This self-taught artist impressed PM Modi, Arun Jaitley with his paintings
Mahesh Pandit has replicated in oil Narendra Modi’s famous picture of accepting prasad from his mother on becoming Prime Minister.india Updated: Feb 13, 2018 10:26 IST
The portraits he drew of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have changed the life of a self-taught painter from Bihar’s backwoods. His work is status symbol for a section of the Delhi elite including leaders of the BJP, their supporters and political allies.
The painting Mahesh Pandit did of the PM and his mother decorates Hiraben Modi’s living room in Ahmedabad. Adorning the verandah of the FM’s bungalow is his hyper realistic lifesize portrait of the Jaitley family.
Call it coincidence or destiny, the 36-year-old from Vaishali’s Jaffarabad used to sell tea outside the treasury office in Gurgaon. The country then was gearing up for the 2014 polls that catapulted as PM a man who had no qualms flaunting his ‘chai wala’ badge.
Like many young people, Pandit was drawn to the BJP, especially Modi. He turned a Jaitley fan on hearing him speak at a Gurgaon school in 2013.
That had him working on an oil-on-canvas portrait of Jaitley, who saw it after becoming minister. So impressed was the FM that he asked Pandit to do the family painting. It was fame and money in one stroke for the Bihar boy.
While working on Jaitley’s portrait, Pandit replicated in oil Modi’s famous picture accepting prasad from his mother on becoming PM. “I kept the paintings safely packed till I could reach Jaitley sir at his North Block office on May 20, 2015,” he recalled.
Luckily for him, the FM was having the PM over for dinner that night at his Krishna Menon Marg residence. The coincidence opened another door for Pandit, bringing him face to face with Modi.
The PM was impressed as much by Pandit’s work. The 4x3 feet painting had in the backdrop another realistic portrayal--- of President Pranab Mukherjee administering him oath in the forecourts of Rashtrapati Bhawan.
“Modiji inquired about my background, praised me. He was happy and emotional,” recalled Pandit. His joy had no bounds when he saw TV shots of his painting in Hiraben’s living room. That was when the PM visited her on his birthday in 2016.
Pandit often wondered as to where the PM could’ve kept the painting: “Seeing it at his mother’s place gave me immense satisfaction.”
He has since drawn for a host of politicos and professionals including Andhra CM N Chandrababu Naidu, Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan, journalist Rajat Sharma and Hockey India president Narinder Batra. He’s waiting now to deliver to President Ram Nath Kovind a portrait he has done of him.
“I learnt hyper realism from books that compile the works of great artists,” said Pandit. “But I’d have been nowhere without Jaitley sir….he’s an aficionado and a benefactor.”
Yes indeed. For the work on display in the FM’s verandah recognizes and exhibits the artistry of a man who couldn’t finish school— and did menial jobs to make ends meet. He now earns Rs25-50,000 per painting, and both his children go to school.
First Published: Feb 13, 2018 07:49 IST