| Suchismita Ghatak
Teacher, painter, dancer, writer… For ‘Bulbuli’ Ghatak, life is full of activity. Having lost her film-maker father while she was still in school, the 44-year-old says she has inherited the spirit of creative originality from Ritwik Ghatak, and it is this that spurs her on to invent, innovate and experiment.
Painting is the first passion for this graduate in graphics from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan. After numerous exhibitions and workshops in Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Kerala and even New Jersey, USA, she is still trying to find new inspirations. “I do things in series,” Ghatak explains. “This is because a collection of pictures makes more sense than a standalone image. I try to tell a story. Like my Mother Earth series, which portrayed her as the creator and destroyer. My latest work is called Merge, and depicts relationships.”
But helping children explore their imagination and talents through art is what she likes best. As a teacher in Vidya Bharati School, in Mominpur, she helps the primary kids “deal with stress and other issues” by helping them portray their problems and emotions through colours. “It’s wonderful to watch expressions brighten after a session,” Ghatak smiles.
The challenged children of Behala Bikashan have a special place in her heart. “Some are autistic, some are schizophrenic, some have Down’s Syndrome. Each one has to be dealt with in a different way. But progress, however small, is always intensely satisfying,” she explains.
Through an organisation called Interlink, Ghatak has previously worked with streetchildren and rag pickers, too. “It’s always a revelation when you watch a disadvantaged child drawing something he can’t or doesn’t have. But it helps them express their frustrations,” she adds.
This “amateur dancer” has learnt kathak from Bandana Sen, and used to perform regularly at Santiniketan. Although she now does so only for Birla Academy’s annual birthday celebrations, she uses her knowledge, once again for the little ones. At Vidya Bharati, she organises the annual show, through a unique combination of dance, music, story-telling, acting and this time, puppetry. “That is something I learnt from my father — to keep changing and reinventing to create something new,” Ghatak says.
Although not much of an actor herself by her own admission, despite giving the stage a try for a while after her graduation in 1981, she loves to write about it and her father, particularly in little magazines.
She’s happy being who she is, and certainly does not feel lost in her father’s shadow. “As long as I am able to do what I like best — painting and working with children — I am satisfied,” she signs off.