Ruby Jhunjhunwala on Art
I picked up Environmental Ceramics, a book by ceramicist Stan Bitters, almost 20 years ago. He has done a lot of murals and garden works. I wanted to work with huge textures and walls and after reading Bitters’ book, I started doing ceramic murals. I’ve never met Stan Bitters, but he has greatly influenced my work. Of late, I’ve been working in naked raku, which is an unglazed form of pottery. It’s a more spontaneous form of firing and the unpredictability of the flame adds to the textures of the clay. It’s a technique of firing that’s becoming popular with a lot of potters all around the world. I want to take the raku method onto large murals and use it in environmental ceramic pieces. I like the work of English potters like Tim Andrews and Peter Hayes too. Their work shows that you can do so much with pottery without glaze.
Jhunjhunwala is a ceramic artist who lives in Pune
Anjum Hasan on Books
Memoirs of European Travel by Swami Vivekananda is a fascinating little book that was written over 1899-1900 and is replete with the obsessions of the time — race and “the new science of ethnology”; nations and how to retrieve their fallen glory. Though more history lesson than memoir, the essay reveals Vivekananda’s huge appetite for the world and a highly observant eye — his account of the spearing of a shark could give Ernest Hemingway a run for his money. Then, there are his cosmopolitan yearnings — his struggles with the French language, his interest in Greek art, the European opera singers and inventors and philosophers he counted among his friends. He is preachy too, of course, but can puncture his own pomposity by, for instance, dismissing the upper classes as “nothing but a nightmare brought on by indigestion”.
Hasan is a writer who lives in Bengaluru
Gautam Arora on Food
I have travelled a fair bit around India and I find the food in Delhi pretty interesting. The authentic desi dhabas sell the tastiest food — there must be something earthy added to the ingredients. Some of the Italian and French restaurants here, that are trying to capture authenticity in their cuisine, tend to be too contrived, or have compromised to suit the Indian palate. I admire Olive Beach restaurant in Delhi. I also like EGO and Stone for their purity. These are simple, soulful and vibrant places with a sort of homely atmosphere where you can comfortably lose track of time without necessarily drinking. That, I feel is a mark of a good place. China Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency in Delhi is among the best for food and service. The duck is amazing!
Arora runs The Living Room restaurant in Delhi
Rucha Pathak on Film
I was completely overwhelmed when I saw La Vie en rose written and directed by Olivier Dahan. The screenplay and production design were awesome. I didn’t know Edith Piaf before I saw the film but I discovered her as I watched it. La Vie en rose truly brought alive the 1930s and 40s. Piaf had an extraordinary life which was turned into an extraordinary film. I haven’t seen any biopic made in India that has managed to do something like that. I also love the work of Michel Gondry. With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind, he’s invented a new language of film-making. I felt like I could have been one of the characters in Be Kind Rewind. One of the most interesting things about Gondry’s movies is that he doesn’t use effects on the edit machine but does it all in camera. That is a lot of work in terms of budget and cinematography!
Pathak is VP, Development & Production, with UTV Spotboy and lives in Mumbai
Abhishek Mathur on Music
Right now, all of us in Advaita are into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brooks’ Nightsong. With its mix of bass and drum with qawwali and harmonium, it is a most different sounding album. Then, I like One Giant Leap, which was put together by two producers from the UK who went all over the world and recorded musicians from different cultures. So you have Baaba Maalfrom Senegal superimposed on REM, sounds from the Far East, Asha Bhosle and Maori musicians too! Really, our concept of fusion isn’t to do with just technical virtuosity. Music isn’t just for the ears. It’s inherent — just like eating. We are also very influenced by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Everything on that album flows seamlessly; one song goes into the next. We are trying to do something like that in the future.
Mathur is a guitarist with fusion band Advaita. He lives in Delhi