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Discovery

 

( Published in "Studio Systems" January-February 2003)

 

The beginning of the New Year 2003 saw me being interviewed by the Discovery channel. A few months back, Bill Day, their researcher, had talked to me on the possibility of an extensive interview for a proposed film on Pop Culture. Soon I was to receive a letter informing me that Wilton Films of London, England had been commissioned by France5 television, the Discovery Channel, Discovery India, Discovery Asia, and Discovery Latin America to produce a landmark series on the history of Pop Culture around the world.  A 3 hour documentary series that covers Music, Film and Fashion during the 60's & 70's & 80's from many different countries, it was to be shown in over 60 countries throughout the world as a documentary special. David Bowie was being asked to take on the role of series presenter and the film was to interview Rock & Pop stars from countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Hong Kong besides India. As Bill said, the universality of the impact of the Rock music of the sixties on the artists of the world was unique and it changed many a life. I know that it certainly changed mine!

 

The importance of academic researched studies of the Arts and the documentation of cultural events as they happen over the years cannot be undervalued. The work done by channels like ‘Discovery’, “National Geographic’ is truly exemplary.  They are using the best of technology and all the resources at their disposal to archive the treasures of our heritage, a fact that we, as Indians may only realize when it is too late. Our vibrant Indian Culture, in all its manifestations needs to be documented truthfully and sincerely so that our children can benefit in the future. The ‘Non Resident Indian’ is a classic case of the aberrations possible due to the lack of this. The Hindi films of yesteryear have become the only vehicles through which second and third generation Indians abroad have learnt about the motherland. These outlandish, melodramatic, fantasy based films made with the intention of entertaining the ‘lowest common denominator’ Indians have served to give a truly distorted picture of the Indian psyche and it is indeed tragic-comical to watch these ‘NRIs’ go through their ‘filmy’ routines in their day-to-day lives. They cannot really be blamed as until the recent low budget Hinglish films, there has been no adequate real representation of the real India of their liking as a replacement. Even if it was there, I wonder if they would watch it after that heady Hindi filmy fare of song and dance they have become addicted to!

 

Workshops & Architecture

 

The use of workshops to spread knowledge by instilling curiosity and actual hands-on experience is one of the best ways to educate the thousands of students in our nation. Brought up on a diet of text-book knowledge which almost never seems to work in the real world, our students find themselves misfits when they graduate and take ages to assimilate within the job market. The interactions with professionals in their chosen fields is another major plus point as a few words of wisdom from the proper source can save many months of heartache. The Audio Engineering Society, India section has started using this technique extensively in recent times to reach out to students in all disciplines through their Audio Awareness workshops. The recent workshops in Architecture colleges are indeed a step in the right direction in their quest to improve the knowledge of its members and the discerning public in the world of Audio.

 

The discipline of Architecture, a mixture of science and the arts, of technique and aesthetics is indeed a fascinating subject for a student who is both creative and clinical. Using engineering concepts aesthetically and efficiently is the aim of this discipline and AES India through its workshops is trying to impress the future architects of our nation, the importance of Audio in their designs. In today’s world superficiality rules, which has resulted in the lobbies of our newly designed beautiful looking hospitals and hotels sounding like crowded railway stations! A little care towards acoustic design and choice of interior design material could have resulted in these structures satisfying noise parameters and give a quality experience to its patrons.

 

The crores of rupees spent in building these colossal structures can easily justify the trouble it might take to satisfy these considerations. I recently had to spend a sleepless night in a spanking newly built hospital in Mumbai. The hospital which is equivalent to any five star hotel (at least, it charges as much!) has beautifully done-up huge rooms. However the coughing of a patient a few beds away was reverberating and reflecting throughout the entire room resulting in unbearable amplified noise in a supposedly restorative environment. The obsession with glass and granite had made the room an acoustic nightmare with total disregard to the comfort of the patients in the hospital. Sadly the lack of choices and the general callousness of the paying public will mean that this state of affairs will go on.  AES India wishes that these workshops will make our prospective architects aware of considerations like these and we can hope for a better future.

 

Explorations of a Text

 

Talking about workshops, a novel experimental workshop on the use of various creative arts in the workplace is being planned starting 11th January in the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, JUHU. Called “Explorations of a Text”, the format of the week-long workshop would be to take the students through a famous theatre script like “King Lear” and have experts from different art disciplines expose the students on its various facets in the process of seeing it being performed. A university professor would brief the students about literary & theatrical aspects after which a film personality would take them through 3-4 film versions (along with film screenings) on the first two days. After this initial briefing, Gurus from Music, Dance, Painting and Theatre would expose the students to their various art forms and at the end of the fourth day create a 5-7 minute piece which is based on the text or an idea in the text. This work could be very work-in-progress type and it could also be independent or could be collaborative in terms of a mix of dance and music and painting, too.

 

Ramu Ramanathan, the theatre playwright/director and creator/moderator of this workshop has invited me to be the Music Guru for this workshop and it promises to be as exciting for me as I am sure it will be for the students. In today’s media-driven world, the importance of Sound Design with the judicious use of music can be a very powerful creative tool in the hands of a skilled artist. The workshop, with its exposure to various art forms and the experience of actually seeing creative artists work their art would be an invaluable experience. The creation of an original piece at the end would give the students a definite high and studying would become such a pleasure. You can be sure that this is one workshop I would never miss!

 

The Three Curses

 

The Three Curses hampering India’s development Corruption, Crime & Communalism were once again highlighted at the first H.M. Trivedi Annual lecture by Dr Hannan Ezekiel at the Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce. Dr Ezekiel, the eminent economist, ex International Monetary Fund, ex director IFPRI, the former director of Tata Economic Consultancies and former editor, Economic Times, Mumbai also happens to be my uncle who now lives in Washington D.C. “Competitiveness in Indian Industry” was the topic of his lecture and Dr Ezekiel, in his lucid style described the various malaises that affect the Indian economy. His enormous experience in the Indian scenario over the last 40 years and the statistical data of the disastrous growth rates in the earlier decades of India’s freedom with the insistence of the earlier governments to stick to out-dated Socialistic models made it amply clear that India could climb out of the hole it finds itself today, if present policies of Liberalization are hastened.

 

However, for any program to show results, minimum requirements of intention, pride, moral character, patriotism etc. within the people are a must. Unfortunately, moral degradation has reached a new low in the Indian public. Today, Corruption, Crime & Communalism hampers the growth of every Industry in the nation. This is true, both in the Government and with the public at large. It was indeed ironic that what was essentially a lecture on economic issues became a lecture on how Indians need to behave themselves! If only the three Cs could be greatly reduced, India could see a massive surge in wealth that could empower the Indian populace. India could then attain the potential that it always threatened to show and become the rich and proud nation that it once was. A patriotic, spiritual revolution which can uplift the spirit of us Indians is the urgent need of the hour. Is there anybody out there?? 

 

Nandu Bhende

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