On the 23rd of January, a steady stream of people trickled into the space above The Habitat in Khar for the 6th edition of WIP sessions, until it was a full house. What followed was an immersive night of creative exchanges with four speakers from varied fields of expertise – Ranjit Dahiya, the founder of Bollywood Art Project, Filmmaker Anand Gandhi, Illustrator Alicia Souza and Spoken Word Poet Shamir Reuben.
Here is how the night went down.
The Charm of Yesteryear —
Ranjit traced his romance with Bollywood right back to his childhood, watching movies in tents that would suddenly appear one morning at the edge of town. The first speaker to take the stage for the evening, he walked the audience through the inception of Bollywood Art Project (BAP), mapping the cinematic history of Bollywood on the walls of the city through huge murals. Before BAP took off, Ranjit traveled to Paris and France painting scenes from Amitabh Bachchan’s biggest hits at the time. ‘Every sphere of creativity, be it design, art or music, together culminates to form a film. As a graphic designer myself, I have always been intrigued by this fact.’
He launched BAP in 2012 with a mural of Anarkali on a house in Chapel Road in Bandra, breathing new life into the drab wall. ‘‘Who are you painting this for?’ a passing woman asked me. ‘For you,’ I said. ‘Oh! This was the first film I watched with my husband,’ she said,’ shared Ranjit, about how he enjoys the reactions people have to his murals. Over the years, the project grew and Ranjit took the audience on a visual tour of his murals across India and foreign shores. His collaboration with St+Art India took him to Delhi, where he painted steely-eyed Nadira, with a cigar perched between her fingers. Soon after, Ranjit shared the one project that single-handedly put BAP on the national map – a massive mural of Dadasaheb Phalke on the MTNL Building in Bandra.
Over his 30-minute talk peppered with well-timed quips in Hindi, it was not hard to tell that even though he has an eye set on the future, it is really the past that inspires him. The nostalgia of old Bollywood songs, the melodrama and the action that entertained him as a kid, doesn’t fail to do so even today.
From Epiphanies To An Idea —
The first thing Anand Gandhi shared on stage are the many influences that have shaped who he is today. As a filmmaker, innovator and entrepreneur working at the intersection of cinema, science, technology and philosophy, he finds inspiration from every sphere of life. Following a brief note on his debut feature, Ship of Theseus, and more recent documentary, An Insignificant Man, he gave the audience an idea of the power of film as a medium of storytelling. ‘The whole point of film is to change perspectives,’ he said.
Talking about the evolution of a concept that eventually turns into a film, Anand pointed out, ‘Usually an idea comes from epiphanies that at several points of my life have changed the meaning and the course of my life in small ways.’ Every story he ever conceives is informed by his insights in science and human evolution, technological prowess and an innate eye for an immersive plot as a filmmaker.
He took the audience through a brief overview of his upcoming film, which obviously cannot be revealed here. He also reminded the room full of listeners of the importance of letting random ideas flow, feed into each other, and eventually fuse and become a whole.
At the Heart of It All is Happiness — Alicia Souza
Alicia calls herself a happiness illustrator, and probably needs no introduction. The enthusiasm she comes with is infectious and it spread across the room like wildfire as she took centre stage with a roaring applause from the audience. Simplicity runs through her body of work, as it did through her talk for the evening. ‘Do what makes you happy,’ a piece of advice from her father that helped shape her life and career.
During her talk, she took the crowd through her illustrated resume, her initial days working as an independent illustrator, starting from scratch in India, and yet amidst it all finding the grit to focus on the good things around her. ‘Inspiration is everywhere,’ she said. When she finally took the leap to go solo, everything gradually fell in place for her. Cut to today, where she runs an online store, has worked with a score of clients and has an intense fan base across the country who to her, are like her second family.
She walked the audience through the process of developing The Alicia Souza Calendar, her most exhaustive project yet. Shifting things to a personal note, she talked about Dearest George, a website she built to announce her wedding with architect and photographer George Seemon. Everything she ever does stems from a very personal place, imbued with love and happiness, and perhaps that is what makes her work so relatable.
Made by Accident —
The evening closed with an evocative spoken word performance by writer and poet Shamir Reuben. Poetry happened to him by accident, when he skipped a football match at school and headed to a storytelling workshop instead. Since then there was no stopping him, and today, he is the Head of Content at Kommune, a live performance collective. From performing his first ever piece about his mother’s struggle with cancer to deconstructing the importance of humanizing emotions and experiences, he took us through the construction of a story.
As a writer who often words other peoples’ experiences, he underscored the significance of conversation and the depth and honesty it brings to a piece of work. ‘When you write from lived experiences, there is this burden to bring the story to your audience exactly the way you experienced it.’ Through a moving piece about a man he met in Gulmarg, he highlighted the three act structure that helps build an effective poem or prose, by varying the focus on different elements to the same sentence and showing the impact each word held.
As he concluded his talk, he mapped out his plans to do a storytelling workshop in every state of India by mid-2019, and to experiment with different mediums, by incorporating music into poetry. ‘It is always about pushing yourself and your boundaries. The moment you say ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life’ you’re not adapting or challenging yourself.’
The night marked new milestones with the unveiling of the first look of Design Fabric Festival slated for the 30th and 31st of March. India’s first multi-discipline design festival, DFF is unlike anything the country has witnessed before.
Meanwhile you can look forward to the next edition of WIP to be held in Delhi on the 23rd of February. Watch this space.