Sonal Motla writes about Van Gogh 360, other art events, and the passing away of veteran artist Lalitha Lajmi

Sonal Motla writes about Van Gogh 360, other art events, and the passing away of veteran artist Lalitha Lajmi

February seems to be the most celebrated month of the year in India, specially Mumbai

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Saturday, February 18, 2023, 04:03 PM IST
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February seems to be the most celebrated month of the year in India, specially Mumbai. The air is cool and the sun is warm... the flowers dot the trees and the birds fly in flocks creating ‘V’ formations, drafting off of each other’s flapping wings. Artists and craftspeople seem to follow suit... they flock together to create a buzz of art events, shows, and festivals.

Design students are seen passionately creating exhibitions in institutions, as the academic year closes in. There is theatre and music concerts, etc., that are all brimming. Its like one big fat Indian celebration. The vibe palpable in the atmosphere and a buzz around everything joyful and hope reigns.

To begin with, this year we saw the famous Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) abuzz with activities. Some fabulous performances and the celebrated Colonial Cousins had large audiences eating out of their hands. The craft stall on Pat-Chitra, the art of story telling, the installation, Breaking all Ceiling... were varied and the spectrum rich. The light festival on Rajabai Tower was a feat. And the endeavour of NIFT students to attempt a similar projection was endearing.

Then we have the very elite India Art Fair right after that in Delhi that houses a fine section of art galleries and artworks. An extravagant commercial venture for networking and for the business of art. The who’s who of the art world host brunches and parties and it’s all colourful and buzzing.

Meanwhile, Van Gogh 360 has been luring Mumbai crowds with an immersive experience of Van Gogh paintings at the World Trade Center. Shows like these are welcome and I am sure they will open up the ingenious and creative Indian minds to create similar shows from our rich heritage of crafts and arts.

This show though is about technology. It has shown a way to the viewer to slow the pace and immerse in the beautifully animated works of the master. Though the ceiling was blank the other five sides of the room had projections of his paintings. The music was soothing and encouraged reflection. One cannot help but compare it to a similar immersive experience I had in Tokyo during one of my trips. The painting could have been different in different cubicles and the path could have been pressure sensitive interactive light. But we are happy India got it first taste in immersive art.

Amidst all of the celebrations, and as life is, there strikes a chord of melancholy… the news of Lalitha Lajmi passing away.

A sensitive soul sometimes painfully so, sister of legendary actor Guru Dutt, whose tragedy and glory are of epic proportions that overshadowed decades and continues to do so. A marriage that was tough, long and full of compromise. Mother of a talented unconventional daughter, who stood close. Her bent shoulder bore the deaths of all of them. Though the death of Kalpana Lajmi, her lioness daughter, broke her back.

A few weeks after Kalpana’s death I gathered the courage to go to Lalitha on Dussehra evening to share a cup of tea. Our conversation ran longer and more intimate than expected. She poured out her heart and grief, usually diffident about her fears and failures, it was a vulnerable but wise outpouring of her heart. She was broken; her closeness to her daughter had taken a final toll on her. She kept recollecting how Kalpana faded so hopelessly.

She then spoke of two things — her son Dev, who lives abroad, and her disillusionment of not having had her due spotlight in the art world. Later that evening, she suddenly expressed her desire to go to a devi pandal for Dussehra. She said Kalpana would take her every year but now that she isn’t there, she’d be glad if we went. Her trust and warmth had always stayed and we connected more as friends than professionals. Her being so engrossed in the aarti has etched a memory of a broken but resilient woman that stood the test of time with grace and dignity.

She passed on a week after her retrospective was hosted at the NGMA, Mumbai, with her beloved son by her side. Both her desires fulfilled, she slid peacefully into eternal slumber. Journey on dear friend...

(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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