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Bapu leads the way

One doesn’t usually associate art with the Father of the Nation. But Mahatma Gandhi did influence a whole generation of artists. Vidyadhar Date on such artists.

art and culture Updated: Jan 30, 2009 15:03 IST

One doesn’t usually associate art with the Father of the Nation. But Mahatma Gandhi did influence a whole generation of artists. His most famous picture, which shows him walking with a stick in hand, was the creation of the famous Shantiniketan-based painter, Nandlal Bose and was painted during Gandhi’s Dandi Yatra in 1931.

This influence of Gandhi on Indian art was traced by Tapati Guha Thakurta, professor of history at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, during a programme hosted by Jnanapravaha, an organisation devoted to promotion of art in Mumbai.

Art and more
She showed how Gandhi brought art into the public eye by involving leading artists in two Congress party sessions, at Faizpur in 1937, and Haripura the following year. In fact, Bose designed a whole township for the session in Faizpur in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district using local construction material.

The professor had some interesting pictures to illustrate her talk. One depicted Bose showing Gandhi around Shantiniketan. Another had Pandit Nehru holding hands with Bose and his wife after the celebrated artist was presented the Padma Vibhushan in 1954.

Another great artist from Shantiniketan who was much influenced by Gandhi was Ramkinkar Baij. His most famous sculpture in Shantiniketan depicts a Santhal family struggling for survival, going out to look for work. Bose’s models were ordinary people and he used a variety of materials including watercolours. His characters included the village drummer, an ear cleaner and a woman tambourine player.

Films for peace
In the aftermath of the recent terror attacks, an international Seven Islands film festival, devoted to the theme of peace and non-violence, is on at the S P Jain auditorium at Bhavan’s campus, Andheri. Hosted by Bankim Kapadia, it started on January 26 and ends today.

Twenty-one films from 16 countries were screened, including documentaries and features. There was a special package called Why Democracy spearheaded by Dr Marla Stukenberg, director of the Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai. During an interaction session mediated by veteran socialist Surendra Mohan, Dr Stukenberg admitted that no country could be called truly democratic.