(December 31, 2022) Indian art and culture exploded on global platforms this year. Filmmakers, authors, actors and musicians have made their presence felt, showcasing Indian culture in all its richness and diversity. In this recap, we revisit some of Global Indian’s top art and culture stories through 2022.
Geetanjali Shree, winner of 2022 International Booker Prize
India was in for quite a surprise, when on May 27, 2022, Indian author Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb of Sand‘ has become the first Hindi novel to be awarded the prestigious International Booker Prize. Originally published as ‘Ret Samadhi’, the book has been translated into English by Daisy Rockwell. Speaking to Global Indian in an interview earlier this year, the author had expressed, “Ret Samadhi is the story of an 80-year-old woman who is depressed after her husband’s death. Actually, it was the image of a woman in a joint, orthodox, middle-class family, who was sitting with her back turned, that stayed with me for a very long time. Somewhere it made me wonder if she was turning her back to the people around her, or her life. It took me around seven to eight years to finish the book.”
Growing up in various towns of Uttar Pradesh in the late 50s and 60s with four siblings, the 64-year-old author reveals it was the vibrant culture of those towns and their language that gave her a foundation. While she attended an English-medium school, the scarcity of English-language children’s books turned out to be a “blessing in disguise” for her. “I used to read Chandamama and Nandad as a child, and that gravitated me towards tales from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Arabian Nights, Panchatantra, Kathasaritsagara and Chandrakanta Santati. Had I not experienced this childhood, I am not sure if I would have been able to write these stories,” reminisced the author, adding, “My mother would narrate stories to us siblings. Also, since my father was a bureaucrat, we had several people working for us at our house. I remember listening to stories from those ladies as a child. I was mesmerised by how words could create a whole new world, which was so engrossing. Unfortunately, I do not have those stories though even I am curious to know what I wrote back then.”
Shaunak Sen, filmmaker
In 2022, filmmaker Shaunak Sen‘s All That Breathes became the first Indian documentary to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It went on to win the “L’OEil d’Or, the Golden Eye award, which “goes to a film that, in a world of destruction, reminds us that every life matters, and every small action matters. You can grab your camera, you can save a bird, you can hunt for some moments of stealing beauty, it matters,” the jury said in their note.
Nearly three years in the making, All That Breathes paints a “dystopian picture postcard of Delhi in the 1990s,” Shaunak told Global Indian, shortly before he headed off to Cannes in 2022. “My first sense of tone was the sense we always have in Delhi, of gray, hazy skies and air purifiers humming everywhere. And in this all-encompassing grey, monotony, you can see birds flying around.”
The film follows the lives of two brothers, Mohammad and Nadeem, who rescue and treat injured kites in Delhi. The 90-minute film was chosen by a jury comprising Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, Ukrainian writer-director Iryna Tsilyk, French actor Pierre Deladonchamps, journalist Alex Vicente, and Moroccan writer-filmmaker Hicham Falah.
Khyati Trehan, graphic designer
The 94th Oscar Academy Awards had an august array of creative spirits. Among them was an Indian graphic designer whose 3D artwork was among eight creative people invited to contribute to the Oscars. 3D artist Khyati Trehan, a well-known fluid digital artist was no doubt thrilled to be selected, even wishing she had been invited to the ceremony. “I am still in disbelief,” shared Khyati, adding, “My concept was of the Oscar statue as a movie viewer amidst the action. It was a dream project and I drew inspiration from the immersive power of movies. I wanted to create an overwhelming sense of feeling. I just wished they has called us to the US for the ceremony when my design was selected.”
The young designer, who was also among the 2022 Forbes ‘30 under 30’, started her designing journey from National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad). “While working on a project in college, looking for an image, I realised I was spending more time on searching for a photograph, than designing. I started exploring possibilities of making all the pictures, rather than hoping that someone had clicked an image suiting my requirements. That’s how I discovered 3D. It seemed like magic.”
Khyati has worked for award-winning global design and innovation firm IDEO. The sky was the limit as she worked on projects with NYT, New Yorker Magazine, Apple, Adobe, Absolut, Instagram and Snapchat. The successful graphic designer won several awards and recognitions, including the Artistry Creator of the Year at Adweek’s Creator Visionary Awards and ADC Young Guns 19 – 2021.
Manali Datar, actress
She made headlines in 2019 when she was selected to play the role of Rose Granger-Weasley in the theatrical production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And earlier this year, Indian-Australian actress Manali Datar scored the part of Edna in the smash-hit musical sensation Fangirl at the Sydney Opera House. “It’s surreal. As an actor, I dreamt about getting to perform at the Opera house and now it is happening. I am still soaking in that I am going to perform at the venue,” Manali shares.
Born in Nashik, the actress moved to Australia at a young age, and fell in love with the stage while she was still in school. Calling the production of Harry Potter a “steep learning curve”, the actress revealed that it not only helped her improve her acting chops but also gave a sneak-peek into the theatre industry from the set. In 2022, Manali played the title role in the super successful White Pearl by the Sydney Theatre Company, which was a comedy about a skin-bleaching ad gone wrong. “I played the part of Priya Singh. The production helped me strengthen my relationship with India and realise my identity. I understood a lot about myself and my roots through that experience,” said the actress, who aspires to be on the silver screen.
Aditya Rao, musician
In 2018, the actor R. Madhavan met Indian-American musician Aditya Rao and his wife at a ramen restaurant in LA. What began as a conversation on Instagram would turn into a serendipitous meeting for all of them, as Madhavan told them the story of a film he was working on – Rocketry: the Nambi Effect. Aditya’s career was flourishing by that time – he had collaborated with the multi-Grammy and Oscar-winning music director A.R. Rahman, lending his voice to the hugely popular Aila Aila in the Vikram-starrer ‘I’. He went on to sing in two more projects – Achcham Yenbadhu Madamiayada and Pele: Birth of a Legend and did two concerts with Rahman, one in Chennai and two in Las Vegas. In 2017, his Carnatic remix of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, made in collaboration with Indian Raga, went viral on the internet with 11 million views as of 2022.
Aditya went on to make nine songs for Rocketry: The Nambi Effect. “I ended up singing nine songs, two in five different languages. It was a ridiculously amazing experience, working to get the tracks mixed and re-mastered,” he told Global Indian. The final versions of Peruvali were recorded in his home studio. “It was one of the hardest songs I have ever done, not only because it was a difficult song to sing but also because the lyrics were written by Dr Nambi Narayanan himself.”
Aishwarya Balasubramanian, dancer
The disciple of renowned Guru Acharya Choodamani Anitha Guha, Aishwarya Balasubramanian began her Bharatanatyam journey at the age of five. As a child, she mesmerised her audience during the stage performances. Even so young, she stood out for the beauty of her facial expressions, clarity of footwork and her grace. Over the years, Aishwarya has developed a reputation as one of Chennai’s most loved Bharatanatyam dancers and is a guru herself, training pupils from the Indian diaspora in the USA. She has been given titles like ‘Singar Mani, ‘Nalanda Nritya Nipuna, ‘Kala Ratna’ and ‘Natya Chudar’.
Aishwarya runs her dance school, Arpanam in the USA, bringing the ancient wisdom of Bharatanatyam to new, young learners from among the diaspora. “Since I had very strong roots in dance back in India, it was not a challenge to continue my passion in the USA,” says the dancer who performs at significant events and dance festivals in the US.