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Caution: Artist at Work

Behind every creative type, there’s a tortured soul who puts up with the art and the angst. It’s invariably a spouse, a parent or a sibling, writes Tasneem Nashrulla.

music Updated: Mar 15, 2009 02:07 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla
Tasneem Nashrulla
Hindustan Times

Adnan Sami’s marital problems have consumed much newsprint of late, given the somewhat unusual problems the couple faces.

One of them is that Sami’s wife, Sabah Galadari complained that he played his music too loud in the house. It is possible that Galadari, daughter of a hotelier, was unaccustomed to a musician’s way of life.

Scores of people like Galadari have learned to live with the demands that creative workers thrust on their families. A photographer’s posse of subjects and assorted strangers, a musician’s call for absolute silence, an artist’s need for seclusion — these are just some of the conditions that four families we spoke to have learned to live with.

Not so picture perfect

Poet and dream analyst Charmayne D’Souza (53) has hosted some strange guests at her home. A year ago, her living room had two security guards protecting diamonds, the owners of a jewellery store, a make-up man and hairstylist, a model with the model coordinator, and a stylist accompanied by a man to iron clothes. For three days, they camped at her house for an ad shoot by her husband, photographer David DeSouza.

DeSouza (56), who has carved out a studio in their living room, says, “I love working out of my home. I can freely structure when and how I shoot.” His wife of 18 years sees it a bit differently. In those years, she’s gritted her teeth dealing with a range of people wandering through the house, especially given that she worked from home too.

“When David had his ad shoots at home, I was always fighting for space,” she says. David agrees, “Strangers walking into one’s home are always a bit of a nuisance.” Especially when Charmayne had to get them food, water and other odds and ends.

Over the years, they’ve worked out their space issues. Ground rules have been laid for David’s shoots: everyone leaves their shoes outside, guests can use only one toilet and there are time limits for each session. David says, “Life isn’t always convenient. Bringing professional commitments home has its inconveniences; the trick is how you work around them.”

Musical atyachaar

After 10 years in the music industry, 29-year-old Amit Trivedi is getting rave reviews for his offbeat compositions in Dev.D. He now works out of a studio, but until last year, he made music in the one-bedroom flat that he shares with his parents and two sisters.

Though he says his family has always been supportive of his profession, it couldn’t have been easy for them to live with a full-time musician working in the confines of their small apartment.

In fact, there was a daily battle of decibels between Amit and his sister Pallavi (31). A make-up artist and avid television buff, Pallavi liked to spend her afternoons watching her favourite soaps in the living room. And Amit used that same time slot to compose his tunes in the next room, resulting in routine squabbles between the siblings.

“The title songs of those saas-bahu serials irritated me,” grimaces Amit. “I had to constantly shout at Pallavi to lower the volume on the TV as I couldn’t concentrate on my music.”

Pallavi meanwhile, failed to understand why her brother couldn’t use his headphones to filter out the sounds from the TV set. “I had to sit in silent mode because of Amit,” she says. “He’d make me lower the volume so much that I couldn’t hear anything, so I would end up switching it off anyway.”

The other sound that annoyed the in-house musician was courtesy the family’s pet cat. Whenever it wandered into Amit’s room, all hell broke loose. “He used to yell at us to take the cat away as it disturbed him with its meowing. We all had to leave our work and rush to fetch the cat,” grumbles Pallavi.

Last year, Amit finally got his own studio. He says, “While my family gave me leeway to do whatever I wanted to, I’m happy that I can finally sit alone and work on my music.” And Pallavi, who is ecstatic about her brother’s success, is almost as thrilled that she can watch her TV sagas at full volume. And the cat now meows at leisure.

Art of living

Twelve years ago, any young children who dropped in at Bulbul Bhattacharya’s home were confined to a room. Not to be punished, but to keep them from touching the freshly painted canvases of Bulbul’s husband Sanjay (50), a Delhi-based artist. For nine years, a small room in Sanjay’s apartment doubled as his art studio till he finally bought a separate studio in 1996.

“People are not really concerned with one’s art when they visit. Children would touch my paints,” he explains. He’d find it difficult to keep calm and concentrate on his art, especially when relatives expected him to spend time with them. His reluctance to do so also meant that Bulbul had to keep relatives and guests entertained in her husband’s absence.

She admits it was tough having to live in a tiny apartment with one room always out of bounds. Despite the many inconveniences, however, she has pleasant memories of those days. “We had a love marriage when we were very young. We started our life in this small house. One learns to adjust,” she smiles.

Fashion designer turned work-at-home artist, Nahid Merchant has an equally understanding spouse in her husband, Moiz. Her bedroom-cum-studio is always bursting with canvases, colours and brushes, and she says, “My house is always such a mess because of my work. Moiz was used to a very orderly life before we got married. It must’ve been hard adjusting to all my art clutter, but he’s never complained” — save the one time he requested Nahid to stop painting in their bedroom at night.

Although her daughters have even hurt themselves a couple of times thanks to Nahid’s canvases, they support her wholeheartedly as well. So much so that they’re now pushing her to start painting again, and end the temporary break she took from work. But they have an ulterior motive, she laughs: “I get off their case when they’re home.”