Sunday, November 21, 2010


Fishes have a strange liveliness in them. It is indeed fascinating to watch these tiny colourful creatures with their eyes always wide open, resting only occasionally, moving around in the water with their undulating bodies. While some dart around with an excited frenzy, others glide around serenely, both creating the same palliative effect on the observer. Capturing it on canvas would be quite difficult. But for a young artist like Manjunath, who is presenting Matsyavarna, his solo painting exhibition on fishes, it is just easy as the fish's glide. All his paintings are based on a single theme — fish — portraying fishes of different hues and shapes in vibrant colours and movements in water.

The exhibition is open from Nov.19 to 27 and is being held at Sri Kalanikethana Art Gallery in Vijayanagar 2nd Stage between 10 am and 5 pm.

Hailing from Hassan, Manjunath is doing his second year BVA (Bachelor of Visual Arts) at the Fine Arts College in Mysore. He lost both his parents when he was just seven years old and it was his uncle J.C. Mahadeva Shetty, Principal, Kalanikethana School of Arts, who brought him up. "Since childhood, I was fascinated to watch fishes and even went with my grandfather to catch them in nearby lakes. This fascination prompted me to paint them on canvas in different colours and angles," says Manjunath speaking of his obsession to paint fishes.

He has painted several types of fishes like the Gold Fish, Red Fish and several varieties of sea fish including some representative forms like the Wood fish and Watermelon fish. "Though I have painted over 100 different varieties of fishes in the past four months, I am putting here on display only around 50 of them which I think are good" and adds, "As exhibiting my talent for the first time, I am also a bit nervous."

Talking about his experiments on the theme of his painting, he said, "I have drawn the skeleton of a fish. Giving life for that dead skeleton, I have made it look alive," and adds rather philosophically, "One can appreciate art better if one understands the nuances of art, like grammar which we should know to understand a language. Every painting is different from the other. The expo which is quite unique brings to life the artistic feature of fishes."

Continuing, Manjunath says, "I use all kinds of paints like acrylic, water-based, oil-based. I am also a graphic designer. I have much more to learn in this field and I love to teach this knowledge of mine to others."

Though it would not be possible to explain in detail about every work on display at the gallery, overall it is an interesting collection of assorted fishes with a strange liveliness to them. Manjunath can be contacted on Mob: 94818-21941.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Clay is one of the most common and naturally occurring form of soil on earth, comprising of fine-grained minerals that are the result of volcanic activity and weathering.

Clay is highly plastic and the degree of plasticity depends on the amount of water content present in it. Due to its plasticity, it is used in pottery.

Clay is the basic raw material for all ceramics. Ceramic objects are made by molding clay, glass and other minerals with hands into desired shapes and then baking it in a furnace at temperatures reaching 2000 degrees F. Ceramic materials are hard, porous and brittle. Not all clay forms can be used for making good ceramics. The most popular form of ceramic is the Porcelain which is made from white clay called Kaolin. Recent advances have made it possible to create ceramic objects without using any clay but with other materials.

Creating artistic objects in ceramics like figurines and statuettes along with various household articles like kitchenwares, ceramic bowls, pitchers, tiles and others, was an industry once confined to specialists but is no longer so. Though once considered as only objects of decoration and some having industrial and domestic applications, today ceramics has acquired its own distinctive place in the world of fine arts, while some artifacts even have archaeological importance.

Living amidst us in Mysore is a dexterous clay artiste — Leelavathi Indresh — who has been creating rarities out of clay in her own simple and primitive style and glazing them with colour by adding charm with a slight smudge in the glaze making it unique.

Leelavathi learnt the clay art work while she was in Shimoga, when her husband working with SBM got transferred there. "It was a one year course. Over the years, I developed my technique and made certain modifications in the process. I feel happy as I have trained many students in ten years. White clay is available in several shops and can be easily bought at Mannar’s Market in city. This type of clay is also reusable and is best suited for creating sceneries," says Leelavathi.

"Add appropriate amount of water to the white clay and mix it thoroughly till you have the desired softness. But it should be hard enough hold together when rolled into a ball. Break the clay putty and give it the desired shape with your hands before it gets dried. It can even be painted or decorated using markers or pens," she explains.

