www.mid-day.com | December 02, 2018
A bilingual, multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed, online journal, Hakara is what the art world genuinely needed but didn't know who to ask
Through Hakara, which means 'a call' in Marathi, playwright Ashutosh Potdar and art critic Noopur Desai have found their calling. Both have big careers: four of Potdar's plays, including Marathi heavyweights F-1/105 and Anand Bhog Mall, have been published, and he teaches literature, culture studies and drama at Flame University in Pune. Desai, who has done her master's in art history from MS University of Baroda, is currently pursuing her PhD from TISS.
Yet, they somehow found the time to launch Hakara, an online art journal in Marathi and English, which publishes unpublished plays, short stories, poetry, art and photographic projects. When we ask Desai what they get out of it, she says, "In any art form, it is always difficult to have a tangible outcome. [But], it's important to create a dialogue. And today, it is important to have such open spaces, where artists can express themselves about the concerns they have, not only political and social, but also concerns about art, such as medium and material. That is what the potential of Hakara
Desai, 35, and Potdar, 44, bumped into each other four years ago. "We met through a common friend at some art event in Pune," says Desai. "We realised we had similar interests. His play F1/105 was being performed and I wrote a review about it in a Marathi magazine called Purogami Jangarjana. Our conversations were ongoing." By 2016, they had covered enough common ground to know they could shape Hakara. "I have been exploring different forms of writing: poetry, fiction, plays," says Potdar. "We had this idea of how to connect and bring different kinds of disciplines and languages on to one platform." There was another concern niggling Potdar. "We say that the world is very global and sharing ideas, but sometimes that feels like it's only on Facebook or Instagram. Everyone knows everyone, but does everyone know everyone's work?"
Hakara's first open call was announced in January 2017 and the first issue launched in May 2017. It included contributions from artists such as documentary film-maker Avijit Mukul Kishore, ceramicist Neha Kudchadkar and short story writer T Padmanabhan. "We always have a balance: established as well as emerging artists," says Desai. "As editors, we [handhold] everyone, from well-known artists to younger ones. We have a review process. We have people from different fields who [help] in different capacities. Even if a very significant academician sends in a contribution, we go through it, and get back with feedback and suggestions." Sometimes, their reviewers do double duty as contributors, like Amrita Gupta Singh, programme director at Mohile Parikh Center, who says, "Hakara provides plural entry points for readers and practitioners ." Desai adds, "Hakara has evolved through friendships. One cannot work in silos. Building a new discourse or creating new forms can be realised through such collective activities."
Since they began, they've released five editions, and receive 60-100 submissions per edition. Prachi Deshpande, fellow in history, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, says, "Hakara goes beyond art criticism as we traditionally understand it. It pulls together both visual as well as narrative impressions of contemporary themes. It is doing a great job of contributing to intellectual energies in the world of art in innovative ways." For instance, says Potdar, "Shrilal Shukla's Raag Darbari is completing 50 years. So, we're not responding to that with a research paper. But, [the way] performing artistes are responding to it."
Like Amitesh Grover, theatre director and teacher at the National School of Drama, who adapted the seminal novel into a play. An excerpt from it is going to be in the next issue of Hakara. "There is a dearth of contemporary journals in the fields of theatre and performance," says Grover. "Hakara fills this void. [They have] very successfully addressed the need to publish more writing on theatre, both from the practitioners' perspective as well as from those who teach performing arts. The quality of the publication is of a very high standard. I don't think there's any other contemporary theatre journal doing as well as Hakara is." Which means that if you have any unpublished work lying around, submitting them to the critical eyes and the guiding hands of Desai and Potdar is a good call.