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Showcasing China and Kolkata, Mala Mukerjee’s latest photo exhibition explores the mysteries of the trivial

Looking at the recent work of photographer Mala Mukerjee, you are reminded of the exuberant footwork of dancer Birju Maharaj. At the end of a sequence of frenetic movement, there is a time when he pauses. The air resounds with a multitude of echoes. Finally, in the silence of the vast auditorium, only one sound can be heard—that of an anklet bell tinkling. It is haunting in its eloquence.
Is it the liquid sound of a bell in the distance calling people to evening prayer? Is it the weary ringing of a brass bell around the neck of a cow or a herd of cattle returning home after a day in the outdoors? Or perhaps even the memory of the flute-player of Brindavan inviting the milkmaids in a life-affirming dance with him?
So it is with the images that Mala presents in Unheard Melodies. As she explains in a note to the recent work that comprises of near-abstract compositions: “Some of you may well find that my interests have undergone some changes over all these years. While that is natural, I hope you will find in them a continuation of my quest to understand the mysterious playfulness of light and discover form, texture and colour in the most trivial objects that surround our lives—the tales they tell and their unheard melodies.”
A few of the images in this series are those that Mala photographed in the course of her visits to China’s Yunnan Province, where she had been invited as their special guest. Some of these have the austere effect of Chinese brushwork on parchment paper; others of the bright reds of Chinese paper lanterns; yet others of the passage of time left on the walls of her native Kolkata.
No matter what the subject, Mukerjee’s photographic essays are journeys of discovery resonant with her own special music.

At Apparao Infinity Galleries, Wallace Gardens. From February 6 to 28. Details: 28332226
Geeta Doctor

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