"The most characteristic feature is the colourful decoration which never fades or loses its beauty. Each part of the design is individually handmade. Instead of painting, sometimes colour is pre-mixed into clay. After clay is shaped and molded into final form, it is left to for a while to dry. Once they are completely dried, the clay objects get a life-like appearance. I take great pride in my work," adds Leelavathi who strives to offer the finest designs in clay. Leelavathi is equally good in many handiworks like miniature work, Rajasthani art, scroll paintings, Kerala paintings, mural work, Meenakari work, stump art, crafts from waste materials etc. She can be contacted over Mob: 97407-97907.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


What appears to be an ordinary looking, routine urban life on the outside, suddenly gets transformed into a mesmerising event when a photographer like Dr. Johannes Manjrekar captures a moment of it in close quarters, a unique perspective which goes unnoticed with our bare eyes. Want to know how insects look like when you zoom in on them or the petals when the flowers blossom in full? Then visit Suchitra Art Gallery at Kalamandira where Dr. Johannes Manjrekar has exhibited around 40 photographs of his collections, capturing moments of urban life — both natural and human. The exhibition will conclude tomorrow (Nov. 14) at 8 pm.

The photo expo aptly titled ‘The Little Life’, exhibits a wide range of contemporary photographs taken by Manjrekar. Apart from capturing people and architecture, his photographs are mainly about 'urban nature', which includes birds and animals that are often seen in city dwellings, but with special emphasis on the ‘little life’, the insects. The extreme close-ups showing the fascinating world of insects in cities highlight the plight of these creatures, accustomed to a green, ecologically rich surroundings, now turning fast into concrete jungles due to rapid urbanisation.

Born and brought up in Mysore, Dr. Johannes Manjrekar is a Reader in Biotechnology at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat. He studied at CFTRI School and DMS. He got his graduation in B.Sc from Yuvaraja’s college, Mysore, M.Sc from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Doctorate in Molecular Biology from the prestigious TIFR.

What initially began as a mere hobby, photography grew into a passion making him completely involved in it like a professional. "I was passionate about photography since my childhood and in 2006 when I bought a digital camera, I started taking photos, but of particular interest to me was the macro-photography (close-up photographs of small objects, sometimes also called micro-photography). Gradually this interest became more and I took it very seriously," says Manjrekar who is now staying at VV Mohalla. Speaking about the exhibits he says, "I focus mainly on insects and the life style of urban behaviour. Animals are few but insects are plenty and I love to capture these small but precious life. Accordingly, I have named my expo as Little Life."

"This is my second exhibition while the first one was in Baroda. The theme of my photography is how nature adopts and survives in an urban environment as the day-to-day life-style keeps on changing due to rapid urbanisation, which may be due to an increase in the number of vehicles plying on the roads or even pollution."

"In spite of our daily routines, one should cultivate some hobby. It’s really unfortunate that now-a-days majority of children don’t know how to enjoy nature. My simple advice is, just look around you there are so many fascinating things. Instead of harping on destruction of nature, one should first observe and feel it, only then we can save nature," says Manjrekar commenting about how fast city life has robbed us of watching and observing nature and adds, "I feel happy at exhibiting my talent in my home town."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Slum kids enthral passersby thru their extraordinary talent

Those of us who were moved by watching the movie Slumdog Millionaire would be surprised to learn that right amidst us is a group of slum kids who come together regularly in a cemetery and play musical instruments made from used materials, entertaining the locals while struggling to make a living.

Watching them wearing those soiled knickers with hair disheveled and casting nonchalant looks, one could easily mistake them as a bunch of rag-pickers one so often sees near the street corners. But they are a musical band of ten talented slum children who can play over 31 varieties of music with their instruments — all made by themselves from discarded items collected from garbage! Empty paint cans, writing pads, tin plates, torn leather are some of the materials they use as their musical instruments.

Their skills, completely self-taught, have come a long way from tapping away on classroom desks during breaks to observing the elders in their community play in the courtyard. They have honed their skills by practicing on the drum sets they themselves have created.

