Is it Talent vs. Sight?
Last week, while on a trip to Mumbai, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Anand Kulkarni. He runs the company “Flop Films” which has made over 100 corporate films, documentaries and ad films. He told me that film-making is a team effort and a blind person can easily lead the team if he has a good understanding of the medium. Anand not only brings in the big ideas, but also writes the concepts and scripts for the company’s film projects. The cinematography, camera, editing and direction are handled by other professionals.
Creativity and art are more often identified with sight. Spaces like dance, theatre and fine arts are seen to be outside the scope of blind people. But the question I ask is whether this is really true?
Many years ago I visited the Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind at Bangalore where I saw a group of blind boys and girls learning Bharat Natyam. To begin with, the thought of blind people dancing was simply incredible. Performing on stage with great skill and poise, perfect coordination and facial expressions that were in synchrony with the lyrics and the theme simply seemed beyond the realms of possibility. But then Guru Ashok Kumar and the other teachers at the Academy had devised the touch and feel method of teaching dance that had made it possible for dancers like Bhuse Gauda not only to learn dance, but also enabled them to perform on the international stage. Today, there are a number of organisations in Bangalore where blind artists learn various dance forms.
Satyajit Ray, the well known film maker made a documentary film about Binod Bihari Mukherji, a well known sculptor and artist. Binod Bihari happened to be blind and Ray considers him as one of his Gurus. If one were to visit Shanti Niketan today, there are a number of Binod Bihari’s works on display. I have often wondered how a visually impaired person understands the world of colours and visuals. I guess that is what we call genius.
Recently, there was a Photo exhibition organised in Mumbai displaying pictures taken by blind photographers. If dance and painting by blind artists seemed incredible, photography by blind people sounds outrageous. But this is true. Partho Bhoumik actually trains blind people to work with cameras. They focus on the subject based on the sound. This reminds me of Sanjeev Kumar in the film ‘Katla’ where he plays the role of a blind man who wields a gun and uses it effectively - again guided by sound.
I had the opportunity of interviewing Subashis Ganguly, a stage actor in Kolkata. Besides being an actor of substance, Subashis was also part of a theatre group called “Anya desh”, a group comprising blind actors. They put up plays by Tagore and other Bengali play writers. This group has been a regular feature at the NSD (National School of Drama) Theatre Festivals in recent years.
These are just a few snap shots of human passion and talent finding expression in art forms that are not usually associated with people who cannot see. Human ability is huge and possibilities are immense. We need to focus on developing what we are endowed with rather than being in a rush to determine our limits.
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