Suruchi Gupta

The bigger canvas

by on Oct.09, 2013, under Uncategorized

Puja pandals, synonymous with themes nowadays, are creative canvas not just for the established artistes like Prasanta Pal, Bhataosh Sutar, Tamal Goswami. The pandal grounds, over the years, have become an important workshop (or internship ground) for students of various art colleges in and around the city. Though no records exist of how many students are working-learning-earning at these pandals exist, the mentors believe their percentage could be anything between 15%-50% of total number of art college students studying in various art colleges. These students play a vital role in execution of themes, toiling alongside the traditionally trained artisan and craftsmen.

Santanu Chatterjee, who had assisted artiste Sushanta Pal for last five years at several puja pandals while at Indian Society of Oriental Art (ISOA), is independently executing the Barisha Yubak Brinda pandal this year (just after passing out from the college), upon his mentor’s wish. Rangini is the theme is working on, depicting Durga as a colourful goddess of peace and love, instead of violence.

“Working on the pandal while studying about art has been a definite help to my career. While it does help one monetarily, it is a high to be able to exhibit and be a part of something lakhs see,” says Chatterjee, who is a student of Bardhama Art College now.

“The pandals are a platform for many to do many things. I have a couple of students working with me on the pandals that I am doing. They are bright students and earn handsomely while they learn,” says Sanatan Dinda.

Understandably, as the number of artists doing theme pujas has increased over the years, so has the involvement of students. “Just as a writer may gain experience via internships at a publishing house, the larger than life pandals are a learning ground for these students. Certificates? Well, they may not get one while working under senior artists at pandals, but experience and talent count as much,” says artist Tamal Goswami, who is doing Mamata Banerjee’s para pujo – Kalighat Milan Sangha, this year, with a number of students under his wing.

Given that theme pujas and involvement of art graduates started around mid-1990s, the students assisting today can be considered second generation of art college graduates. “Yes, today’s students can be called the second generation, and, I would say about 50% of art college students are involved with pandals… working under mentors has created a job opening – pandal-making – for art students,” substantiates Goswami.

Ayan Saha, a student of Indian Art College, Dum Dum, has been assisting artist Tarun Dey for three years now. He is part of the Environmental Arts Group – a group of current and ex-students of Dey – who work with him on his pandal projects.

Ayan points out, “Facilities for learning inside college premises are often limited. Pandals offer that at a mammoth scale and have taught me how to work in a team as an artist.” He adds, “Of course, the most important part is, it teaches me how to transform geometrical shapes on layout, in to cutting and carving in physical forms.”

Sanjay Karmakar, joint secretary and professor, ISOA, has been part of puja pandal making for about 12 years now. He is assisting Goswami presently, after doing some other assistance and independent work in the field, among other things, since passing out of art college in 1994. “Over the years, my students have come up and shared their enthusiastic viewpoint and experience with me… it certainly seems to be positive,” says Karmakar.

Summing up, Swati Roy, assistant professor, Government College of Art and Craft, says, “Not every student becomes a painter after learning painting. Working at pandals develops a sense of coordination among students – how to match the sets with dress of Durga and theme. It opens practical work avenue for them.”

(Authored by me, the article was first published on & copyright of Hindustan Times)

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