india-rising

India Rising: Tradition Meets Modernity

February 27-28, 2009
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Listen to audio from this program

India’s artists, in pace with their country’s rapid modernization, have adopted many contemporary techniques. Yet past traditions remain strong. Familiar themes and modern modes of expression interplay with fruitful creative tension. Abstract and surrealist artists incorporate images of legendary gods and heroes in their work, and musicians create exciting new sounds in collaboration with Western jazz and classical performers. Literature and cinema with rural village scenes compete with others featuring urban landscapes, Indian-American cultural fusion, and the seductive joys of Bollywood. The result: unique new delights for the eye, the ear, and the spirit.

Moderator: Raka Ray (Sarah Kailath Chair in Indian Studies, Chair of the Center for South Asia Studies, and Associate Professor of Sociology and South and Southeast Asian Studies, UC Berkeley)

Friday, February 27, 2009

7:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Special Pre-program Performance:
Indian Classical Musicians Joanna Mack and Tim Witter

Joanna Mack began her pursuit of Classical North Indian Music in 1997. While studying Neuroscience at UCSD, she attended a Classical Indian Music class with sitar virtuoso Kartik Seshadri, a senior disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar of the Maihar Gharana. She had been involved in Western music since childhood but was immediately drawn to Indian music. She abandoned her plan for medical school and devoted herself to Indian Classical Music. Kartikji recommended her to Pandit Deepak Choudhuri, another senior disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. That year, Joanna traveled to India where she studied under him through 2005. Joanna then returned to the United States, promising Deepakji that she would continue her studies and pass on the values and ideas of the Maihar Gharana. She teaches private and group classes and performs in a variety of venues. She continues her studies with classes under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College of Musicand is under the guidance of Maestro Kartik Seshadri.

Tim Witter began his tabla training with Ustad Alla Rakha in 1980. He has studied since 1985 with Pandit Swapan Chauduri, the resident tabla teacher at the Ali Akbar College of Music. He has made numerous trips to India for study and performance, and in 1994-1995 completed a research/performance grant awarded to him by the American Institute of Indian Studies. Tim has taught at the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, Switzerland and has performed throughout Europe. Currently he is a staff teacher at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California as well as being an active performer and composer in Bay Area Indian classical and contemporary music scenes. In addition to studying tabla, Tim has lived in Madras, India and studied South Indian drumming from T.H. Subash Chandran. Tim was a co-recipient of the 1997 Isadora Duncan Award for Best Original Music for a New Dance Piece for his work in creating the score for “Sacred Text.”

8:00 pm – 10:15 pm
India Rising: the Soft Power of an Ancient Land in the 21st century
Keynote Lecture by Shashi Tharoor, Chairman, Afras Ventures
Many thinkers and writers in recent years have spoken of India’s geo-strategic advantages, its economic dynamism, political stability, proven military capabilities, its nuclear, space and missile programmes, and the country’s growing pool of young and skilled manpower as assuring India “great power” status as a “world leader” in the new century. Dr Shashi Tharoor, author and former UN Under-Secretary-General, argues that it these not these elements that represent India’s greatest potential as it seeks to play its role in our globalizing world. Instead, he focuses on the “soft power” of India, its attributes and limitations and the challenges it faces, as he outlines India’s true place in Asia and the world and what it could mean for the country’s future in the 21st century.

Indian Art: Tradition Meets Modernity
Santhi Kavuri-Bauer (Assistant Professor, Art History, San Francisco State University)
This illustrated lecture will trace the development of modern art in India starting with the adaptation of the academic style by Raja Ravi Varma in the 1880s through the period of creative tension among those seeking to reconcile Western styles with traditional subject matter and practice, including Abindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Amrita Sher Gil. After Independence, artists like M.F. Hussain, Jamini Roy and F.N. Souza began to explore more abstract and personal themes. Professor Kavuri-Bauer concludes by focusing on several contemporary artists, who combine traditional symbols, forms and processes with modern media techniques, such as digital photography, and address the important social issues facing India today.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

10 am to noon and 1:30 to 4 pm

Sacred Games: A Reading
Vikram Chandra (Senior Lecturer, UC Berkeley)
One of modern India’s greatest novelists will read from and describe his best known work, the epicSacred Games, a Victorian-Indian-gangster-spy-family saga, placing his work into the broad context of Indian literature today.

