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December 05, 2014

Integrating the Senses

Text by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi. Siddharth is the bestselling author of The Last Song of Dusk, lives in Goa, and contributes to the New York Times and TIME.

Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi tells you all about Sensorium – a sparkling new festival of arts, literature and ideas in Goa

Have you seen Farrokh Chothia’s jazz photographs? You must – they are studies in concentration, rigour and joy. When he was photographing Erykah Badu he was only a few feet away from her stage, in the photographer’s pit. At one point, she reached across and put her feet over him, landing on a stool behind him. “How many men can claim to be under the skirt of Erykah Badu?” he asked me, adding that he dare not look up. Farrokh is far too self-deprecating to have ever shown some of his more serious work but he took this risk for Sensorium, a festival of which I am honorary director (Prashant Panjiar, founder of the Delhi Photo Festival, is creative director and Raj and Dipti Salgaocar are patrons). It was unsurprising, then, that Salman Rushdie graciously offered to write an introduction to Farrokh’s show, Jazz, which is up on the walls of Sunaparanta. I was secretly applauding Rushdie when he wrote, “The photographer too is both composer and performer, capable of virtuoso flashes, seeking darker, more sombre truths.”

I was also delighted to rope in Ritesh Batra, director of the sublime, The Lunchbox, to put on a digital show – his first, I reckon – of his images of the dabbawallahs. These formed part of his research, and inspiration no doubt, for his film, which connects perfectly to Sensorium’s theme: of looking at how photography intersects with the other mediums. Ritesh is quiet and gentle, and formidably articulate, and this will be a foray into a different medium for him; I’m terrifically excited how his talk and digital show will come along. Sooni Taraporevala, conferred the Padma Shri for her contribution to the arts, is creating a fresh new show, albeit one derived from her oldest body of work: photo stills from Salaam Bombay. What I’ve learned from Sooni, over the years, is that you don’t need to be monogamous to any one medium, and the idea of being ‘pure’ to one’s form is entitled only to its production. In other words: be free. Indeed, Sooni dances nimbly ­— from writing screenplays, photographing her beloved Parsis, making films like Little Zizou, and now this glorious new show which combines photo stills with her script from Salaam Bombay. Sohrab Hura, a recent nominee member of Magnum, will be showing on the lawns, and we are delighted to be launching his book at Sunaparanta – his work is subtle and remarkable, and flares with a sadness of enduring worth. Dayanita Singh drove Sensorium in a sense, with conversations I had with her. It was Dayanita who told me to make this more than a photography festival. And while initially I was hesitant I can appreciate now, her visionary words; because of her counsel this festival became larger than the sum of its parts. I am curious about her show at Sensorium, which will challenge directly her love for the letters and the images that belie them. If you come on the opening night – it’s free, and we’re on from 6 pm on December 5, 2014 – Jeet Thayil will be performing poetry with his guitar in tow. Now there’s a renaissance bloke, poet, novelist, all round rock star – it will be thrilling to see the music he makes and the photographs that will show behind him, of poets, I suspect, real revolutionaries.

Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi is honorary director of Sensorium, a new arts festival opening today at Sunapranata: Goa Centre for Arts.

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