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Exhibition on Mumbai dabbawallas

art-and-culture Updated: May 22, 2010 12:51 IST
Jigna P
Jigna P
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Mumbai

dabbawallas

have been a subject for inspiration for many a creative forms — documentary films, paintings, sculptures and installations, among others. Their method of work is rated among the top-most the world over. Mumbai-based artist Prakash Sonawane has been studying Mumbai

dabbawallas

and has displayed 13 paintings at The Strand Art Room. It’s a subject for which he received the Maharashtra State Art Award this year.



“With no modern technology, computers or even mobile phones, the

dabbawallas

still manage to deliver correctly and on time. This is something that intrigues and inspires me,” says Sonawane.



The 31-year-old artist says that unlike other artists who have depicted

dabbawallas

merely as a subject, he has been studying these men for the last two years. “I spend a lot of time observing them, talking and interviewing them, learning about their problems and the new techniques that they come up with, as solutions to their problems of space and more,” says Sonawane, who specialised in portraiture studies at the JJ School of Art.



The paintings on canvas in a mix of oil, acrylic and charcoal, show

dabbawallas

against the background of the humdrum of the city. The white

kurta-pajama

uniform, Gandhi cap, cycle and a wooden crate for the tiffins, time management and teamwork, a serving nature and the 150-year-old system of working that still keeps the city going — Sonawane freezes this on canvas.



Of people


In one painting, Sonawane, who now teaches portraiture at the JJ School of Art, shows a grid like assemblage of faces of Bollywood stars and other known people. He explains, “Mumbai

dabbawallas

are famous world over, just like Bollywood stars are, but look at the difference between the two,” he smiles.



In another painting, he shows the

dabbawallas

against a poster of the IPL sports stars. “During the IPL, everyone seemed to be busy with the games. I’ve shown the

dabbawallas

busy doing their job; I’m looking at the difference of the nature of being busy,” he points out.



Sonawane’s process involves sketching. He seldom uses photography and only for reference for the background visual. He will soon be displaying the pencil and charcoal drawings of the

dabbawallas

in an exhibition. His next show is in Singapore.