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    The Editorial - ARTISTS AND AFTERLIVES - TMYS Review March 2021


     

    Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon

    Pal do pal meri kahani hai

    Pal do pal meri hasti hai

    Pal do pal meri jawani hai

     

    (In the infinite time, a poet claims his moments with a tiny story which captures his identity and creative energy.)

     

    Written by Sahir Ludhianvi, composed by Khayyam and sung by Mukesh, the philosophy of the song questions the reality of fame and permanence of talent. Was this song truly the need of a frame where Amitabh Bachchan must lend his charming melancholy to sweep the lady (Rakhi Gulzar) off her seat? Or was it a collaboration of the stalwarts, each of them restless to investigate what happens to the larger-than-life personalities when life ceases?

    The 1976 film (Kabhi Kabhie) and the song stirred the audience and participants alike. Most of the contributors to the composition faded away at different phases of time, leaving the questions to be passed on to and pursued by those who remained. Questions on the waves of life that lashes only once.

    Or does it?

     

    ‘Death’ might remain confined within the historic evidence of existence, only for flowers to be dropped on the tombstone periodically, in acceptance of the biological process that leads to it. ‘Death’ could also be the significance of a meta-presence of beings that cannot be silenced by a mere lack of attendance. The latter is a reflection on the behaviour of the living and their memories. The relationship of friends, families, audience and researchers with the remnants of the deceased then leads to an Afterlife – challenging the concept of ‘death’ as the ‘end’ – engaging with the voice of the dead, perhaps from two different realities of time, passing on the impact over generations more than one. The dead lives, through the living.

    “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” - George Eliot.

    Forgetting is nevertheless an a futile option when the deceased is closely integrated into people’s lives. Not just one or two people or a group or a family, but when there is an army of population united for their love of an icon, it is unlikely that the reference or relevance will die a ‘natural death’ along with the person in question. Artists from performing arts, primarily, build their presence on popular media over multiple platforms, spread across umpteen formats. From screen to stage, digital and televised presentations, endorsements and more recently, opinion-sharing, the scope of engagement with the audience has only enhanced exponentially – empowering them to multiply and sustain the spotlight through a presence that may actually not require the person!

    In such cosmic mystery called time, thus, the actual presence or absence is only as important as a temporal reality. It is natural for artists to find themselves spread in that boundless space, twinkling bright in a perceived galaxy. Such a legacy though is available only to a privileged few. Or should they be called destiny’s favourites?

     

    Mujhse pehle kitne shayar aaye

    Aur aakar chale gaye

    Kuch aahein bharkar laut gaye

    Kuch nagme gaakar chale gaye

    (Many poets in the past have tried to leave their imprints in that space. Few melodies stayed back; others dissolved in suppressed disappointment.)

    The most pertinent truth of this temporal reality is, it isn’t completely dependent on talent. It is rather a result of love – not the logical one but the Shakespearean one which suggests, Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The love that is borne by the audience for reasons they can faintly guess, forcefully theorise, but can never define with sufficient factuality. At best, it can be agreed as the surreal familiarity with a stranger. Because their journey becomes the perfect utopia for the masses.

    The relationship of an artist with the audience is that of mutual expectations and uncanny dependence. A platonic togetherness, a cluster of many unspoken vows. When it comes to motion pictures and films, the vows get exchanged through the stories and characters seen, felt and judged on the basis of the illusory existence. The audience holds those vows very close to their hearts; the artists reinforce them through their performance, communication and conduct.

    Under the lens of that presence-absence paradox of celebrities, where does the past/present or time/timeless construct feature?

     

     

    Woh bhi ek pal ka kissa the

    Main bhi ek pal ka kissa hoon

    Kal tumse juda ho jaunga

    Woh aaj tumhara hissa hoon

    (That was one phase of time, I am the tale of another. These celebrations and attachment that seem so real today will be called the ‘past’ in yet another phase of time.)

    Is time really so fierce and merciless? Agreed that logically people may fall out of love but can the Shakespearean love be undone? Can relationships terminate? By its very essence, does death promise a closure? Is there anything called closure?

     

     

    The year 2020 has been very cruel to Indian cinema and its artists. As the world continues to be upended by the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian film industry has lost some shining talents whose work has made magnificent contributions in furthering the Indian cinematic identity in global artscape. Audience that worships celebrities like Rishi Kapoor (1952-2020), Irrfan Khan (1967-2020), Sushant Singh Rajput (1986-2020), Saroj Khan (1948-2020), S. P. Balasubramaniam (1946-2020) and Soumitra Chatterjee (1935-2020) are yet to come to terms with the sudden demise of their favourite stars.

    The fact that the wonderful creative minds breathe no longer, is difficult to internalise. The fact that these artists have left with us an oeuvre to go back to makes us all the more appreciative of their contribution to cinema.  The famous quote by Horace echoes, “I shall not wholly die, and a great part of me will escape the grave.”

