Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Walking with Gandhi Freaks

(Anubhav Nath and Atul Dodiya at Navsari)

(Vivek Vilasini and Atul Dodiya at Navsari)

(Viswanathan and JohnyML at Karadi)

(JohnyML, Viswanathan, Nadine, Atul Dodiya, Anubhav Nath and Vivek Vilasini at Karadi)

(Viswanathan, Atul Dodiya, JohnyML,Anubhav Nath and Vivek Vilasini at Dandi Memorial)

(Sleeping camel at the Dandi beach)

(Anubhav Nath adding salt to his stories at Dharasana while Viswanathan, Atul Dodiya and Nadine look on)

(Viswanathan and Atul Dodiya at Dharasana Salt Fields)

(JohnyML at Dharasana Salt fields)

(JohnyML posing with the copy of Indian Express dated 13th March 2010, which has a long interview of Atul Dodiya with the IE Journalists. Atul Dodiya clicks and Vivek Vilasini looks on)

On 13th March 2010, once again I and Anubhav Nath were in Ahmedabad. This time we were to travel with three very important artists who had done considerable work on Mahatama Gandhi. Viswanathan, Atul Dodiya and Vivek Vilasini were the artists with us. Viswanathan’s artist wife Nadine also had come with him.

After reading Thomas Weber’s first person narrative on Dandi March, which he had conducted himself, tracing the same path that Gandhiji had taken during the Dandi March, I am always ready with stories pertaining to the Dandi March. This had become handy when we took fifteen contemporary artists with us in February. Then, I was sure that our friends would believe in all the stories, which I would recount for them, with Anubhav to pep them up with additional information.

This time things looked a bit tough. Simple stories wouldn’t have created the desired effect. Both Viswanathan and Atul Dodiya have already traveled between Sabarmati and Dandi many times. Vivek is a first timer in Ahmedabad though he has extensively traveled in India to photograph the sculptural representation of Gandhiji in public places.

Viswanathan had visited Dandi first in 1976 as a part of his Sable/Sand project. He traveled along the sea cost of India (from Porbandar in Gujarat precisely) and collected sand, which resulted in a film and exhibition. In 2009 again, Viswanathan made a revisit to the same places and did a movie titled, ‘MG Road to Dandi’.

At Navsari, we together watched this movie. Interestingly, we found out that both the times (in 1976 and 2009) Viswanthan reached a ‘wrong’ Dandi; a place with the same name and salt fields, located a few kilometers away from the historical Dandi where Gandhiji had gone. “It is my Dandi,” said Viswanathan and this time he is in the ‘right’ Dandi.

Atul Dodiya has painted scenes from Dandi March before. However, at Sabarmati Ashram, (where he makes mandatory visits whenever he is in Ahmedabad), in the picture gallery, he stands still before the paintings by an amateur Gandhian painter, Late Khatri. Khatri has painted scenes from Gandhiji’s life, especially the ones between 1914 and 1930. Atul Dodiya likes Khatri’s ragged way of painting and his efforts to reach to a near realism of the reference photographs.

Vivek Vilasini clicks away the moments throughout the journey. He has already got a special image of Gandhiji (a sculptural representation) whose legs are caught in rubbles and tar. Stuck in tar permanently, Vivek says, and Gandhiji seems to be trying to take his legs out of the quagmire, but with the benevolent smile intact on his lips.

At Dandi beach, more than history what attracts Atul and Vivek is a beach photographer’’s works displayed on a ply board to attract customers. Atul clicks on the images from the image board and the image of Atul clicking those pictures is clicked by Vivek and him clicking Atul is clicked by Anubhav, while I look at a camel taking a nap at the beach, which reminds of a painting by Abanindranath Tagore.

Dharasana, where Dandi Salt Satyagraha ended formally is new to these artists. We are happy at least there is one place in the Gandhian lore, which is not visited by these Gandhi image freaks! The salt fields at Dharasana provide a lot of images for these artists. Atul says, my next solo show started taking shape from here. Anubhav enquires whether Vivek could convert the salt field workers into Kathakali images, to which Vivek returns a solid NO.

The trip was really memorable and almost after two weeks when I write this, each moment from the visit come back to my mind. May be one day the details would reappear in another form in my writings.

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