Monday, February 26, 2007

Shakthi foundation Part - II

The Turn Of The Ustad........ Unka Tho Sach Mein Jawaab Nahin

Every artist, in any form of art, is special in his/her own field and none can be compared to any other. The magic that each one produces with their skill is just unimaginable until one experiences that. Given a set of such breathtaking performances trying to rate them would be futile and senseless effort. But given a chance to choose the performance that left one most dumbfounded, most of the audience in that hall would have chosen THE USTAD for the day. He came in last after all the other three people had showcased their talents and produced MAGIC out of the two tabalas and his two bare hands that the hall resonated with just two sounds, one from his tabla that only he could produce and the other from the audience which was in raptures in response to his electrifying perfromance. At some point of time his fingers were moving so fast that they were barely visible. He produced all the sounds one could hear from similar instruments like the Mridangam etc in his inimitable style. Even the audience, who had started clapping in between the performances, unable to hold their ecstasy had turned totally numb on listening to the awesome magic woven by the Ustad. One could not even accept it as something that was possible by mortals and left us completely “BREATHLESS”. For a change it was someone else other than Shankar Mahadevan who had left us in that state.

Srinivas suddenly picked up a note when the ustad was just on the verge of finishing his performance and effortlessly slid into the flow of the beats contributing with his instrument and together, hoping to catch Shankar Mahadevan off guard, they stopped at a particular spot when the singer was not at the peak of his concentration. They were able to delay him only by a split second and he along with Sivamani slid back into the jugalbandhi even more smoothly. Beleive me it was just bliss.

They signed off in style after a few rounds of jugalbandhi and I was left with only one comment to Sowmya “Please shove me off some tlal building, I don’t want to continue to just exist”, to which I got the reply “I feel so small. Cha, Jumping down from the first floor one cannot even die (we were seated in the first floor of the hall).”

We couldn’t count reasons that evening to thank Shakthi Foundation. First for conducting such a wonderful event and next for the social cause they are fighting for. The performances were followed by presentation of mementos to the musicians by John Mclaughlin (the commander in Chief when it comes to guitar I was told) who had performed the year before with these musicians for Shakthi Foundation. He then went on to explain to the audience the motto behind the organization to help the physically challenged people of the society who are not exactly as fortunate as many others. They presented some prizes to some handicapped children. The first was a blind girl posing for photos of herself with the musicians, photos which she herself is not privileged to see, followed by a kid with his right hand missing. It was so encouraging to see such an organization which has dedicated and devoted itself to the cause of such people. The next one was the most moving incident. The next child was one with both his arms missing, he could even receive his certificate only by clutching it beneath his neck.

It gives a wonderful feeling even to know and see such incidents where human race tried to help itself. We returned home a happy lot that though we had not actively participated in any of the organizations activities we were at least able to contribute something to a good cause though the way of our tickets.

It baffles me as to how people who kill others for various reasons such as money, power, so called ideology etc miss this wonderful feeling of helping others, though that’s a totally different discussion altogether.

A Million Thanks To Shakthi Foundation.....

Senthil, even though he is MY friend somehow ends up with some good stuff, thanks to his contacts across the software industry. One such incident was the music show being conducted by Shakthi Foundation to raise funds for their organization. Software with all its banes, curses, medical problems etc does have some advantages though. The internet or the web architecture has nowadays become a kind of media of broadcasting things which may be of use to others.

One such mail contained information about the Music show being held at Music Academy where three musicians with THE command in their specializations were going to perform for a good cause. Having seen a video of such a programme earlier we found no better reason to say no to it and and to end up spending the time as one of our typical Saturday evenings.

We reached the place (it was the first time for me and Senthil to set foot into music academy hall, it had been nothing more than a landmark for us until that evening) in time and settled down in our seats just as the compere had started his welcome speech. The “Landmark” turned out to be a well made acoustic architecture from inside. The performers for the day were Shankar “The Breathless” Mahadevan, Mandolin “Maestro” Srinivas, “Ustad” Zakhir Hussain and “Ace Percussionist” L.Sivamani. None of us, useless non entities (Tamizhla sonna, Bhoomi Ki Bharam), had absolutely any idea of what we were going to witness.

These were, simply put, the best in their businesses and they started off with a song on Vinayagar. Then it was the turn of Srinivas to enthrall the audience with his strings. He just kept producing such vibrations from the steel wires in his instrument that kept the whole audience in pin drop silence due to rapt attention. Any bloke who had never had the slightest idea of what music is all about would have been dumb struck by the stuff that was rendered. A couple of days after the show I learnt more about this maestro from my cousin that he has customized and perfected the instrument so as to make it suitable for Karnatic music by introducing new strings in the conventional model.