     

    The March 2021 issue of TMYS review revisits the works of the artists from various socio-cultural and political lenses from their times and the ones to follow. Rajeev Kamineni’s essay closely analyses Rishi Kapoor’s response to the pressure of family legacy, external competition and changing environmental dynamics. While the classical remodelling and stylistics are discussed in Mita Bandopadhyay’s essay on Saroj Khan, Arpita Bajpeyi argues that Saroj Khan’s dance moves established the traditional feminine characters with an agency over their bodies (and desires). Musicologist, Dr. Mekala Padmanabhan’s essay contextualises Shri S. P. Balasubramaniam’s iconic growth from the context of socio-cultural influencers. Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha pays her tribute to the iconic singer by bringing together the articles, interviews and reviews to throw light on the inner and outer world of S.P. Balasubramaniam through his life, style, personality, collaborations and work. Dr. Dev Nath Pathak sheds light on the temporality of life through Irrfan Khan’s musings, comparing the star with Rajesh Khanna’s reel character, Anand (1971). Saajan Fernandes (Lunchbox 2013), a character epitomised by Irrfan Khan, finds his internal struggles identified within the pandemic affected insecurities of the common man in Mousumi G. Banerjee’s composition. Bhaskar Choudhary draws attention towards Manny (Dil Bechara, 2020) and Mansoor (Kedarnath, 2018) – two characters played by Sushant Singh Rajput, defying the conventional heroic perfection ritualised by Bollywood. “His art lay in this deception…he was a rebel with a cause,” states Dr. Rajendra N. Paramanik and Dr. Archana Kulkarni in their collaborative revelation dissecting the mysticism and ambiguity of meanings behind Sushant’s posts on Instagram that centred around science and spirituality. Dr. Michelangelo Paganopoulos looks at Soumitra Chatterjee portraying the struggles of a father-figure from Bengal, beginning with Apu (Apur Sansar - 1959) and concluding with Khidda (Koni – 1984). Darshana Chakrabarty’s essay celebrates Chatterjee as the last figure of Bengal renaissance, the rebellious gentleman.

     

    Kal aur aayenge

    Nagmo ki khilti kaliyan chunne wale

    Mujhse behtar kehne wale

    Tumse behtar sunne wale

    (Emerging talents would usher their own musical brilliance, to feed the sensibilities of the audience from another era, turning my words into the philosophy of an obsolete voice.)

    Can art defeat time? Does its ephemerality make it more significant, the legacy of talent racing against the time? How does the concept of Afterlife hold? As Chuck Palahniuk puts it, “The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” March 2021 issue of TMYS Review seeks to explore the immortality of art and factors that eternalize artists with special focus on the film industry and the six talented artists that India lost in 2020.

    The essays carried by the issue looks at the Artists and their Afterlives from the lens of three significant constructs.

    a. The Consumers – people watching the films/shows or consuming the social media content or following the endorsements or simply imitating and loving everything that their icons seemed to love. Since people are constantly responding to art, it follows that artists are perpetually alive.

    b. Technology -  it allows works of art to be preserved or archived. This not only grants eternity to artists but can also present a historical property to contemporary audience with relevant effects and consumption preferences. The user experience granted by technology adds to the grandeur of the artist, and thus technology plays a vital role in the afterlife of an artist!

    c. The Larger-Than-Life expanse - deep contribution of an artist in furthering the cultural, social and gender responses of an era. The perceptions of perfection might exert immense pressure on the artist and yet, without those he or she is as disillusioned as the common man.

     

    Kal koi mujhko yaad kare

    Kyun koi mujhko yaad kare

    Mashroof zamana mere liye

    Kyun waqt apna barbad kare

    (Why do I hope to be remembered by the evolving generations, speeding their way through change when I have grown stagnant and lack the competence to stay in touch?)

    The lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi may have reconciled with the inevitable and inescapable truth of non-existence. But the melancholy does not consider ‘death’ or departure as the fear of an artist on the verge of his fall from stardom. Rather, it fears extinction! An obvious reality for the evolving times and its ever transforming audience. One definition of growth lies in moving on from the past and making space for new icons, fresh memories. Nonetheless, years after the melody and its philosophy moved the nation, the composition has passed the test of generations and love for the melody has surpassed the conflicts of time. This is perhaps reflective of the concept of Afterlife as a literal truth, reigning beyond the expanse of one life. Researchers might find the life and afterlife distinction transcending between a temporal reality and a permanent reality, the same art left open to interpretations and revisiting till ages and ages hence, without any attestation from the artists themselves to validate the new archives emerging hereafter on their works. Such is the pensive mystery and jubilance of Afterlife, both of which make their presence felt in the personal memoirs offered by singer Nitin Mukesh (on Rishi Kapoor), singer Hariharan (on S.P. Balasubramaniam), choreographer-director Bosco Martis (on Saroj Khan), director and casting director Mukesh Chhabra (on Sushant Singh Rajput) and Sandip Ray (on Soumitra Chatterjee). Evoking our purpose for this project, we reminisce the words of Thornton Wilder, “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”

     

    Nostalgically,

    Koral Dasgupta.

    Author

    Founder – www.tellmeyourstory.biz

    Creative & Content Head, TMYS Review

     

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