Sonal Motla talks about how the philosophy of ‘guru-shishya’ tradition has changed with time

Festivals, art openings, art shows are all in full swing and there is the rhythm of celebration in the air

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Friday, January 20, 2023, 09:07 PM IST
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Pic courtesy: Chemould Prescott Road

It’s the first socially unabashedly, palpating winter that we are experiencing. Festivals, art openings, art shows are all in full swing and there is the rhythm of celebration in the air!

Making rounds through the Art weekend in Mumbai, I visited Atul Dodhiya’s show ‘Dr. Banerjee in Dr. Kulkarni’s Nursing Home, & other paintings”. Atul is one of the luminaries of the Indian contemporary Art world and a friend. Atul and me go back almost three decades. He was out of college and embarking upon his art career and I, though younger to him was curating and collaborating “State of the Art” the first digitally aided Art show back then. Atul was reticent but sharp and focused since the start. His wife Anju, is a perfect match, she was always sharp in her insights and intellect. Both were always sincere to their work and remain so to date. The power couple of the Art world.

Having observed Atul’s growth and progress over the years, am happy to see his oeuvre blossoming with the courage and the spirit of experimentation with thought and materials. For the interested, the current show is on at Chemould Prescott until end of February. Atul was always interested in cinema. So much so that after completing his Secondary School Certificate examinations, Atul faced a dilemma; should he study to become a filmmaker or to become an artist?

We are glad he chose to be a painter.

Yet the fascination and the admiration for cinema remained and he has often revisited his love for cinema in his art. The current show has scenes from his favorite films from 50’s to 70’s and almost all the human figures are looking the other way and not facing the viewer. This is an intelligent decision as the viewer does not get lost in the persona of the actors but it shows a painterly expertise of concentrating of the form of the figures. Atul’s deft painterly skill’s are highlighted in these works that are displayed like a show reel of 24 canvasses.

Pic courtesy: Chemould Prescott Road

Though my association with Atul has been long, this was one of the first walkthrough that I was attending at the gallery.

It was encouraging to see a substantial young audience for the walkthrough. It’s imperative that the youth get interested in the Arts and Crafts for an enriched living.

It’s amazing how well informed they are as anything they need to know is at the tip of their finger.

Though it was heartening to see a young audience at Atul Dodhiyas walkthrough, I wondered if they were there to hear the artist or were having there own little party! They were enjoying oblivious to the fact that it maybe disrespectful to the speaker, who you are invited to hear.

The entire walkthrough was less than twenty min, but that too was perhaps too long for the gen Z.

Then again the instant gratification disorder seems rampant, it’s now, here and instantly. Online business is all about this speed, delivering the fastest is the competition in this era. Long back to one of my conversations with the celebrated painter Akbar Padamsee and my dear friend, we discussed if we look at evolution it’s all about gaining speed. Faster and faster is the mantra. It reflects in Art and everything around us. To reflect or to restrain is rare. To not speak one’s heart just because of seniority, is silly, irreverence then can be refreshing. To question, to debate, to voice is a healthy progression but when one sees this bordering to disrespect, or arrogance it is unsophisticated.

Visiting educational institutions I often find young students cutting the line to the elevators, not waiting to let a teacher pass, an attitude that this equation is transactional, I pay for your services and you teach, the idea of a mentor, a guide is rare. Perhaps the fault lies on the other side too, perhaps some teachers are just doing their job. Teaching as a passion is rare and the entire stress of commercialization, has turned into consumerism for all.

This can be disheartening to an old school person like me. The entire philosophy of ‘guru- shishya’ tradition is long lost. And no one is to be blamed but the society we have chosen to become.

Instant gratification is overrated, it might seem exciting to receive things at a snap of a finger, but it may rob you of the gems of waiting, dreaming and see it actualize.

Nothing right or wrong about this except that choices have corresponding consequences. We live in times where when poetry turns to rap, and perhaps a Ray film of unfurling in unspoken words is transformed into a 15 sec reel because a 30 sec reel perhaps is too slow to hold attention for this generation.. choice is ours to live with.

(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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