Brave Art!

Sometime back I read an article, in two parts, by Manasi Sagar of Nasik. She is a trained painter and took a passion for painting nudes. We have generally read about nudes being painted by male painters, with females as models. Society treats nudity from a different angle. The human body, especially the female body, is an artwork which only He could create. The way Manasi had explained the path she took and how she managed to follow her passion is something to be read to be believed. From the articles she had written, I felt that she came from a normal Maharashtrian middle-class family. Such families have a a ethos of bringing up children in which girl child is always told to take care of her modesty. It probably starts at the age of around five and the child would always listen to statements from her mother, “Don’t do this, don’t do that! Sit “properly”! Be careful when men are around and so on!” There are historical reasons for this, some justified but when a Manasi blooms like a Lotus amidst such orthodoxy, it’s a pleasant surprise! To her family, it must have been a shock, at least in the beginning!

I had discussed the article by Manasi, with my friend Sudhakar, from Nasik. Sudhakar is a painter by heart but a builder by profession. Yesterday he met Manasi. I had told Sudhakar to tell Manasi, when he meets her, that I am honoured to know about such a brave artist. Incidentally, I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singhji, when I received a message from Sudhakar today, that he met Manasi! Various thoughts came to my mind, which I am sharing with you.

Why is female nudity so beautiful? What pleasures can you get by looking at such paintings? Kedarnath Singhji poem बारिश में स्त्री in Hindi, A Woman in the Rains, is par excellence. I know that I will never be able to come close to the way he has written the poem, the lyrics, the expressions and the refinement. Nowhere in the poem, we feel that he is talking of something vulgar! (Yes, in our society nudity is talked about in hushed tones) It’s sheer poetry, pun intended!

The poet says that he saw a woman who was getting drenched in the rains! It was as if a new book was being opened where the existing written words were getting washed away and were lost in the mist! Raindrops were dripping on her breasts, her shoulders and her chin! It felt as if a new script was getting created; a poem was being written! It was as if her body was giving birth to a new Alphabet! It was as if the body was creating its ink and printing the words, rat, tat, tat. The whole body was slowly getting converted into an Epic! The poet felt that the frog in him forgot to utter its famous “ribit ribit” when it enjoys the rains! The frog was dumbstruck looking at this smooth transition into work of art!

What a way to look at the beauty created by nature, by Him! Concept of vulgarity, exposure, are recent phenomena, in the history of the human race. I always feel that the threshold for certain good and bad things started when the concept of “ownership” started in human history. Till this phase in history, humans lived in flocks like other species. Like in other species, males and females were created by nature for procreation, to take the race forward. The concept of nudity hardly existed as everybody was nude! With the concept of ownership, the ownership of females started and with that started the first known modern dress, fig leaf, from Adam and Eve’s times!

Manasi went against this trend in her paintings. She wanted to paint nudes but who would be the model? It is not so common in India to be a nude female model, and in a city like Nasik, it was almost impossible. Solution? Simple. She decided that she will be her model. She started sitting in front of a mirror at home, late in the night, when everybody went to sleep. The concept itself was taboo! She would have a tough time “hiding” these paintings during the creation phase. What if my parents see? How will I explain? She somehow managed to complete a few paintings and entered an art competition! When she won the coveted prize, she got a communication from the organisers. She was thrilled about it; at the same time, she was worried about her parent’s reactions. Ultimately art won over orthodoxy! She could come out in the open! She still had some problems initially, even after this event, as she could not get models! But she convinced some women, and hopefully, now she will also be able to paint nudes along with her other paintings!

What is it that Manasi’s of the world have in them? Do they eat differently? Where do they get the strength from? Where does the passion come from? When you are doing something unconventional, when your path is not so well-trodden, things can be tough. In olden days, such people were castrated by society; some were even killed. When people are ahead of times, they face various difficulties. We know what happened to Aristotle for talking against the flat earth concept. Manasi has done something similar in the field of art! Will she succeed commercially? Will she become an international name? Will she be known as one of the better artists? Only time can tell. Kudos to you Manasi! Way to go!

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