Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

By Prof Sunil Khilnani

On Going since May 2015 • Updated weekly

Over the course of 50 episodes, Sunil Khilnani, director of the King's India Institute in London, takes listeners on a whirlwind journey from ancient India to the 21st century through the prism of the life stories of 50 remarkable individuals. He will also explore their surprising afterlives, which illuminate both the astonishments and urgent conflicts of India today.

He begins with the Buddha, exploring the story of his life and how he has been reinvented in modern India by those who oppose the caste system. "Buddha's solution to suffering lay in the individual mind. But he was also sketching a new form of society," says Professor Khilnani. "He was a moral meritocrat, and to an extent a social one too."

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  Direct Link   Download 0 Minutes 05 Jun 2015

Prof. Sunil Khilnani profiles Nainsukh, the 18th century artist whose intimate and engaging portraits of a prince's life created a new vision for Indian art. In his paintings of his patron, Balwant Singh, Nainsukh departed from the rigid formality of traditional Indian painting. Instead he showed the prince in his most unguarded moments: having his beard trimmed by a barber, being mimicked by a performer, huddled ill and depressed under a bulky quilt, and writing a letter bare-chested in his tent. "It's an almost modern, instagram-esque familiarity" says Sunil Khilnani. The artist Howard Hodgkin, an appreciator and collector of Nainsukh's work, describes Nainsukh as "the first great modern artist of India". In his favourite painting, Balwant Singh and his pet goose stare at each other, both bird and prince transfixed. Prof. Khilnani tells the story of two men: one a painter with a unique talent to express humanity and individuality, warmth and humour; the other a prince who unreservedly, unselfconsciously gave himself to the artist as subject. Producer: Jeremy Grange Executive Producer: Martin Smith.. . .