They exhibit their talents during school functions and on occasions like Ganesha festival. These children, with their extraordinary talents on drums, enthrall cricketers who come to play at Manasagangotri grounds, who after listening to their drum beats offer some small change as tips. Without spending it on anything, the kids are saving this money hoping to buy some real instruments.

They stay at Kudremala, a slum near Manasagangotri, adjacent to AIISH-Panchavati.

Whenever they find a piece of scrap that can be used thrown away in the courtyard, the kids collect them and turn them into small instruments.

The team comprising of ten members is led by Suresh who is studying ninth standard in the nearby Government School.

Ganesha, Karthik, Manuvardhan, Kantharaj, Kiran, Sharath, Raju, Darshan and Anand are the other team members. Being fans of Vishnuvardhan, they have named their troupe as Vishnuvardhan Sangha.

Speaking to SOM, Suresh said, "Whenever we don't have classes and if there is a cricket match on Gangothri grounds, we all assemble there and play our assorted instruments. After listening to our music, some will give money. I give away ` 1 to everyone and keep the remaining amount with me hoping to buy a musical instrument in future. We have collected ` 200 till now. Once we bought a new drum, but it is now torn."

These kids are equally good in playing Kamsale and performing Yogasanas too. They even beat drums while performing various acrobatic stunts like climbing one atop the other, lying on the ground, completely bending backwards or sideways.

"When I was studying in fourth standard, my father once took me to perform at a Ganesha festival. After the show, I was paid `150. Thrilled by this, I decided to practice it and motivated others to join me. Now we have 10 members in the troupe. We made our own drums by picking empty paint cans thrown near garbage heaps and covering it's top with buffalo hide. A trader named N.S.Kumar who sells drums helped us by giving the hide freely. We use dried plant twigs as sticks for beating the drums," explained Suresh.

He is equally good in his studies and also in drawing and dreams to join the Police Department while others are dreaming of becoming Music Directors and singers.

Speaking about their practice, Suresh says, "Our neighbours will scold if we practice near our homes. So we come to this open ground near our school whenever we need to practice a new rhythm."

Not all these kids attend schools. Raju, one of the troupe members has left school. He goes around homes doing odd jobs and earning money. He gives some of that money to Suresh. Suresh is well aware that they have to study well in addition to playing music well.

Lend a helping hand

If anyone having a broken or discarded drum can kindly spare it, these kids will use it to practice, as purchasing one of their own is beyond their reach. Also if some good samaritan comes forward and teach these upcoming young artistes who are very much talented, they lives will change forever.

Suttur Seer offers help

Meanwhile, Suttur Mutt Seer Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swamiji, on learning about these talented children, has agreed to enroll them at the JSS Public School at Suttur which is providing free education to children from rural families. The children, irrespective of all religions, castes, creed or section, are provided schooling along with hostel accommodation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Five generations and still going on...

Kamsale Kumaraswamy, 60, son of renowned artiste Kamsale Mahadevaiah, has been performing Kamsale for over 40 years and like his father, has created a niche of his own winning several accolades and awards of which Kamsale Kanteerava, Kamsale Kalashree, Kamsale Janapada Kalashree are the prominent ones. Kumaraswamy is the Director of Mysore Kamsale Mahadevaiah Folk Arts Centre in Vidyaranya Puram. Here are the excerpts from an informal talk SOM had with him.

Star of Mysore (SOM): What was it that attracted you to Kamsale? Did you take it up merely because it was a family tradition?

Kamsale Kumaraswamy (KK): I belong to the fifth generation of Kamsale family. Everyone learnt from their fore-fathers just as my father, Kamsale Mahadevaiah, learnt this from his father, Varkudu Nanjaiah. But my initiation into this field was solely because of the blessings of Lord Mahadeshwara, as my father strictly opposed me to follow the tradition and become a folklore artiste. Instead he wanted me to study well. It was my father’s beloved student, also named Mahadeva, who was instrumental in helping me to learn this art. It was during 1968-69 when my father was invited to participate in a programme that was held in Delhi, another of my father’s student who was jealous of him, tried unsuccessfully to stop him. But Mahadeva noticed it and he decided to take me in his place.

