Dil toh pagal hai has to be one of the most clichéd phrases that we, as the 90’s born generation, are all too familiar with. Ironically, as clichéd as it is, for some of us it has not yet lost its charm; it could be so perhaps because of our childhood memories— attached with the famous Shahrukh Khan movie we all watched (most probably more than once) as kids— or perhaps simply because of the truth behind the statement “dil toh pagal hai” for I strongly believe that the heart is crazy. So, when I heard there was going to be a show at Sanat called Dil Toh Pagal Hai, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to see it!
In Abid Merchant’s words, “Dil to Pagal Hai” (The Heart is Crazy) is a cult classic, which defined the meaning of love to an entire generation.
Curated by Mohammad Zeeshan, an established artist who mainly practices contemporary miniature painting, Dil Toh Pagal Hai is an exhibition of works of young aspiring artists who, from the looks of their work, are not afraid to put their madness on display.
Ahmed Javed’s miniature grabs one’s attention, owing to the way he has stylized the old Mughal miniatures with details and his choice of colors. Using historical references, there is an interesting idea of ‘going forward by going backwards’ in his work. The artist’s fascination with tradition and habits (especially religious activities) is clearly evident, and so is the idea that we, as a society, do not question our traditions as such and follow them blindly. One notices that Javed’s images are split into two, and upon a closer look realizes that the split is deliberate: it makes the viewer delve deeper into the artwork with a bit of patience and thought; it makes their imaginations run and provokes their thoughts, since we are nowadays used to instant information and aren’t particularly fond of sparing more than a couple of moments in order to gain a better, more profound understanding of the things we see.
Talking about traditions, the work of Arsalan Farooqi explores funerary rites, processions and death. It is funny, one thinks, how death happens to be the most concrete reality of our life and yet it seems to be the last thing on our mind. Art has always done the job of bringing into the light things that we often tend to ignore or deliberately toss towards the back of our heads. Using video projection to create the illusion of his own death, Farooqi emulates a funeral of himself, showing his body trapped between life and death. His body is levitating, his hair hanging lifelessly, but one notices that his belly is the only thing that is moving; he seems to be motionless but breathing, alive, not so dead, after all. Is that what has become of us, one thinks. We are alive and breathing but good as dead— as people, as a nation, as a community. Or perhaps, he has tried to throw light on the idea that, even after our body expires as our soul leaves the world, a part of who we were remains alive in the world we lived in, among and in the hearts of the people we grew up and loved and laughed with? A part of us never really dies.
The installation of Haider Ali Naqvi’s work is perhaps one of the most eye-catching things about it. Featuring the famous Native Jetty bridge, the detail in his beautiful monochromic works throws light on the significance of man-made architecture in the busy, evolving city of Karachi, while the faintness of the colors denotes the personal histories, the memories, the traces that fade away every time something old is destroyed to build something new and tall in the name of development. The way part of his work is crumbled in the frame is intelligent and thought-provoking; it signifies the constant ruining and making of the city.
Using photo transfer on canvas, and acrylic and sand on canvas, Jovita Alvares has captured the most popular sight of Karachi, and probably the most favorite too, which is why it would not be wrong to say that her work manages to touch the hearts of more than many in a glance less than two. Personally, for me, it would not be wrong to call it love at first sight. The beach is the first thing that comes to mind when the citizens of Karachi want to relax, enjoy or take a break from our mundane routines. Alvares presents us with a framed collage of footsteps walking through the shore, both human and camel, drenched in salt water. Soothing to both the eyes and the heart of the inhabitants of Karachi, perhaps her work is symbolic of continuity. From the surface it makes one wonder how it resonates with the collective Dil Toh Pagal Hai theme, but a closer look and some thought makes one see that, just like the continuity of the footsteps of man and animal at the shore, the heart, too, goes on; it goes on to love in spite of heartbreaks, it goes on to give in spite of all that the cruel world takes away from it.
Featuring colorful silhouettes of 99 household objects in flat tones, Qadir Jhatial uses enamel paint on canvas to offer work that is, strangely, both eye catching and, in the first glance, seemingly ordinary to the eye. At first glance it looks like Pop Art and is likely to remind one of Andy Warhol’s popular soup cans. The 99 objects Jhatial’s work features are daily indoor and outdoor objects that are ordinary but actually indispensable, representative of our need, as humans, to depend on other people. These are the people in our life, whose importance we probably won’t realize until they’re missing from our lives. The objects also make for a nice little activity as the viewer tries to identify each one of them by their silhouettes, looking for the deeper meaning behind each one of them individually and as a whole, of the big picture. Perhaps it also shows that when in times of difficulty, a human needs another, merely the presence (denoted by the silhouettes of the objects) of the person is enough; the mere knowledge that somebody is there for you, that you have somebody to depend on, suffices, even if they don’t actively have much to say or do as such.
The essence of Pop Art was further explored in the life-sized installation piece by artist, Noman Siddiqui. His work , ‘Khwaish’ stood magnificently in the center of the gallery, and the fibre glass balloons that hung up above the painted bicycle produced the perfect combination of created/found objects. Razin Rubin innovatively brought out her own unique voice in the exhibition by deliberately imposing her own imagery onto prints of the other artists work thereby, creating a whole new visual in itself.
Dil Toh Pagal Hai is a collection of strong, sometimes seemingly strange—in a very good way, needless to say— and greatly thought-provoking ideas displayed intelligently. There is a dire need in the society for art that is not just aesthetically pleasing and fit for drawing rooms, but that also makes us rack our brains and think twice about the most commonly accepted ideas.