Indian Music: Traditions and Transitions
Dard Neuman (Kamil and Talat Hasan Endowed Chair in Classical Indian Music, UC Santa Cruz) lectures on Indian music and demonstrates the sitar, with rare recordings.

Special Performance:
Indian Classical Musicians Joanna Mack and Tim Witter

Joanna Mack began her pursuit of Classical North Indian Music in 1997. While studying Neuroscience at UCSD, she attended a Classical Indian Music class with sitar virtuoso Kartik Seshadri, a senior disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar of the Maihar Gharana. She had been involved in Western music since childhood but was immediately drawn to Indian music. She abandoned her plan for medical school and devoted herself to Indian Classical Music. Kartikji recommended her to Pandit Deepak Choudhuri, another senior disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. That year, Joanna traveled to India where she studied under him through 2005. Joanna then returned to the United States, promising Deepakji that she would continue her studies and pass on the values and ideas of the Maihar Gharana. She teaches private and group classes and performs in a variety of venues. She continues her studies with classes under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College of Musicand is under the guidance of Maestro Kartik Seshadri.

Tim Witter began his tabla training with Ustad Alla Rakha in 1980. He has studied since 1985 with Pandit Swapan Chauduri, the resident tabla teacher at the Ali Akbar College of Music. He has made numerous trips to India for study and performance, and in 1994-1995 completed a research/performance grant awarded to him by the American Institute of Indian Studies. Tim has taught at the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, Switzerland and has performed throughout Europe. Currently he is a staff teacher at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California as well as being an active performer and composer in Bay Area Indian classical and contemporary music scenes. In addition to studying tabla, Tim has lived in Madras, India and studied South Indian drumming from T.H. Subash Chandran. Tim was a co-recipient of the 1997 Isadora Duncan Award for Best Original Music for a New Dance Piece for his work in creating the score for “Sacred Text.”

Mirrors of Tradition and Modernity:
Cinema of Satyajit Ray, Independent Cinema and Bollywood

Dilip Basu (Founding Director, Archives and Study Center on Satyajit Ray, University of California Santa Cruz, and Associate Professor of History).
This lecture with film clips will argue that the cinema of Satyajit Ray and his cohorts in post-independent India remain quintessentially modern; popular cinema, both past and present, use the modern cinematic medium to the fullest while following the traditional Indian dramaturgy in form and content.

Reality Television and the New India

Raka Ray
The Indian Idol phenomenon, in which the women and the rich men were voted off first in support of upward mobility for the poor Nepalese boy who eventually wins, in a sense causes the upward mobility of his whole community, generating pride within the regionally underserved.

Panel Discussion
Led by Moderator Raka Ray.

Presenters

Presenter Information Unavailable

Resource Materials

India is a land of staggering complexity and diversity, so it is not easy to come up with a short list of accessible resources for those who have lots of curiosity, but only limited time to devote to the topic. If you are looking for a brief introduction to the grand sweep of Indian history, try India: An Illustrated History by Prem Kishore and Anuradha Kishore Ganpati (2003, 200 pp, paperback).

Our keynote speaker, Shashi Tharoor, has recently published a collection of essays about the tensions between tradition and modernity in today’s India: The Elephant, The Tiger, And the Cell Phone: Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power (2008, 498pp, paperback). Another interesting collection of essays dealing with India’s cultural diversity is Gita Mehta’sSnakes and Ladders (1998, 320pp, paperback; also available in audio book format from Amazon or Audible.com).

During the program, Vikram Chandra will be reading from his massive award-winning novel,Sacred Games; he has also published a book of short stories and novellas called Love and Longing in Bombay (1998, 272pp, paperback), which might provide a more accessible introduction to his work. For fans of Indian cinema, Netflix offers 8-10 movies by Satyajit Ray, and a separate genre category devoted to the “Best of Bollywood.”

