Acclaimed Hindi language art critic Prayag Shukla’s anthology titled Kala Ki Duniya Mein was recently launched at the Press Club of India, New Delhi. Published by Ananya Prakashan, the book includes Shukla’s exclusive writings on Indian art. Kala Ki Duniya Mein attempts to familiarise readers with Shukla’s work from the beginning of his career in the 1960s till present. The eight sections in the anthology bring out Shukla’s perspective on Indian modernists with essays, interviews, memoirs and reviews – including ones on international artists who exhibited in India during that time.
For Shukla, it was the covers of Hindi magazine Kalpana that drew him towards the Indian arts. “I wrote poetry and stories for Kalpana and eventually joined the editorial team in Hyderabad in 1963. The magazine cover used to feature paintings by Laxma Goud, Ram Kumar, MF Husain... Such images fascinated me to a large extent,” Shukla tells The Morning Standard.
Shukla eventually moved to Delhi and had an opportunity to meet Indian modernists. “When I didn’t have a proper room to live in Delhi, Ram Kumar offered me his studio. This was a life-changing moment. I used to meet MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Krishen Khanna and other modernists.” Shukla started writing a column on art for Dinman magazine and continued to do so for 10 years. Eventually, he also wrote for other Hindi language journals and newspapers.
Shukla says he experienced freedom while writing about arts. “I was fortunate enough to travel across the world for exhibitions. It was a wholesome experience to meet artists of national and international importance. From magazines like Kalpana and Dinman, I have learnt that if you take interest in any arts, you will truly enjoy the process of writing on it. The work will become far easier,” says Shukla.
Abhishek Kashyap, who has edited the book, talks about his interest in the art critic’s writings, “I religiously read Prayag Shukla’s column in my growing years. A visit to his house led me to publish this anthology. It was simply fascinating to look at the history of 50 years of Indian art lying in front of me. ”
According to Kashyap, Shukla is one of the few writers dedicated to their craft. “Shukla’s writing style is such that it easily draws the reader into an article. He starts his article with a simple line and goes into many depths. It is essential to note that in his writings, thoughts and facts are interwoven in simple and readable arguments. He doesn’t push for his personal thoughts, but brings out authentic criticism. The writer takes a back seat and the writing flourishes.”
Kashyap adds that this rich collection will inspire people interested to read fair criticisms. “Shukla has gone into understanding the minds of diverse personalities through his writings. People who want to understand ‘criticism writing’ will truly benefit from this anthology.”