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Urban mirror for tribal benefit

Ipil. A star that sheds light on lives. A voluntary organisation, bearing the Santhali name, will be born on Wednesday at Rabindra Sadan with the aim of bridging the urban-tribal divide.

It all started with an artist striking up a friendship with tribal children in a Birbhum hamlet. “One day I showed 12-year-old Chondu Tudu how to operate a handycam. In a matter of minutes, he was zooming in and panning so perfectly that I realised that it was only lack of exposure that keeps them ‘backward’,” says Ranajit Roy Chowdhury, the moving force behind Ipil.

Ipil, therefore, seeks to give tribal artists a platform to showcase their art. “We will book galleries for them and organise cultural programmes,” he says. Students from city schools will also be taken to the villages to gain acquaintance with tribal art. “If they see under what conditions a dokra artisan works, they will appreciate what is on sale in showrooms,” he points out.

If Chondu Tuddu gave birth to the idea that is Ipil, it was Kalpataru Maity who added to the cause. “One day, I saw his father, an employee of the Academy of Fine Arts, weeping in the lawns. He was at the end of his tether trying to garner funds for his son’s treatment. That made us want to do something for thalassaemic kids as well.”

Wednesday's programme in the open-air complex, therefore, has a twin focus. Artists will wield the paintbrush along with thalassaemic children. “Wasim Kapoor, Sanatan Dinda, Eleena Banik, Gopinath Ray, Dipankar Datta, Janak Jhankar Narzari, Debashish Deb and Piu Sarkar have confirmed willing participation,” says Chitrani Chakraborty, Ipil's “volunteer-in-chief”.

Alongside the action on the canvas, there will be “enough song and dance to keep the children interested”. Tapan Das Baul from Santiniketan and Jhumur samrat Bijoy Mahato will take the mike, while Raisan Mundi will break into chhau steps. “Many local leading lights have also promised to join in,” Chitrani adds.

In another corner of the complex, doctors Sudipta Basu and Debasish Mukherjee will address the thalassaemia problem. At the day's end, the paintings will be auctioned to raise money for Kalpataru’s treatment.

Ipil wants to help other Kalpatarus as well. “We will visit schools and colleges and carry out blood tests. If the disease is detected early, there are chances of cure,” the artist points out.

The plans, being so broad-based, need a lot of hands. Ipil has already found around 300 pairs. “Our membership ranges across all sections — from doctors to actors and policemen. A factory fitter has also signed up,” Chitrani says. As actor Rudranil Ghosh (Probal of Ek Akasher Nichey) sums up: “The least we can do is lend our voices to address problems plaguing society.”

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