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THE STATESMAN-BY OUR ART CRITIC

 

The Statesman

 The SUNDAY Statesman- An exhibition with a difference -By Our Art Critic

 

DELHI SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1998

   A hair-raising photo exhibition is on at the Art Konsult gallery at Hauz Khas village in the Capital. The gallery provided a platform to photographer-colonizer -developer Madhur Dhingra, who had scheduled his show for the last week of the month at India International Center. Though 

the show will still take place, Dhingra says it will be a censored and watered down version of the original. The IIC’s contention is that the photographs are too gory and sensational.

          It started this year when Dhingra, excited about seeing the Nagas descend from the Himalayas, where, he thought they led an austere life, decided to visit the Mahakumbh at Hardwar. He was in for a shock. The simple lifestyle of the Nagas had changed into luxuries living in air-conditioned rooms. He witnessed pitched battles between the Nagas and the police and bitter rivalry between the various akharas. He saw that homosexuality was also widely prevalent and clicked some explicit photographs.

          He then went to Varanasi, where, after witnessing sunrise at 4 in the morning, he decided to culminate his visit at Manikarnika, the great burning ghat. Bodies from all over the country come to this ghat for last rites. With pyres alight round the clock, the air reeks of burning flesh.

          Dhingra says: “I had never seen such disrespect for the dead.” For those who cannot afford enough firewood, there seems no respite even in death, he says, describing how only the torso is burnt leaving the head and feet exposed. In a partially burnt condition they are thrown into the Ganga, with hundreds of relatives present at the site.

          Dhingra’s contention is that if reality is horrific and disturbing then the enlightened public should be exposed to it. I am neither being sensational nor subversive.“I am merely trying to expose what I believe needs to be exposed and reacted upon by all concerned,” he avers.