YS Alone on Art
Dalit painter Savi Sawarkar’s painting Foundation of India questions the idea of India as a modern nation through its depiction of the Chaturvarna caste system. The painting’s lower ends show the shudras and the ati-shudras leaving the system’s folds and embracing Buddhism. Sawarkar’s other important work Freedom to Devdasi shows the life of an untouchable girl made to become a devdasi and used as a sex object by the upper caste priests. Her hand embracing the Dhamma Chakra indicates her ability to reject the Brahmanic doctrine and embrace Buddhism for her own dignity.
Alone is a Delhi-based professor of art history
Aditi Mathur Kumar on Books
The Palace of Illusions is a beautiful re-telling of the Mahabharata, from the point of view of its most controversial female character, Draupadi. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s story starts and grows with Draupadi (or Panchali). The portrayal of Krishna is enchanting and the unrequited love angle with Karna is moving. All this in the crisp and fluid writing style of Divakaruni make for an engrossing read.
Kumar is the author of Soldier & Spice: An Army Wife
Vidya Shah on Music
To give the ghazal mainstream status was Begum Akhtar’s biggest contribution to Indian music. Several Urdu poets became popular when she sang their work. The timbre of her voice is exceptional and, to a music lover, has the quality of beautiful, haunting ringing in your ear. The slight deflection, the patti as it was called, became synonymous with her. Whether it was Behzaad’s Diwana banana hai or the soulful Koyaliya mat kar pukar, her renditions seemed like a reflection of her own life.
Shah is a singer, writ er and social acti vist
Kaushik Bhaumik on Film
Robert Altman’s 1970 masterpiece Brewster McCloud is about a young geek who constructs a machine that will allow him to fly. Sexual repression, politics and pop-culture mix in sublimely perfect proportions. The film’s final sequence shot in the then newly made Houston Astrodome is a stunner. The irony of wanting to fly a Da Vinci inspired archaic machine in a postmodern building celebrating the conquest of outer space is both vicious and touching. A perfect film for our times, marked as much by youthful precocity as it is by abject desperation.
Bhaumik is a professor, School of Arts and Aestheti cs, JNU
Shilarna Vaze on Food
I am never disappointed when I dine at Gajalee, in Vile Parle, Mumbai. This seafood restaurant always has patrons waiting for over an hour outside; a testament to how good it is. What started off as a tiny hole-in-the-wall has become an esteemed establishment, with a chain of restaurants across Mumbai, Mangalore and Singapore. I don’t even need to look at their extensive menu, because I’ve indulged there so often. Dishes prepared to perfection include the fried bombil, tandoori crab and mutton sukka masala. Gajalee, in my opinion lives up to its motto — ‘first choice for best seafood.’
Vaze is a chef, writer and host of the TV show Style Chef