says, the poet calls “for  samdrishti (impartial view) to human beings who may follow different sets of beliefs.”

Pandemic and patience

Artist Vipul Kumar

Artist Vipul Kumar | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For contemporary artist Vipul Kumar, the pandemic returned him to the medium of his choice – stone. A student of master sculptor Balbir Singh Katt, Kumar was forced to turn to ceramics at the turn of the millennium because of the market demands. “The pandemic taught me patience and gave me an opportunity to try a fusion of what I had learnt while working on both the mediums,” he says.

Ceramic and stone fusion, pandemic art work by Vipul Kumar

Ceramic and stone fusion, pandemic art work by Vipul Kumar | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In “Collapse of the System”, the black marble work that became quite a rage when it was showcased at New Delhi’s Palette Art Gallery recently, Vipul showcases how moth or termite is eating up the stone.

“It reflected the void that one felt during the pandemic. Usually, termite eats up the wood but this virus could consume everything.” At another level, he says, the work manifests the depleting value system and the multitudes of hurdles that the degenerating system creates. “All the known natural boundaries are being trespassed.”

Vipul Kumar's art work made during pandemic by blending stone and ceramic

Vipul Kumar's art work made during pandemic by blending stone and ceramic | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kumar muses on uncanny coincidences; how in 2014 when he was creating ceramic sculptures for an industrialist’s residence in Ahmedabad, he was asked to complete in three months, the work that would have taken at least one year because the next Prime Minister was expected to visit the residence. “I took six months but was surprised how did they know who was going to get the throne?”

Similarly, he says, one month before the pandemic surfaced in India, a popular furnishing company cancelled a big order given to him and his brother. “We suffered and felt cheated but soon realised the importance of their decision.”

Pause and play

For actor-director Tannishtha Chatterjee, the pandemic gave rise to multiple feelings. Just before the virus enveloped the world, Tannishtha turned director with  Rom Rome Main and starred in it with Nawazuddin Siddique. The film was feted at the Busan International Film Festival but before it could make it to theatres, the world paused. “The producer refused to take the OTT route and the festival tour also put on hold indefinitely.”

Doctor-turned-bureaucrat-turned writer Rehan Raza

Doctor-turned-bureaucrat-turned writer Rehan Raza | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The delay brought her the opportunity to direct a short for Amazon Prime –the Unpaused anthology. “I felt elated when the pollution vanished and the skies became blue in 15 days. I tried to bring that light touch to the story. I thought mankind is redundant on this planet.”

By bringing together two strangers during the lockdown, Tannishtha says  she wanted to show that being alone does not necessarily mean one is lonely. In the short, Archana, played by Lillete Dubey, gets irritated by the Marathi influence on the Hindi of Priyanka (Rinku Rajguru). “It reflects the stiff attitude we often carry for others without any reason. During the pandemic, people ironed out their differences but unfortunately intolerance bounced back as soon as we got some relief from the viral attack. “A war engulfed us,” she says.

The restrictive isolation was limiting, in her opinion, because people looked for conflicts, difficult to explore in imagination. She feels journalists were better placed as they saw the situation up close.”

Tannishtha thinks a surge in films on the pandemic is unlikely because people have just faced a stark reality and fiction won’t be able to match the experiences people have gone through. “Howsoever, enlightened we became during the pandemic, most filmmakers are back to discussing what works at the box office and how to match the craze of South Indian films,” she adds.

Love in the times of COVID

Rehan Raza's novel : An Odyssey Through The Dark

Rehan Raza's novel : An Odyssey Through The Dark | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A love story is the fulcrum of Dr Rehan Raza’s a gripping novel that also captures the darkness that engulfed our neighbourhood during the second wave of COVID-19. In “An Odyssey Through The Dark” (Prabhat), Dr Raza, a medical graduate-turned-civil servant  posted in Delhi’s Shahadra, gives a dramatic account of what he saw as part of the first line of defence. “We had only heard about natural disasters, bioweapons, and viruses causing large-scale destruction in fictional movies and novels. Never had I imagined that this would be a real-life global phenomenon one day.”

As a doctor, he says, he could see the health hazards and as a civil servant, he was actively involved in COVID management. “I didn’t need to rely on imagination as the heart-rending chronicles that have made it to the novel unravelled in front of my eyes.”

Dr Raza, who has written non-fiction before, says he opted for the fictional form because he couldn’t “bear the pathos and write true stories as they occurred.” “Fiction gave me the space to manoeuver the narrative and weave various disjoined strands to form a whole,” he adds.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 3:53:06 pm |