Silencing the noise of colour
One day in 1965, Raghu Rai, now 70, was strolling through a village 60 kilometres away from Delhi along with his elder brother’s photographer friend. While this friend took photos of villagers and their farms, Raghu Rai, who also happened to be carrying a camera, was captivated by the sight of a donkey ambling through a street, and took a photograph of it.
They turned out so well that his brother submitted it to a competition run by The Times in London. Rai’s photo won, and the newspaper published it with his byline and gave him a cash prize. The amount was enough for Rai to live on for a whole month and to buy several black-and-white film rolls. Rai, who trained to be a civil engineer, also decided to become a professional photographer.
That photo, titled Baby Donkey, is one of 45 black-and-white photographs in an exhibition curated by Tasveer, a Bangalore-headquartered organisation that promotes photography in India. Titled Divine Moments, the exhibition has photos that Rai has shot across the decades, from 1965 to 2012, including a frame of Mother Teresa that Rai shot in 1970 and Two Old Men, which seems to underline the vastly different class backgrounds of its subjects.
Rai believes black-and-white photography can express shades of gray in a way that colour cannot. “Sometimes, we need to silence the noise of colour,” he said over the phone from Delhi. “A colour photo might not be able to capture the full pathos of a sad situation, because it might contain bright yellows and oranges, which represent an upbeat emotion.”
Every colour has an emotional connotation, he says, so in order to tell a story as authentically as possible, colour sometimes needs to muted or to give way to black and white.
— Riddhi Doshi
An all-new brew
Have you ever seen a store like this in any part of your country?” Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, asked at the press conference held at the company’s first coffee shop in India on Friday.
We haven’t. In fact, we haven’t seen a Starbucks like this anywhere in the world. Mumbai’s first outlet of the 41-year-old global coffee chain, which opens today, is lovely and luxurious.
Its multiple rooms and seating areas are adorned with carpets, painted chests and filigreed arches. Paisley patterns decorate the floor; photo murals of scenes from India are sprinkled across the walls.
It looks, in fact, like a perfect marriage between a Starbucks store and a Taj hotel. And understandably so. In India, the company is a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages.
We didn’t sample the wares, but the menu reflects this marriage as well. Along with French butter croissants the size of a child’s arm and chocolate cookies the size of a quarter plate, also available at the huge, two-level café at Horniman Circle are murg tikka paninis, elaichi mawa croissants, and much more.
Two more stores are due to open in the city next week — at Goregaon’s Oberoi Mall, and inside the Taj Mahal Palace — but expect crowds outside this one for at least the next few days.
Meet the meat guys
It all started when Mehernosh Khajotia, owner of Celebrations Fine Confections, posted on Facebook about this new street food stall selling pocket kebabs. We trust Khajotia's taste, so we were pretty certain this would be good stuff.
Universal Kabab Kona, as the stall is called, is owned and run by friends and partners Karl Kotha-vala, Israel Harrington and Ram Patil. It's all very hands-on. When we visited, Israel was flipping shammi-style chicken kebabs on a giant smoking hot tava, and Karl was scooping out ladlefuls of garlic-and-herb cream cheese from a tub on to paper plates.
Both of them are successful food entrepreneurs already; the stall is a more a passion project than anything else. They are a friendly bunch, very chatty and full of crazy anecdotes, so customers can expect to find out about all of this and much much more.
At the moment, it’s a one-dish business, as Karl likes to call it. Three mildly peppery and nutty chicken kebabs are popped into a semicircular pocket of fluffy bread, supplied by Celebrations, and loaded with garlicky clouds of herb-flecked cream cheese that has a small snap of chilly heat in it. We think it would work even better if the bread were lightly toasted, but that’s a minor quibble. A barely lighter version of the dish is a plate of six kebabs with a dollop of the cheese on the side. The cheese is as good as Boursin, and can also be bought by the jarful. For street food, it's pretty gourmet.
First-timers should get the pocket kabab. It's nothing like we've tasted before, yet it's instantly addictive. This is the sort of food that tastes great at any hour, but would be especially satisfying after a long day.
— Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
An American clarinetist in Versova
Shankar Tucker was 10 years old when he decided he wanted to learn how to play the saxophone. However, his parents, visual artists based in Massachusetts, USA, convinced him to learn the clarinet instead. “I think they wanted me to play a softer instrument because they were afraid I’d create a racket in the house,” says Tucker, now 25, with a laugh.
Tucker, who moved to Mumbai in 2010 to study Indian classical music under renowned flautist Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, has gained a following over the past year through his YouTube channel, TheShrutiBox. He will be playing the materials on this channel — a combination of Hindi film songs, rearranged for the clarinet, and original material — in the city on Sunday.
His interest in Indian music and culture started in childhood. His parents are devotees of Hindu spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, who resides in Kerala and travels annually to the USA as well as other countries. He was 8 years old when Mataji gave him his name and remembers getting interested in Indian music when his parents would take him for her programmes.
“At each event, there would always be a bunch of musicians singing bhajans, accompanied by tabla,” he recalls. “When I was about 12 or 13, I started jamming with these guys, even though I had no idea of the technicalities of Indian classical music.”
Tucker, a trained Western classical clarinetist, learned those technicalities eventually, during the year he spent at Pt Chaurasia’s gurukul in Juhu. He now resides in Versova, where he works on original songs and new videos. However, he does fly back to the States regularly to record and perform there as well. “I like straddling both these worlds,” he says.
— Suprateek Chatterjee
Keeping their legacies alive
New Delhi-based sitar player Shujaat Husain Khan, 52, the son and student of the legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan, is the star of the Kala Virasat festival.
He is a globetrotter who is involved in a number of musical projects.
He has played many fusion concerts abroad, and in India he combines sitar-playing with singing Sufi compositions. His father also used to sometimes sing while playing the sitar.
“I am basically a sitar player but I like to express my emotions through my voice too,” he said. “After all, the sitar cannot express all that the voice can.”
In the traditional Indian classical music hierarchy, after all, vocal music occupies the highest rung.
The concert, to be held at the Nehru Centre, will also feature Vikku Vinayakram on the ghatam, the violinist duo Ganesh and Kumaresh, saxophonist George Brooks and the qawwali troupe Chisti brothers.
— Amarendra Dhaneshwar
Being a granddaughter and student of one of the most celebrated Hindustani vocalists of our time can be a huge advantage. Your last name might be enough to draw an audience. That could be partly why Tejashree Amonkar, 27, the youngest granddaughter of Kishori Amonkar, attracted a full house last week at the Vile Parle Savarkar Kendra. Many music lovers were even willing to stand outside the small hall to listen to her.
But having to live up to the Amonkar name can also be daunting. Tejashree is aware that she has to bear the tremendous responsibility of carrying on her grandmother’s legacy. At last week’s concert, her grandmother was sitting in the first row. Fortunately, her body language seemed to reveal a quiet approval of Tejashree’s confident and competent singing of the ragas Jait Kalyan and Khokar, both specialities of the Jaipur Atrauli gharana.
That concert and the one tomorrow are essentially the platforms on which Tejashree is launching herself as a vocalist in her own right. A few years ago, she did perform at a festival organised by Pancham Nishad Creatives, where the manner in which she manipulated rhythm and played with the notes was impressive. But after that, she has mainly only offered vocal support to Kishori Amonkar at several concerts.
Tomorrow, she will be followed by a young and talented violinist Shruti Bhave Padhye.
— Amarendra Dhaneshwar
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)