Friday, February 4, 2011

Gandhi all the way

India has been majorly a leader-driven country. Since time immemorial, the country has seen one powerful force driving a huge mass. But the scenario is changing today. People have become more individualistic and self-oriented. But one personality that still influences the country is none other than our own Bapu.

When in November last year, I went for an art exhibition in Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, I realized how Gandhi still inspires the creative rush of the Indians. The exhibition named 'Freedom to March- Rediscovering Gandhi through Dandi' had some of the best artistes of the country — A. Ramachandran, Atul Dodiya, Hindol Bhrambhatt, KG Subramanyan, Sudhir Patwardhan to name a few; who tried to understand Gandhi by taking the salt march as the inspiration and how he can be put into contemporary art practices.

Bapu has been portrayed in the present context, that is, once a great leader has now become a brand of anything Indian. Also a very interesting observation is the print work by Manjunath Kamath where he has turned the followers of the Mahatma the other way round in the famous gyarah murti to show how Gandhi and his followers today have part ways. Being a college student and having my own reservations about Gandhian idealogies, it is something I totally relate to, as my generation does not connect to him. Having discussed in length about his model of development during college lectures, his theories seem hypothetical and in the bid for becoming the next super power, his principles don't fit in the current circumstances. Therefore, there has been parting of ways and Gandhi's wisdom has become a mass of utopian dialogue as depicted in Sukesan Kanka's painting, Pinch of Salty Dream.

After independence, there has been a mass commercialisation of Gandhiji. Manjunath Kamath's painting on a packaging designed for Dandi salt named Gandhigiri is one of the metaphor of the phenomenon. Atul Dodiya's canvas print and the ten unique photographs of families and tourists visiting Dandi, under the name 'Picnic at Dandi' overshadows the Great march to Dandi and it's message. Probir Gupta's installation, 'The National Product and Many More' shows Gandhi lost amidst the 'Hari' jans(symbolised by a sexologist in a red light area and a pest control shop called Hari Pest in Delhi) of today. Khadi, exclusively mass produced by Khadi Gramodyog is a fashion statement for the "intellectuals" and with famous designers like Rohit Bal, Ritu Kumar and
Manish Malhotra trying to re-invent Khadi as a major fashion trend, what is left behind is the charkha as an object symbol and spinning as an action symbol. Hence, if Khadi becomes an elite show-off, where is the original concept of rural development gone?

Finally, one installation that defines Bapu the best is Arunkumar HG's 'His Shoes', where Gandhiji's shoes has been stitched by putting together thousands of slippers. It explains Gandhi of today that he has not shaped by his own personality in our minds but it is the people who have made him what he is today in front of our eyes. His dynamic aura is what makes him a brand all over the world. We try to recognise our identity as an Indian through him and it has been our perception about him that has made Bapu what he is today.

No matter what, the Mahatma is here to live till the end of the world and his erosion in the hands of generation is what makes him a superstar; a leader.

Photo courtesy:www.