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Mumbai in the time of coronavirus pandemic

We asked six master artists — the poet Javed Akhtar, photographer Sooni Taraporevala, writer Shanta Gokhale, and artists Sudhir Patwardhan, Sudarshan Shetty and Sameer Kulavoor — what the lockdown had meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.

ht-weekend Updated: Sep 06, 2020 16:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A masked couple sits by the Arabia Sea in Mumbai.
A masked couple sits by the Arabia Sea in Mumbai.(Sooni Taraporevala)

We asked six master artists — the poet Javed Akhtar, photographer Sooni Taraporevala, writer Shanta Gokhale, and artists Sudhir Patwardhan, Sudarshan Shetty and Sameer Kulavoor — what the lockdown had meant to them.

They conveyed their responses in verse, photo, prose, sculpture, and pen and pastel on paper. Here, then, is the repository of art created for the Hindustan Times, themed on Mumbai and the lockdown.

Save, share, ponder, tweet and write in to tell us what resonated most with you, and what you’ve been created, or would have created, in response.

* Fellow Traveller (Hum-Safar) by Javed Akhtar (Translated from Urdu by Rakhshanda Jalil)

Walking barefoot, On the scorching-searing road

Melting in the heat of the sun , Carrying their bundle of hunger and thirst

Both have set out from the Big City, To return to their small house in their small village

The house, That is far, far beyond. The strength of their feet, And the resolve in their heart

Who knows how far away?...

READ THE WHOLE POEM AND WATCH JAVED AKHTAR RECITE IT IN THE ORIGINAL URDU, HERE

ALSO SEE | Watch: Javed Akhtar recites Hum-safar (Co-travellers)

* Our need for human connection remains: Sooni Taraporevala

Pictured at top is the image (35mm shot on a Leica M10). Here’s how the image happened

“…I found this couple deep in conversation, she seemed agitated, and he was comforting her by just listening. He glanced up, saw me with my camera, I gestured to ask if it was okay to shoot — he nodded “yes” — went back to her and never glanced at me again.

“What this photo says to me is that our need for human touch and physical contact will never disappear.”

TO READ THE ENTIRE ACCOUNT BY TARAPOREVALA, A PADMA SHRI AND AWARD-WINNING CHRONICLER OF MUMBAI, GO HERE

* A Walk in the Park by Shanta Gokhale

At 80, Jayantrao Chowdhary is spry… He pulls on his ankle length socks, brown canvas shoes and he’s ready to go…

[His wife] Suman says, ‘One minute. I’d like to make a superfluous point. We are under lockdown. There’s a virus wandering outside. It’s blind. It can’t see who is fit or unfit. Today’s paper says...’

‘The reason why I haven’t read it is I don’t want to know.’

Jayantrao places one canvas-covered foot outside the door.

‘In that case, there is something else I’d like to say.’

‘Make it quick.’

‘If you bring the virus home I’m going to mother’s.’

‘Your mother died 12 years ago.’…

TO READ THE WHOLE STORY, ABOUT A WIFE WHO WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO PROTECT HER HUSAND (AND HERSELF), WRITTEN BY THE SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI AWARDEE, GO HERE

* Departure by Sudhir Patwardhan

The migrant is not a new figure in Sudhir Patwardhan’s work. “I have been painting people who lived in the city, but this is the first time I’m painting them as migrants; the migrant in a condition of absolute precarity. Whether they can return to being residents of a city is an open question,” he says.

“The city was home to everyone, despite all contrasts and differences in economic positions,” he added. “But this crisis brought home the frailty of that view. For so many thousands of people, Bombay could not be home. They were forced to leave.”

ALSO SEE | Photos: Artist Sudhir’s Patwardhan’s Mumbai

TO SEE THE PASTEL ON PAPER CREATED BY THE RENOWNED ARTIST, AND READ THE FULL ACOUNT OF HOW IT WAS CONCEIVED, GO HERE

* Dysfunctional by Sameer Kulavoor

Ever since Covid-19 restrictions were imposed in March, I have missed seeing and doing things I enjoy in the city. People-watching, cab rides, the normalcy of social interactions at restaurants, cafés, shops, the fast pace of the metropolis – they’re ingredients essential to my art practice…

I have felt mostly dysfunctional through the last few months. And I have turned my eye to objects and things at home. I collect different kinds of scissors; they’re very interesting as a functional object and a piece of design. Two parts must work together in order to be of any use — like any good partnership.

One thing led to another and I ended up drawing different versions of dysfunctional scissors…

TO SEE THE WORK IN PEN AND INK ON PAPER BY THE RENOWNED ARTIST AND READ HOW IT WAS BORN, GO HERE

* For All That We Gather by Sudarshan Shetty

Pots, pans, shoes, rolled-up bedding, a metallic box, a gunny sack: these are the meagre possessions that speak to us of a family’s life. It is easy to assume that the family in question is poor, and that these possessions have been abandoned in haste, but that’s not all that artist Sudarshan Shetty would want you to think about.

Standing 7 feet tall, this new work is carved out of re-used wood that has been collected from various dismantled structures in and around Mumbai. “While this piece may open up a space for multiple stories of the imaginary person in question, it may also evoke a sense of a foreboding absence,” Shetty says…

TO SEE THE SCULPTURAL INSTALLATION IN REUSED TEAK CREATED BY THE RENOWNED ARTIST AND READ HOW IT CAME ABOUT, GO HERE

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