Going to college in a slow-living, cinema-mad city with a ceiling on ticket prices meant doing movie marathons or re-watching films at the multiplex was a popular way to spend the weekend. It has been many, many years since I have done either and I am now somewhat embarrassed to say that I have watched Ranveer Singh in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani twice within two weeks (though I did fall asleep during the second half the second time).
While two pieces we have this week analyse the film through the lens of gender, I watched it just because I loved Singh’s energy—and all his beautiful, brightly coloured shoes. Author and economist Shrayana Bhattacharya, however, makes the point that Bollywood romances and films like Barbie tend to get dismissed as fluff even as they try to use the power of entertainment to question gender norms. “Some do so through science, others through dance,” she writes. For columnist Sandip Roy, Rocky Aur Rani and teen drama Heartstopper are a means to understand the scars bullying leaves, though most of us don’t notice it.
Unnoticed scars are also the theme of two exhibitions—one on artists and their studios in India and Pakistan, shot by Manisha Gera Baswani over two decades, and another on the Tibetan resistance of the 1960s. A couple of books were published in the early 2000s but the fact that the CIA funded a mission to train, arm and parachute resistance fighters into Tibet isn’t widely known. Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin, who have documented the stories of surviving resistance fighters for four decades, have finally brought their exhibition, which opened in Germany in 2019, to Mumbai and discuss how it keeps changing shape and form.
These are all stories of artists who sign their work, but for most of history those who sculpted masterpieces were unnamed. Our cover story—which is part travelogue, part treasure hunt, part cultural thesis—traces the route to find the Buddhist ateliers of Bihar and the unknown artists who created some of the most beautiful art of the Pala era. And as always, we have plenty to recommend on what to read, watch and enjoy this weekend.
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