What’s common between an American performance artist gobbling up gulab jamuns, an installation of dolls shoved into bottles, and the heavily-embellished deities of Raja Ravi Varma? Each of these is a comment on “Roti Kapda Makaan”, the holy trinity of Nehruvian India, and now an exhibition of works curated by Anubhav Nath.
Art work of Rameshwar Broota, Roti.
The idea came up when Nath was busy flipping news channels on television and heard a politician promise more roti-kapda-makaan to the aam aadmi (common man). “It’s a phrase we’ve heard often and it’s an essential part of our culture (there’s even a
movie by this name). Although it’s a pre-globalized phenomenon, it’s an expression of desire for the three most basic things in our society, rather, any society: food, clothing and shelter,” says Nath.
Deepak John Mathew, Lost and Found Makaan I, details.
The exhibition, which started on 13 April in New Delhi, is an attempt to map out this pan-Indian desire through the individual expressions of artists. The participating artists include Arunkumar H.G., Balaji Ponna, Deepak John Mathew, Garima Jayadevan, Hindol Brahmbhatt, Kavita Singh Kale, Lijo Jos and Reny Lijo, Sachin G. Sebastian, Sharmila Samant, Shiv Verma, T.V. Santhosh, Vicky Roy, Zachary Becker and Zarina Hashmi. In all, there are close to 60 exhibits in photography, sculpture, paintings, video art,
installations and graphic art. Almost 80% of the exhibits are new works commissioned for the exhibition; the rest are from the existing archives of artists, including Raja Ravi Varma, Ram Rahman, Rameshwar Broota and Zarina Hashmi.
Padmini by Raja Ravi Varma
“We have tried to see where the concept of roti-kapda-makan stood in the past, to where it stands today, versus where it will stand in the future,” says Nath. Roti has been interpreted in various ways: Kavita Singh Kale’s Size Zero is an installation of dolls trapped in tiny bottles, a comment on the different types of starvation in Indian society. One, the world of showbiz, which is peopled with models starving themselves to death despite fat bank accounts, contrasted with impoverished children starving to death. Rameshwar Broota’s epic work Roti, also on exhibit, shows rotis being made at Tihar Jail.
The opening day saw a performance by American artist Zachary Becker: Trained in Excess—Sweeten the Artist’s Mouth, in which the audience fed gulab jamuns to the artist, is Becker’s take on what he terms “excessive Indian hospitality”. “He takes the concept of the roti to its ultimate extreme—roti is the most basic, and at the other end of the spectrum is gulab jamun, the richest dessert.”
The works of Raja Ravi Varma, rich and rhinestoned, are an exploration of the many definitions of kapda—“it is he who gave us the imagery of gods and goddesses as we know them”, says Nath.
Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma
Roti Kapda Makaan is on till 13 May. 11am-7pm (Mondays closed). Ojas Art, 1, AQ, Qutab Minar main roundabout. For details, call 26644145 or visit www.ojasart.com