Somehow I was not surprised or awed on hearing all this after hearing him play it in the function.

Then started the man who once made music out of a biriyani kadai. L.Sivamani started off with so many instruments around him (around 45-50) and started what he does best, produce Music out of those in certain combinations which were otherwise unfathomable to us. He used the conch, the bells, a few electric drums etc to produce all kinds of sounds one would even imagine out of any kind of drums. He went on to his trademark style of rotating the sticks while playing on the drums and ended with the “Kutthu” beat leaving all of us SPEECHLESS.

The software professional turned musician then stepped onto the stage along with the Ustad. He was described as Oracle’s Loss and Music’s gain. He came onto the stage and started off with his swaras and voice modulations with such music notes which only the ustad and the maestro could deal with. He varied his voice modulations with such ease and at one point even the maestro could produce his note only by taking refuge in the screws of his instrument to produce the same. All this while the ustad was just supporting Shankar Mahadevan keeping up the tempo of the performance and did not showcase any of his prowesses. But everyone was so engrossed in the mixture of swaras given by the singer. These three people went onto to a jugalbandhi with each bettering the other in their own style. Every time we heard any piece from any of these artists we were short of words to praise them, but the relish was just short lived because we could not just ignore the next legend in line.

The breathless man, along with his counterparts had rendered the audience literally “CLUELESS” as to what had hit them without even their knowledge.

To Be Continued..........

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

“Dakshina Chitra – What is that?

Some music store or some Rajasthani crafts showroom?” was what I wondered when Kaushik mentioned the place in Beasant Nagar beach.

Kaushik was suggesting a place for a photo shoot out. I joined them at Dakshina Chitra itself on the next Saturday morning at about 10 AM, just next to MGM theme park. When I went in I was not sure of what kind of place it was. There was an entry fee of Rs.50 (very cheap considering the other entertainment ventures of current day Chennai city). I paid it and went in to find a lot of boards pointing in all directions leading me to market places in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. I was confused to find all these at a place which Kaushik had said was very ideal to learn about lighting and exposure.

I called him up and joined him in the Karnataka section in recreation of a weaver’s house. That was when I understood what this place had in store for us. It primarily consists of recreation of old house structures of ancient India’s common man of the four southern states. No palaces, no gardens, no exotic looking replicas of historically valued monuments. This place gives an idea to the present day man on the pattern of everyday life of a common citizen like the Weavers of Karnataka, The Artisans of Andhra, The Brahmins and the agriculturists of Tamil Nadu and fisher folk and tourism service providers (didn’t know what else to call them, like the auyurvedic massage centers etc) of Kerala.

First of all many of us don’t even know (at least I didn’t) of the existence of such a place. It’s a no smoking zone maintained nice and clean by the people there. There is an orientation program that is held as soon as you enter to give you an idea of what that place is all about. You are then allowed to go around and explore yourself without any one there disturbing your bliss. Artisans like the glass blower (makes models out of glass tubes), the potter, the weaver, the soap and stone carvers, the painter, the fortune teller, woman who do mehndi work on your palms etc, sit there and wait for you to get interested in their creations and skills.

The moment you sit down with any one of them they explain the whole process unlike just finishing off their stuff and asking you for money. The very atmosphere is very friendly and enjoyable that you lose track of time. Moreover it is a photographer’s delight. Kaushik told me that he learns something new every time he comes to Dakhshina Chitra. We learnt a lot about exposure, metering, using bounce flash etc.

We then went on to the last kerala house where there was an attic which was fully pitch dark but for some light streaks filtering in from between the roof plates. The house had a triangle shaped top and it was supported using some wooden blocks. This had to be reached from the ground floor through an opening in the middle of the attic through a ladder. This reminded me of the wooden house that one got to see in the film “Roja” where the hero is held hostage. It was an exact structure similar to that.

I wanted to somehow capture it as it is shown in the film and squeezed myself to an awkward position near the mouth of the entrance to the attic. As it was dark nothing much was immediately visible for anyone who came up the ladder as the eye pupils had to adjust to the darkness. One set of gals came up the ladder when I was preparing for the shot and they had not seen me come up ahead of them. When the first girl came up she found me there with my camera so near to her face near the entrance to the attic that she let out a loud scream as she did not expect anyone there obviously.

That was really hilarious and was the topic of discussion for the rest of the trip that day. Kaushik even teased me saying that Dakshina Chtira had transformed me into a terrorist.

This place is a nice outing destination if your interests lie in line with these. Don’t look any further while thinking of destinations for one day trips with your friends. And if you happen to be an amateur photographer then this place is something you just cannot afford to miss.

