“People are thinking very mythologically about this (Lord Hanuman) painting, but the idea behind it was to show a common man in Mumbai,” said Abhinav Kafare, also known as Bade Moochwale, the brain behind a mural in the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) which received flak from Shiv Sena members on Monday.
Kafare’s painting was a creative take on the popular image of Lord Hanuman flying with the Gandhamardana Mountain that grew mythical life-saving herbs in one hand and his mace in the other. But in the painting, the modern-Hanuman — wearing wrist bands, watches and sunglasses and western clothes — was shown holding a pen instead of a mace, his crown was replaced with headphones, an iPod strapped to his arm and a local train was drawn instead of a tail.
“The theme was Mumbai so I was showing Mumbai’s common man who is fed up with the city turning into a concrete jungle, so he was flying with the last verdant patch to some greener place. All artists understood this but clearly that was not enough,” he said, speaking to HT from Benares where he is currently shooting for a feature film. He added that his team and he ended up working six days on the mural and finished just a day before IIT-B’s annual cultural fest Mood Indigo began, on December 23.
“I was only expressing my thoughts and feelings through this painting and I never imagined it’ll turn into something controversial. It’s really sad when artists don’t get to express our thoughts freely,” said Kafare, and added that his mural was meant to be a permanent fixture on the wall closer to the Students’ Activity Centre (SAC) at IIT-B. “It’s a loss of our hardwork and a beautiful creation. But honestly, it was never meant to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” he added.
While the management of IIT-B chose to stay mum on this issue on Tuesday, students took to social media to share their views against the “arm twisting techniques” by “local goons”.
“How can that mural be offensive? It didn’t show any mythological creatures in bad light, but in fact made a common man look more powerful. This is a direct attack on the freedom of expression of the artist,” said a senior IIT-B student, on condition of anonymity. Many students, also from institutes other IIT-B, used online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and were angry that even the institute did not take a stand and support the artist. “It’s unacceptable how the institute didn’t even protest against the political party or fight for their students,” said a student from a city college.