April 16, 2001
Issue


India Today, April 16, 2001

 

COVER
   

Anything To Declare, Mr Verma?
The arrest of the Central Board of Excise & Customs chairman has revealed the rot that has set in the premier revenue- collection authority. An inside story of his assets, and rise to position of power. Plus: The sex and smuggling controversy arising from his dubious links with Uzbek nationals.

The Silk Route
The Customs played an active role in a smuggling racket by Uzbek couriers that could have compromised the nation's security.

Rites Of Passage Despite stringent internal controls, the CBEC is one of the most sullied departments in the country.

 

 
THE NATION
   

The Earth Citizen
The former United States president returns to India to share the sorrows of quake-hit Gujarat.

 

 
STATES
   

In Quest Of Numbers
There's a scramble for winning combinations, from caste-based alliances in Tamil Nadu to political pragmatism in Bengal and Assam.

 

 
ENVIRONMENT
 

Green And Bear It
The Delhi Government's complacency leads to a bumpy ride for commuters.

 

 
ECONOMY
 

Free At Last
Removal of quantitative restrictions on all imports will transform the Indian market like never before.

 

 
OTHER STORIES
     
 



 
  Home  
 

PROFILE: B.C.SANYAL

Old Man Art

IGNCA prepares to felicitate the still sprightly painter-sculptor on his hundredth birthday

With his meticulously sculpted beard and swaggering moustache, his deep-set eyes and erect frame, he remains-even at 100-an active, genial and handsome man. Till but a few years ago he would drive his own car though these days, much to his irritation, he has to be ferried by friends and relatives. Residents of the Hazrat Nizamuddin area in Delhi can still see him most mornings at around 7.30 a.m. taking a brisk walk around Humayun's Tomb before returning for breakfast by nine. "It is such a delight to start my day by greeting this familiar figure who symbolises so many vanishing values that we cherish," says painter Anjolie Ela Menon, who lives in the vicinity.

Bhavesh Chandra Sanyal, painter-sculptor and guru to three generations of Indian artists, is to be felicitated by the revamped Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) on April 22. Menon, a trustee of the IGNCA, is organising a special exhibition as a tribute, for which 100 artists have contributed a work each. The proceeds of the show will go to the Nora Centre for the Arts at Andhretta in Himachal Pradesh, a dream of Sanyal and his eccentric friend, the late "memsahib" of Punjabi theatre, Nora Richards.

The morning walk over, it's breakfast time at the Sanyal household. "The newspaper, like morning tea, is a habit difficult to give up," he complains, adding, "these days I can only read the headlines, and all this loot, murder and rape! Poor Bharat Mata!" The grand mascot of Indian art is not amused. Looking back over the decades, what would he recommend to aspiring artists today? "Don't think of taking up art as a profession," he replies flatly without any qualms.

 

A colourful life: The artist's self-portrait

Both the purpose and practice of art have changed so radically since the early 1920s when he was a student at the Government School of Art, Calcutta, that the doyen is bewildered and ill at ease. But he quickly clarifies his view. "Art students today are much more aware and better educated than they used to be. There was a time when you were sent to an art school if you failed at everything else!" Besides, he also points out, art today is reflective of the social situation: "If confusion and corruption mark our lives generally, the artist can only image that." It is no longer the purpose of art to depict a picturesque utopia.

Born in Dibrugarh, Assam, on April 22, 1902, Sanyal came into his own in 1929 when he was asked by a Punjabi firm by the name of Krishna Plaster Works to go to Lahore to make a bust of Lala Lajpat Rai (who had died after a police lathi charge a year earlier), timed for a Congress session. A marvellous and witty raconteur, Sanyal retells tales of those early days in Lahore with deadpan humour.

Krishna Plaster Works, it turned out, supplied zoological and botanical plaster models to educational institutions. Had this ambitious young sculptor travelled 900 miles to prepare laboratory models in Lahore? Oh no, that was their routine business, "But now we wish to break new ground," assured the owner, "We wish to capitalise on the overwhelming popularity of Lala Lajpat Rai, and with your assistance a huge fortune can be made. I will make you my partner ... I want to see a bust of Lalaji in every Punjabi home." Besides, a full-scale statue of Lalaji was to be unveiled by Jawaharlal Nehru at the forthcoming Congress session and Sanyal would be responsible for making that as well.

Sanyal stayed on in Lahore for 18 long and eventful years till the partition of India in 1947. He had joined the faculty of the famous Mayo School of Arts and later set up his own atelier, the Lahore School of Fine Arts, in 1937. His school-cum-studio became a lively salon for artists, writers, theatre people and left-wing intellectuals to meet and exchange ideas. A keen organiser of art events, he was actively involved in organising the early exhibitions of artists like Sudhir Khastagir, Paritosh Sen, Kanwal Krishna and also the posthumous exhibition by Amrita Sher-Gil in 1945.

Arriving in Delhi with his actress wife Snehlata and daughter Amba "with just the clothes that we were wearing" he soon joined what was then the Delhi Polytechnic (now upgraded to the College of Art) at Kashmiri Gate as its principal. "He created the most wonderful atmosphere any art student could wish for," recalls senior artist Paramjit Singh who studied there along with many other important names of the art world. "He gathered some great teachers and artists including Sailoz Mukherjea, Biren De and Avinash Chandra and was a very liberal principal." Sanyal was also generous and affectionate to his students, as painter Arpita Singh remembers: "When I could not afford to pay for myself, he gave me the money to go on the college tour to Ajanta and Ellora." Those were definitely Sanyal's finest years.

As an artist Sanyal will remain a great portraitist in both painting and sculpture. His eye for posture and rhythm in form is indeed remarkable. His role as a catalyst and orchestrator of the creative momentum alone could be marked as a great contribution. Revelling in multiculturalism he ensured space for a creative dialogue across the arts. He founded the Delhi Shilpi Chakra, a highly active artists' cooperative-adda-gallery all rolled into one. But Sanyal was not always a great judge of human character as his choice of successors both at the Shilpi Chakra and the College of Art later proved. The former is no longer an art institution, with its prime space having been usurped for other businesses.

As the man who created and nurtured so many active and seminal institutions enters his 100th year, it is perhaps time to acknowledge the institution he has become in his own lifetime.


 
 
 
Care Today
     METRO TODAY
 
   

MetroScape

Rock Solid
Here's the big truth for those who doubted the band's durability: Deep Purple is still together--and after 33 years of full-detonation rocking.

more...


Looking Glass

Delhi Exhibition:
Ghislaine Aarsse Prins


Delhi Restaurant:
Art Diva Cafe

Mumbai Bar:
Starboard Bar

 

 
    Web Exclusives
DESPATCHES
  More and more elderly people are daring to break social constraints in search of companionship, reports INDIA TODAY's Namita Bhandare in Despatches.

 

 
PREVIOUS ISSUE


India Today, April 9, 2001

Click here to view
the previous issue

 

 

 

CONTACT US SUBSCRIPTION PRIVACY POLICY