India Insight

Photo gallery: Revisiting Satyajit Ray through Nemai Ghosh’s lens

In an age when moviegoers bask in the fleeting “Dabangg” culture of Bollywood, a visit to an exhibition displaying the works of photographer Nemai Ghosh in Indian cinema’s centennial year is liberating. Ghosh, a Padma Shri awardee, is credited with documenting an aspect of show business that is far removed from the usual focus of the press. In a decades-long career, the accidental photographer — he held the camera for the first time in exchange for a loan — had filmmaker Satyajit Ray as his greatest muse.

“Ghosh’s photographs of Ray, at home and on the sets suggest a rare intimacy, with the poignancy of these images of the master at work, directing and in many cases enacting roles,” said Pramod Kumar KG, curator of the exhibition, ‘Nemai Ghosh: Satyajit Ray and Beyond’, on display at the Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas Village.

Here’s a picture of India’s only Academy Award winner, Satyajit Ray, or Manik-da, as he was fondly called, immersed in work at his study in Calcutta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Apart from my respect for Manik-da as a person and as an artist, we had an understanding which enabled me to work in an unobtrusive way,” recalled the 79-year-old photographer. The characteristic unobtrusiveness pervades these two pictures as well — Ghosh reveals his subjects in various moods and expressions, but doesn’t intrude.
In the first picture, Ray is sitting on a trolley during a break from the filming of “Asani Sanket” (Distant Thunder, 1973). The second is another candid shot taken as the cast and crew of “Sonar Kella” (Golden Fortress, 1974) eat together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The play of ambient light is a dominant theme in Ghosh’s photography, transforming his subjects into larger-than-life people and creating a parallel storyline to their everyday cinematic existence.

Nine miracles Congress might expect from Rahul Gandhi

Now that Rahul Gandhi has assumed what many would say was his rightful place, expectations from him would be high. These will be all the more pressing within the Congress party, which will look to its new vice president to help it retain power. Here is a list of those possible expectations: Hook the young ones: Gandhi is widely presented as the youthful face of the 128-year-old Congress party. At 42, he is the youngest leader in the highest ranks. With 70 percent of India’s population below the age of 35, today’s young people form an irresistible voting bloc to court. Target Dalits and “backward” classes: Rahul Gandhi’s visits to the homes of Dalits and so-called backward classes, in particular in rural India, have been well recorded. You could say that it’s just politics and public relations, but Congress needs to show more support for groups that often gravitate toward smaller regional parties. Duplicate NSUI and Youth Wing experiments: This means tackling what federal minister Jairam Ramesh called “structural problems” within Congress. Gandhi has brought about vital electoral and membership reforms in the Congress’s Youth Wing as well as its National Students Union of India, providing a wider gateway for people to enter politics. Many Congress delegates at the party’s meeting in Jaipur demanded similar progress. At the moment, members in the top Congress body are nominated, and candidates for election are usually hand picked by the party high command. Image makeover: Congress needs an image makeover in the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2014. Rahul Gandhi’s relatively clean image and straight-talk against graft could be the party’s hope at a time when corruption scandals threaten to end its 10-year rule at the center. New alliances, preserving old friends: Who knew that lacking political experience would be a job qualification? Gandhi, with this important note on his CV, can forge new alliances and nurture old friendships that are prone to developing cracks. The “Gandhi” name: The name and the party have been intertwined since India’s independence. Whether the brand value behind the name is good or bad is sometimes hard to say. Rahul Gandhi has a chance to eliminate the need to ask the question. If he can eliminate or minimize fighting among party members, this will help. Ground realities: Congress has been accused of being out of touch with reality. Gandhi will need to project a friendly face and speak realistic words to help the party’s image. Speaking of which… speak up: Though Rahul has been a politician for nine years, public speaking has not been his forte. He has rarely expressed his opinion on various burning topics. This has emboldened the opposition and given the media evidence to say that he is not ready for senior management. It’s time to share. Lead India into the new century: A thumping victory in the 2014 elections with Gandhi as vice president and leader of the party’s campaign committee for the elections would be nice. Congress workers will hope that he will be the party’s prime ministerial candidate as well, a trump card in the face of regional and hostile forces such as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister (and former Congress ally) Mamata Banerjee. That said, some dreams may be a little too unrealistic for now.

Why Rahul Gandhi stepped into the spotlight

The Congress has for a long time acknowledged Rahul Gandhi as heir apparent and several party members had openly said that he is their leader. Which means his appointment on Saturday as the party’s vice president — a post just below that of Congress chief and Rahul’s mother Sonia — was in many ways just a matter of finding him a suitable title.

