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Art and soul of the nation

Sixty Indians who keep us culturally sound, grounded and proud. Read on... Test your India Quotient

art-and-culture Updated: Aug 14, 2007 12:47 IST

Hindustan Times

Sixty Indians who keep us culturally sound, grounded and proud. Read on...

Ebrahim Alkazi: as a long-time director of the National School of Drama, he brought elegance, high-production values and vision to Hindi theatre, while grooming high-calibre actors such as Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Manohar Singh and Rohini Hattangady.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia:His father was a wrestler and wanted him to follow in his footsteps. But he was destined for other things, for becoming an internationally renowned bansuri exponent.

Rukmini Devi Arundale:Proclaimed the Mother Goddess by theosophists when she was just in her 20s and hailed for saving Bharatnatyam from oblivion by admirers, she also came close to being India’s first woman president 30 years ago. Politely, she declined.

Bhanu Athaiya:In designing the costumes for Attenborough’s Gandhi, she brought India its first Oscar.

Balasaraswati: She was born into a family of devadasis, and when she began giving public performances, Bharatnatyam was largely confined to the space of the temple. But promoted by bold art activists like E. Krishna Iyer and V. Raghavan, she made the transition from the temple to the modern stage and was celebrated as a dramatic link between old and new India. Satyajit Ray made a documentary on her called Bala.

The Bedi brothers:Naresh and Rajesh have used their camera to capture India’s wildlife in its natural habitat.

Bikash Bhattacharjee: the Kolkata-based painter is an Indian icon for his powerful realistic images of Indian life.

Ganapati SaTpathi:now in his 70s, is the only Indian shilpkaar or traditional sculptor to be honoured as a master craftsman by both the government and by the people.

Prithviraj Kapoor: Better known for stentorian performances in films like Mughal-e-Azam, his greater contribution was to the stage.

Laurie Baker: was a British-born architect whose innovative work in low-cost housing won him a Padma Shri and the affection and admiration of many Indians.

Ammanur Madhava Chakyar


was born to the well-known Ammanur Chakyar family, which played a seminal role in reviving the oldest Sanksrit theatre form of India — Kudiyattam.

Nek Chand:When Chandigarh was being designed as a modern urban utopia by Le Corbusier, a road inspector from the Public Works Department started collecting waste material to surreptitiously build his own little fantasy sculpture garden in the city.

Hafeez Contractor: the architect is associated with everything from the National Stock Exchange to the DLF City Centre and the Hiranandani Gardens in Mumbai.

Charles Correa:is internationally recognised for adapting modernist architecture to the complex needs of contemporary India and for meeting the urban needs of our third world cities.

VS Gaitonde: one of the founder members of the Progressive Art Group, which self-consciously set out to be “modern” in the European sense, he is now as well known for his abstracts as Hussain is for his figurative art.

Pannalal Ghosh: his khayal renditions had a great fullness to them, blending both melody and rhythm.

MS Subbulakshmi: Pandit Nehru called MS Subbulakshmi the “Queen of Song.” She stopped singing on stage after her husband died in 1997.

Subodh Gupta:the artist works in a wide range of media, but it is his installations that win a lot of praise.

Safdar Hashmi: was a great promoter of street theatre, which he believed could play a key role in spreading political consciousness among people, helping them voice protest and even unionise.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi: Though he is the most famous pupil of the Kirana Gharana, he also absorbed other musical styles to create his own distinctive idiom.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan: At a time when the most popular playback singers used to take home just Rs 500 per song, he demanded 50 times that price to sing for Mughal-e-Azam.

Ustad Bismillah Khan: He ushered in India’s independence from the ramparts of Red Fort with the ancient Raga Kaafi, that married North and South, urban and rural, classical and folk India.

Yamini Krishnamurthi: Her charisma and sheer stage presence remain unmatched in the annals of dance in modern India.

Ram Kumar:Armed with an MA in Economics and acclaimed as a writer of short stories in Hindi, he found his true calling in painting.

Birju Maharaj:

there has been no looking back since he gave his first stage performance at the age of seven. The Kathak maestro has also composed dance dramas like Gobardhan Leela, Makhan Chori, and Phag Bahar.

Sudhir Dar: The Censor Board is watching a film for obscenity and violence, for all the good stuff that can be canned. And then someone snickers, “Shall we see it again?” That’s a Sudhir Dar cartoon for you.

Anjolie Ela Menon:From a triptych inspired by the kavariyas annual march to the Ganga, to glass sculptures of baby Krishna, she is a beloved and celebrated Indian painter.

Ramankutty Nair:was associated with Kalamandalam in Kerala, which was a cradle of excellence in Kathakali for 48 years.