SOM interrupts… How old were you at that time? Did your father oblige and what about your practice?

KK: I was only 16 years old then. My father came to know that I was coming to Delhi only when I boarded the train. Mahadeva prevented me from informing him earlier as he knew he wouldn’t give permission. Seeing me in the train my father started scolding, “You haven’t got any practice and it is a national level event. It’s a prestige issue”. But Mahadeva consoled me and assured me not to worry.

Interestingly without my father’s knowledge I had been practicing Kamsale right from my school days. I learnt it merely by observing my father while he practiced it daily behind my school in Nanjumalige. I in turn practiced at home when no one was around. I had learnt it so quickly that I also gave a couple of performances at some school functions.

Again SOM interrupts: Was that practice enough for you to perform on stage at Delhi?

KK: Two days before the event took off, my father asked me to perform and I did a few steps. He seemed happy. I practiced the whole night and there was a rehearsal the next day. Seeing my performance my father was satisfied. It was my first stage performance in public, where I performed Kamsale in front of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastry accompanied by other dignitaries like Indira Gandhi, Devaraj Urs, Zakir Hussain and several others. I received a big applause making my father feel very proud of me.

SOM: Can you say something about the origins of Ka-msale and it’s various forms?

KK: The origin of Kamsale is indeed very interesting. In ancient days pilgrims had to walk in the midst of thick forests and climb seven hills to reach temple of Lord Mahadeshwara atop the last hill. Walking through dense forests they were constantly scared of the attack from wild animals. In order to keep their fears at bay and also frighten the wild animals they took two soap stones and struck one against the other making a sound while singing songs in their own style praising Lord Mahadeshwara. Thus began the Kamsale tradition when the stones were gradually replaced with convex shaped bronze plates.

Kamsale is performed in three different styles. One is Beesu Kamsale where performers dance and swing around acrobatically in the air, striking the bronze plates in hand. One artiste swings the lid with his right hand and slams it in the bowl in the hands of the adjacent artiste and in turn receives the other’s lid . It is usually performed by a troupe of 6 members. It is also swung on the head with circular or semi-circular movements, behind the back and between the legs. The other is the Margala Kamsale where the performer does Kamsale by tying long wooden poles to his legs. Finally there is the Kamsale Mela where the troupe comprises of exactly five members all singing and dancing in praise of Lord Mahadeshwara.

SOM: Traditionally Kamsale was restricted to performing during fairs and jathras at Male Mahedeshwara Hills. Do you have any plans to popularize it and teach it to the present generation so that it doesn’t get lost like so many other art forms?

KK: I along with my students are already into teaching Kamsale in about 30 schools all over the State. While training we give due importance for adherence of wearing the traditional costumes and teaching them without altering the basic dance form, though we may change the style of presentation to make the learning easier.

SOM: Your father, Kamsale Mahadevaiah was so popular that his name has become synonymous with this art form. What was so unique in his performance that made him so popular?

KK: His complete involvement in it. Even at the age of 80 he performed Kamsale. But his recitation of hymns, the dancing style and movements were so perfectly choreographed, it was appreciated by everyone.

SOM: With around 40 years of talented performances and having won numerous awards how do you feel about the response of today’s society towards this art form? Is the Government doing enough for the artistes or is something more to be done?

KK: Giving an award means encouraging that person but in a way this also puts a responsibility on him. I feel I am doing good job, that’s why they have awarded me. But what I have contributed so far is not enough and a lot more is needed to be done to bring Kamsale to international levels. Government should recognize the art and encourage it further instead of merely providing an opportunity to perform during cultural events.

SOM: Have you given any performances abroad? Have any foreigners approached you to teach them?

KK: Certainly. I have performed in Malta, Cyprus, Tunisia, Istambul, Rome and several other places. I performed at the international folk arts meet held in Rome in 1989 where my father was invited as the Chief Guest. Though I received numerous offers from several foreign countries to teach them, I could not take it up mainly due to the problem of language, as I can’t speak English. If I found any Janapada Vidwan, I am ready to teach at abroad also.

SOM: Can this be taught in Universities? If so are there any attempts made?

