Dilip Banerjee on photos
I find Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work hugely inspiring. He was the guru of capturing the fleeting moment. His strong visual language could capture a whole community and in a single photograph tell much of its story. His pictures are riddled with references that establish the subject in a much wider context. Many of his works are also satirical. Cartier- Bresson’s pictures quite literally arrest a transitory moment because he always played a strict documenter who never meddled with the subject. This makes his work not just brilliant but also extremely honest. Among Indian photographers it would have to be TS Satyan who I hold in highest esteem. He is India’s finest and captures the common man with uncommon honesty.
Banerjee is a Delhi-based photojournalist
Sunil Gangopadhyay on books
I recently read Nine Lives by William Dalrymple and found it very interesting. Dalrymple has written about odd superstitious practices in our country in a very fascinating manner. These aren’t practices that the average educated person in a city in this century would be aware of. What’s great about the book is that the author has travelled to different places to scope out the stories and therefore, there is a feeling of authenticity about the work. Another great book is Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz. It’s not a very recent book though. It presents a picture of present-day Asian lives which is very astutely crafted. The characters are really well developed. It’s an engrossing read.
Gangopadhyay is a Kolkata-based writer
Sudha Kukreja on food
I’ve recently been to the new Vietnamese restaurant in the Taj Palace Hotel called Blue Ginger. I’d highly recommend the place primarily because it’s a brand new cuisine in Delhi. That said, the food is incredible and I like the way the menu has been put together. It’s authentic Vietnamese cuisine and all the ingredients are brought in from Vietnam. The chef and even the waitresses are Vietnamese! However, it’s not the kind of place you can go to very often since it is very expensive. Also, one wishes the ambience was a little more casual – it’s a little stiff right now. The food, though, is exquisite and makes up well for these things.
Kukreja runs seven restaurants in Delhi, including Blanco and The Kitchen Café
Samina Mishra on film
I recently saw Tibetan filmmaker Kesang Tseten’s We Homes Chaps on DVD. It’s not a very new film, but I’ve only seen it recently and loved it. It’s about a boarding school that started off as an orphanage in the colonial period, and over time morphed into an elite institution. Homes alumnus Tseten revisits his alma-mater to make this documentary which is nearly an hour long. It’s a very moving account of growing up in a boarding school. It shows with great honesty how it is possible for a film to love and be critical at the same time. It’s now available on DVD from Under Construction.
Mishra is a Delhi-based documentary filmmaker
Arjun S Ravi on music
I saw this band in Mumbai recently called the Mavyns. They’ve got a very Beatles-esque sound that mixes new British sensibilities of the Arctic Monkeys kind. That might sound sort of derivative but they’ve got a good thing going. A slightly older act is the year-old Sridhar/Thayil. There’s a lot of potential to sound pretentious but they’ve got a great understanding of what they want to create with their music. The opera noir they staged at the Prithvi Festival was pretty good. I went reluctantly, worried it might have the “what is the meaning of life” tone but it was typical Sridhar/Thayil – very dirty and sexy without being explicit. And then there are the old gourds like Scribe and Bhayanak Maut that everyone should see live. Bhayanak Maut, specially, has evolved a lot over the last year or so, since they started recording their last album. They seem to have finally found their sound and the new album has great energy. Their line-up has also changed a lot and the new vocalist is phenomenal.
Ravi is the Editor of online music magazine Indiecision. He lives in Mumbai