Akbar Padamsee:he is famous for his metascapes, which are a non-figurative development of landscapes, like in Ram Kumar’s work.

Mike Pandey:His documentary film on the subject led to a ban on the killing of white sharks off Indian shores.

Dada Sahib Phalke:his interests and expertise ranged from photography, lithography, architecture, amateur dramatics to illusionist tricks. And when he made Raja Harishchandra, the first Indian movie with sound, he bought every one of these skills to bear on this project.

B Prabha’soils and watercolours were a response to the Indian woman’s daily struggle for survival.

Pushpamala N: in a continuing homage to popular culture, she has famously photographed herself essaying the exploits of Nadia, the famous hunterwali of yesteryears.

Raghu Rai: it was quite early in his career that he impressed the father of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson himself. Rai has since blazed the trail for the Indian picture essay with a social conscience.

Ganesh Pyne:just another artist walking in the footsteps of Abanindranath Tagore until he joined an animation studio and discovered cartoons, Kolkata-based Pyne has since carved a niche for himself as a master fantasist.

Gautam Rajadhyaksha: first nudged into glamour photography by his college-friend Shabana Azmi, his signature style of soft-focus portraiture of film stars and models made his images the ‘Look’ of the 70s and 80s.

Raja and Radha Reddy: they were married when she was five and he 11. Today, they are the most famous Kuchipudi couple in the dance scene.

Ravinder Reddy:

in his work, the Hindu sculptural tradition meets American pop sensibility.

Jamini Roy:trailing in the footsteps of his tutor Abanindranth Tagore, Jamini Roy’s art really came into its own after his encounter with the Kalighat folk idiom.

Shyam Benegal:since his first film Ankur in 1973, Shyam Benegal and his evocatively named Sahyadri Films Company have consistently given Indian cinema the depth and alternative identity to distinguish itself from ‘regular’ Bollywood.

Mrinalini Sarabhai:with a renowned barrister for a father, a pioneering nuclear physicist for a husband and Captain Laxmi Sehgal for a sister, she could have got lost in her august family. Instead, she made her mark as an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer.

Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma:traditionally, the teaching and performing of Kuchipudi is limited to males, and a guru of great significance is Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma.

Pandit Ravi Shankar: he has said, “The magic in music only happens when the artist serves it with love and joy and the listeners receive it with the same spirit.” With his admirers spread out from east to west, from Satyajit Ray to Philip Glass and George Harrison, from Yehudi Menuhin to fellow sitarist Vilayat Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar has made magic for over half a century now.

Uday Shankar:with ballets based on Hindu mythology, he wowed the international star, Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova herself. Uday Shankar’s Indian theme dances popularised a new, hybrid aesthetic all the way from Almora to Paris.

Raghubir Singh: he brought out some of the earliest Indian coffee-table books, and continued to use this method to put his photographs in the public domain throughout his career.

FN Souza: lauded as a cartoonist in oil by a noted critic, F.N. Souza was yet another Indian ‘progressive’ artist who painted Indian themes in the idiom of the West and achieved recognition in prestigious Western art circles.

L Subramaniam:the internationally acclaimed Carnatic violinist is also associated with some interesting fusion music.

Thota Vaikuntam:Working as a mapmaker in Guntur, Vaikuntam drew in his spare time. He was discovered 15 years ago by artist Laxman Goud, out scouting new talent for the then ‘happening’ Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal. Delhi and Mumbai fell on Vaikuntam’s work with hungry joy for its bold, original, “in-your-face” Indian aesthetic. Today only the very rich can afford his work.

Sitara Devi: the Kathak dancer who teamed up famously for Bollywood items with dancer-choreographer Gopi Krishna was a forcefield of energy in the 60s and 70s.

RK Laxman:From the nuclear explosions to the presidential election and everything between, nothing escapes the “common man’s” witty commentary. His pungent chronicle deconstructs the happenings in the nation in all their absurd drama.

Mahasundari Devi:now a great-grandmother, of Ratni Village, Madhubani district, Bihar, boldly came out of purdah to work with the National Handicrafts Board as an artist. The folk art of the historic Mithila-Madhubani region is the preserve of talented women artists like her.

Pandit Jasraj: light of the Mewati Gharana, began life as a struggling young tabla player. It was his elder brother and guru, Pandit Mani Ram, who encouraged him to sing and suddenly, Hindustani classical music had a strong new voice.

Ayiyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar: was a revolutionary. Outwardly he looked a traditionalist. Musically, he was bold and daring, changing the entire format of the Carnatic concert in the 1930s and 40s, from the opening song (varnam) to the thillana (‘dancing notes’) as a lively wrap at the end.

First Published: Aug 14, 2007 00:35 IST

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