KK: I am already teaching about the significance of our traditional cultures for students of MA, Folklore. But I am ever willing to teach Kamsale for University students if I am asked to.

SOM: Why have women not taken up Kamsale performances? Is there any restriction for them to play?

KK: There are no restrictions for women to perform. Good physical fitness, disciplined life, dedication and a keen interest to learn are all that is required to learn Kamsale. It is very exhausting and the dancer must be very agile and unerring in every step and every swing of his Kamsale.

SOM: Though Kamsale is being revived with the State Government encouraging it, why is this rigidity being maintained in that this art form is confined to only festivals or as a part of some tableau?

KK: There is a stadium inside the Manasa Gangotri campus where they have constructed a podium called Ranga Vedike. The Vedike should be used to hold different cultural programmes regularly, so that the present generation will get to know about our culture. Kamsale will definitely gain popularity if it is held regularly, say once in a week, with assistance from Mysore University.

SOM: You have featured in films also…

KK: In Janumada Jodi I have only recorded a song giving a modern touch for the traditional folklore and in Vamsha Vruksha I have performed as a co-artiste. Apart from that I have acted in several films but all in small roles. I have also participated in the Common Wealth Games held recently. Our team was one among the five that was selected to represent Karnataka at the Games. I have also played in Aidaralu of Lingadevaru Halemane which bagged a State Award. I have also written scripts for various Government advertisement promos like creating awareness about AIDS, Saksharatha, Women Empowerment and others.

SOM: Can you make a living out of folk arts?

KK: No. It is indeed very difficult to survive only performing Kamsale.

SOM: Your life style and family

KK: My day begins at 5.30am with walking and a visit to the temple, as I am a staunch believer of God. Then begins my day’s routine, which ends with attending programmes in the evenings. Not breaking the ancient tradition, on every Monday & Friday, I visit a couple of houses collecting alms with a bag (jolige). I have four children and two grand children who too have learnt Kamsale performing at small functions.

Kamsale Mahadevaiah

The name Mahadevaiah has become so synonymous with Kamsale, that a mere mention of the name ‘Kamsale Mahadeva’ strikes a chord in everyone who knows Kamsale without exception. He continued to give public performances till his last days, even though he was 90 years old. While performing Kamsale on stage, he could easily recite several devotional hymns praising Lord Mahadeshwara from his memory which if written could run more into thousand pages. When late Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India she popularized folk arts during Republic Day celebrations. It was then Mahadevaiah gave performances in Delhi as well as traveling all over India.

He participated in an international folk art conference held in 1974. He was bestowed with numerous awards, the prominent ones being the Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in 1968, Janapada Akademi Yakshagana Award in 1982, Indira Gandhi Fellowship Award in 1988 and Kannada Rajyotsava Award in 1990. He was posthumously awarded the ‘Janapada Shree’ by the Karnataka Government in 1995. The circle near Chamundipuram as named as Kamsale Mahadevaiah Circle.

About Kamsale

Kamsale is a circular, bronze percussion instrument consisting of two halves. The one held in left hand is hollow like a small begging bowl while the other half is like the lid of the bowl which is held in the right hand. It is flat, but has a small depression at the centre with a hole in it. A piece of strong thread runs through the hole and is used for holding the plate. The other end of the thread is tied with a wild flower. The thread also has several ornamental silver rings decorated with flowers. When the two bronze plates are struck against each other they produce a melodious note and together with the noise made by the silver rings adding to the music, devotees dance and sing hymns praising Lord Mahadeshwara to the rhythmic beats of the Kamsale.

Kamsale was an invention by the devotees of Lord Male Mahadeshawara known as Devara Guddas. A Gudda is an ascetic who has dedicated his life worshipping the Lord. As a symbol of his devout life he wears a single beaded necklace, a makeshift bag slung around his shoulder and carries a snake rod called Nagabetha, the insignia of Lord Mahadeshwara. He goes from house to house begging and singing the glory of the Lord. Though there is no prescribed costume, they normally wear a white dhoti, a simple turban and smear their forehead with ash. But only recently wearing colourful costumes has become a norm. In Kamsale dancing is primary and singing is secondary. As dancers occupy the centre stage the singers are in the background.