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Pop goes the canvas

Indian art is now making its presence felt even in Bollywood flicks. HT City tracks the trend.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2006 01:16 IST
Gitanjali Dang
Gitanjali Dang

The long-winded process of the democratisation of the arts has just charted a new trajectory for itself. In the recently released film Bluffmaster, Abhishek Bachchan’s apartment has the works of two contemporary Indian artists, TV Santosh and Bose Krishnamachari.

It isn’t an entirely new occurrence. Production designer for Bluffmaster, Ayesha Punvani, had used reproductions of Jamini Roy and Rabindranath Tagore for Amu, one of her earlier film projects, to give authenticity to the Bengali household where the film’s action unfolded.

In sync with character

Although one might conclude that the democratisation of the arts is the subtext of this trend, Punvani feels otherwise: “The director is the visual guide and my personal preference has nothing to do with it. In the film, Abhishek plays a modern man — he drives a Mustang and wears designer clothes. Originally, we had considered using posters of the film noir kind but then we opted for this. The artworks are chosen as they suit the production design.”

The opening up of the arts by prints has made the process of dissemination of ideas and art possible. In the recent past, innovative methods have registered a presence but not necessarily drawn attention to art works.

Mass vs class

In early 2005, a cell phone company offered works of MF Husain as screensavers. In this context, it’s not the use of an artwork in a film that is objectionable — it is the prop-like status of art that is questionable. Mass appeal, as suggested by some, also fails to justify such use. After all, mass production of mythological paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, printed at his own press, reduced his work to calendar art. The art works used in Bluffmaster are actually reproductions on canvas, after obtaining due permission.

Unhealthy trend?

Krishnamachari hasn’t seen Bluffmaster, so he refrains from commenting on the use of his work. He says: “I don’t know if this is an unhealthy trend in its entirety. Collector Sadruddin Daya’s home at Madh Island is often rented out for shoots, and the artworks on the walls become a part of every serial or film shot there. That makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Artist Tushar Joag, who was commissioned to create works for Dil Chahta Hai and Armaan, says: “They were commissioned works hence I don't call them my works.” Asked if he thinks it may be an unhealthy trend, Joag says: “Much of contemporary Indian art today is decorative and not socially conscious. I don’t care about how the works are used. What harm can it do anyway?”

First Published: Jan 05, 2006 01:16 IST