As part of its public diplomacy outreach, the ministry of external affairs has donned the mantle of filmmaker with the premiere of A Brush With Life, a special documentary on the life of master modernist Satish Gujral, the artist who overcame physical challenges to become a stalwart of contemporary Indian art.
The movie, commissioned by the ministry and supported by History TV 18 as a showcase of contemporary Indian arts, has been made by Sujata Kulshrestha of Wide Angle Films. It was premiered at the Oberoi Hotel Wednesday evening.
The film traces the life of sculptor and painter Satish Gujral as a boy in Lahore to his days of glory in the capital as a multi-faceted artist, who has worked with the widest possible range of material and mediums.
The movie captures the artist and the tragedies that robbed him of his power of hearing, coherent speech and use of limbs through his expressions on canvas, interviews with members of family, admirers, art critics and old footage of the freedom struggle and Partition that influenced his style.
Born in Lahore in 1925, Gujral, after a crippling accident at the age of 10, enrolled at the Mayo School of Art in Lahore to study applied art.
He learnt traditional Indian pottery and sculpting skills at Mayo following which he joined the JJ School of Art in Mumbai. Gujral later trained as an apprentice under contemporary masters Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Sequiros in Mexico.
Inspired by communism, he was one of the earliest Indian artists to realise the importance of art in public space - in an attempt to open it to people.
The movie brings to the screen the colours, perfection, lyricism and grandeur associated with Gujral's art and architectural design. It explores his evolution as a rebellious youth with affinity for dark paintings to a matured and open artist after his marriage to wife Kiran.
"My marriage to Kiran changed my outlook to life," Gujral says in the movie.
The artist, an ace architect, was awarded the "Order of the Crown" for designing the Belgian Embassy.
"The external affairs ministry has been making films for the last 30 years to project India in diverse and interesting ways. But very few know of it. We are now making special efforts to dub the movies in all the UNESCO languages and posting smaller versions on YouTube," Navdeep Suri, joint secretary(public diplomacy) in the ministry of external affairs, told IANS.
The ministry has also entered into a partnership with the Public Service Broadcasting Trust to make films that reflect the spirit of India abroad, Suri said.
For the Gujral clan, which was represented by the artist's wife Kiran, son Mohit, daughter Alpana, the occasion was nostalgic. "It is a very good introduction to his work.. just a preface. It has to reach the right audience," Kiran Gujral told IANS.
The family is building a small museum of his art on a plot of land it has acquired adjacent to the Gujral residence on Feroze Gandhi Road, Kiran Gujral said.