For a brief overview of India, click here. (pdf file)

Selected Resources, Compiled by Stanford Intern Andrew Linford

Banerji, Chitrita.  Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices            (2008)

Chandra, Vikram. Sacred Games (2007)

Chandra, Vikram. Love and Longing in Bombay (1997)

Chandra, Vikram. Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995)

Chopra, Anupama. King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian             Cinema (2007)

Crites, Mitchell Shelby. Nanji Ameeta. Levick, Melba.  India Sublime: Princely Palace Hotels of Rajasthan (2007)

Eck, Diana L. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (1998)

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. Gandhi, an Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth (1993)

Gandhi, Mohandas. Freedom’s Battle, Young India (1922)

Guha, Ramacharandra. India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (2007)

Husain, M. F. “An Artist and a Movement.” Excerpted From Frontline:“India’s National Magazine” August 9-22, 1997

Jha, Subhash K. The Essential Guide to Bollywood (2005)

Kabir, Nasreen Munni. Bollywood: The India Cinema Story (2002) (currently out of print)

Luce, Edward. In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India (2007)

Kamdar, Mira. Planet India: The Turbulent Rise of the Largest Democracy and the Future of Our World (2007)

Menon, Ramesh. The Rmayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic (2004)

Mitter, Partha. Indian Art (Oxford History of Art) (2001)

Ray, RakaKatzenstein, Mary Fainsod. Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics(2005)

Ray, RakaFields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India (1999)

Roberts, Fredric. Humanitas II: The People of Gujarat (2007)

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things (1997)

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children (1981)

Sen, Amartyn. The Argumentative Indian (2005)

Sher-gil, Amrita.  Sher-gil, Umrao.  Amrita Sher-Gil: An Indian Artist Family of the Twentieth             Century (2007)

Sheth, Ketaki. Bombay Mix: Street Photographs (2008)

Tharoor, Shashi. The Elephant, The Tiger, And the Cell Phone: Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power (2007)

Tharoor, Shashi. India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond (1997)

Tharoor, Shashi. Nehru: The Invention of India (2003)

Zimmer, Heinrich Robert.  Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (1972)

Online Resources:

Ray, Satyajit.  “The Chess Players” (1977 – DVD 2006)
Documentary on Satyajit Ray.  YouTube video.

Tharoor, Shashi.  Essays.  YouTube video 1YouTube video 2.

This youtube video discusses the effects of dowries on Indian women.

Shashi Tharoor talking about his new book: The Tiger the Elephant and the Cell Phone (2007).
YouTube video 1YouTube video 2.

Vikram Chandra reading from some of his writing.
YouTube video.

Performance on the Sitar by Ravi Shankar.
YouTube video.

Related Events

Special Pre-program Event
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

THE ENIGMA OF ARRIVAL: Modern India and Anglophone Literature
Lecture by Stanford University Professor Saikat Majumdar and
A Conversation with Award-Winning Indian Novelist Vikram Chandra

Modern India and its people are increasingly associated with a narrative of achievement and prosperity in the realms of the economic and the cultural. State-of-the-art technology and award-winning literature are two of India’s most dazzling ambassadors. This lecture will briefly overview the field of modern Indian-English literature and raise some questions in the process: Is it possible today to see the phenomenon of Anglophone Indian literature as separate from the new image of rise and growth that currently engulfs this nation? What is gained, and what is lost when an art form gets so closely wedded to tropes of progress and achievement in the national and global public spheres?  Professor Majumdar will end his lecture in conversation with Vikram Chandra, author of Sacred Games and one of India’s foremost novelists.

Mechanics’ Institute
57 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

Reception: 5:30 pm
Lecture: 6:00 pm

Free for Members of Mechanics’ Institute and Friends of Humanities West
$12 for the General Public
For reservations call 415.393.0100

Special Pre-program Event
Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 7pm

Orinda Preview of India Rising: Tradition Meets Modernity
A Fireside Chat with George Hammond.
Free to the General Public
Orinda Library
26 Orinda Way
Orinda, CA 94563
(925) 254-2184

Special Pre-program Event
Friday, February 27, 2009, noon

Lecture by Stanford University Professor Saikat Majumdar
Professor Majumdar will elaborate on his Mechanics’ Institute lecture,
THE ENIGMA OF ARRIVAL: Modern India and Anglophone Literature.

The Gold Room
Commonwealth Club
595 Market St. #2
San Francisco, CA

FREE to Members of Commonwealth Club
$15 general public, $7 students