So why should it matter?

One reason for Gandhi’s long-awaited promotion was to energise the party for a round of state elections in the run-up to the national elections in 2014. The Congress remains a party which derives its charisma from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and party workers openly swoon over the family. News of Gandhi’s appointment was greeted with fireworks and proclamations by party leaders of brighter days ahead.

Congress leader RPN Singh said this would be a “game changer” which would infuse “new vigour” in the party.

Rahul Gandhi takes first step in race to be India’s next PM

It’s the news some Congress leaders have waited for with bated breath. On Saturday, spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi announced the party’s decision to make Rahul Gandhi its vice-president.

Pressure had been mounting on the “young emperor” from within the troubled party to take charge. For years, Gandhi had shown no inclination to do so. But with his formal promotion to the party’s number two position next to mother Sonia, the 42-year-old is ready to claim the throne of the world’s largest democracy in the 2014 elections.

Here’s the latest from around the web.

Major changes in Congress with Rahul Gandhi as vice-president

Rahul’s elevation in Congress comes as no surprise: BJP

Congress gives Rahul Gandhi official status to take major decisions: Samajwadi Party

‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ meets ‘Indian Idol’ in West Bengal

(Any career-destroying attempts at irony or humour are the responsibility of the author, and not of the chief ministers of Gujarat or West Bengal or any of their associates.)

Everybody’s talking about how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has fostered fair weather for businesses and investors in his state. Maybe he’s making it too easy. In West Bengal, it looks like investors and business people must work a little harder for their returns. Take a look at that state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. She isn’t just making business people and investors work for their profits; she’s making them sing.

From India Today:

An industrialist climbing the dais at an investors’ summit to sing a popular Rabindra Sangeet. The perhaps unseen scene was made possible on Tuesday courtesy West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee .

Firing on LoC: Blame game and spillovers continue

Firing between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed region of Kashmir has left five soldiers dead (two Indians and three Pakistanis). In India, the issue became a front-page story with the media expressing outrage over reports that the body of one Indian soldier was allegedly mutilated by the Pakistanis.

The incident fuelled tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and Indian political parties have minced no words in their calls for retribution.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday called the act “barbaric” and said it was no more “business as usual” with Islamabad.

LoC killings: Is a third-party probe the way ahead?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The death toll on the Line of Control in Kashmir is four since Jan. 6: two from India’s military, two from Pakistan’s. One thing is sure: neither side started it, judging by what you hear from both countries’ armed forces and from media reports.

The killings threaten to muffle talk of a thaw in relations, something that would have been welcome after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and years of fighting and death in Kashmir before a 2003 ceasefire.

Interview: Satisfied with response from police, government: rape victim’s father

Five men accused of the rape and murder of the 23-year-old student appeared in court on Monday to hear charges against them.

Reuters’ Shashank Chouhan interviewed the rape victim’s father over telephone. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Why did you reveal your daughter’s identity to a UK newspaper?
A: When the (new) law will be made, it has to be made after the girl’s name. There is nothing wrong in giving out the name – it is not for any wrong purpose. It will not harm anyone nor should anyone object. Nothing objectionable is being said or written. That is why I gave the name.

Photo gallery: Cold snap hits Delhi

Delhi winters typically are short, but they also get cold. This winter has been one of the worst in more than four decades. Temperatures have fallen to just above the freezing mark, and on Thursday rose to no more than 9.8 degrees Celsius, or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Media reports say over 100 people have died in northern India as a result of the cold.

Temperatures like these are intolerable for people in a city like Delhi, where many people spend their days and nights on the streets in much warmer weather. (Temperatures in the summer have reached highs of 49 Celsius, or 120 Fahrenheit.) Even if they have homes, they often lack heating and insulation. Here are some photos of people in Delhi during the cold snap:

Cold, they say, helps you work up an appetite for all sorts of things…

 

… and for street food:

 

And let’s not forget peanuts. The more you have them, the more you want them…

Responsibility or censorship: why Bollywood should pick

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

The mother and father of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim were cremating their daughter’s body around the same time I discovered Honey Singh, now lately known for his notorious song, “Ch**t,” or “Cu*t.” The song revolves around the singer’s vision of satisfying a woman’s lust, followed by beating her with a shoe and then moving on to other things.

While India convulses over its people’s shameful treatment of women, its inadequate rape laws and questions about how to change an entire society, Singh’s star has been rising in Bollywood. The industry apparently likes what it hears.

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