Definitely better than a stereo type day at mayajaal or spencers.

Some photos that I took....
Memorable moments in chepauk.........................

“Hindu Paathiya ? Least in tckt denomination is 400 for squatting” I exclaimed to Senthil in the 9:30 bus.
“Enna matchuka, adhukulla pottutaana ? Dei enna da solder, adukku vera ponum da” said Senthil as he made his statement in his trademark scene podara style.
Naan thittinen “Pesikiite irundha tckt ellam vittu podium, edavadhu pannu, yen ippadi irukke.”

Came Velachery it was the turn of one more of the cricket crazy fans, my cousin, to get into the bus and get excited to the level approving the idea immediately. He then called up another of his friend and promptly persuaded him too to join with us even after mentioning it to him that we were going for Rs.1000 tickets.

I didn’t know if it was my statement or if Senthil had become more responsible suddenly but he somehow made some arrangements for the tickets. Only later did I realize that it was the biggest unifying force in our country which binds one billion people together under one roof, the inexplicable madness for the game of cricket that had made him appear responsible suddenly.

The day before the match I was just devising indigenous ways to smuggle in the camera to the ground given my new found madness towards photography. Last time around I was stopped from taking in pencil batteries. Next day due to some confusion (first time I was thanking a gal for creating the confusion) some tickets exchanged hands and we were unexpectedly rewarded with seats in Royal Sundaram Stand right behind the sight screen. That was the best view of the ground by all standards and thanks to my prayers, cameras were allowed without any checking at all. But then we smuggled in extra batteries with the help of Ravi’s inhaler (Ravi told the security that it was the inhaler in his pocket and for the first time his wheezing also proved useful ;-) ).

We were seated away from Senthil and the other folks who had turned up for the match. We kept on clicking endlessly during the nets before the match and when the captains walked in for the toss the atmosphere was electrifying. Amidst all the posters, advertisement banners and others the ground by itself provided all the colors in the RGB palette across the most lively stands in the ground as against the most boring stands (near the pavilion).

Utthappa, sachin and dravid played some scintillating shots and it was so good to watch these shot executions in person rather than from a television feed which we all misinterpret to be a live feed from the ground. Many people argue that nothing much is visible from that distance in the cricket ground from the stands. What can I say to these people, they just got to grow up and learn more about the game. Too bad DADA and Dhoni were rested for that game. One rare occurrence of the match was that Sachin’s wicket was, for the first time in the history of the game, greeted with some applause, The local guy Dinesh Karthik was due next.

As is the middle name of our team “inconsistency” the Indians unfailingly wasted a nice start and were bundled out for 260+. Then came in the West Indians to bat and Agarkar plucked the first wicket off the first ball of the innings. A few more wickets and we were expecting an early finish when Samuels came back to form. Maybe a census would give us more encouraging facts about the not-so-great players to have become sensational match winners by either discovering the real talent in them or else coming back to form with a bang after a prolonged slump, just after one tour to India.

The money spent on the match was worth every penny of it to have seen both the greats of this generation play in the same match against each other and both performing so well. The shots looked more elegant in person than on TV. The lethal pace and swing of the ball were really breathtaking and was totally an out of the world experience to know what serious international cricket is all about.

Then walked in the other GOD of the game, undoubtedly the most stylish player of all times, the only other run machine or mortal who could ever be talked about in the same ranks of the little master. BRIAN CHARLES LARA must have felt he was playing in Trinidad (his home ground) given the loud cheers that he received.

The group of guys behind us kept nagging my cousin to go out to the snack stall cause every time coincidentally during the second innings wickets fell when he went out. Little did they know that such stupid superstitions were only for lesser mortals like us and that these were beyond the cricketing great who was at the crease. Ravi even tried it once only to understand the truth in the previous line even better.

Lara massacred the Indian bowling line up ruthlessly with his array of shots flowing from his willow. He showed why he was also a master of the game and still remained simply unstoppable on his day. He went on to elegantly win the match with such nonchalance and disrespect for the Indian bowlers that even the Indian crowd forgot all about the dismal performance of the home team and started cheering the West Indian Legend.

Once the match was over we took some snaps of the whole empty ground, picturing the devastation after the storm had calmed down. Broken chairs, half burnt posters, torn banners and scattered piece of the wood was the picture that the ground presented.

It would have been perfect had the Indian team won the match but then we would not have got to watch the Little Caribbean Master in action. All of us went home happy people, even though internally the dejection was there that India had lost a match,
Lara’s Knock was enough consolation for every true fan of the game of cricket.

Some photos that i took......