The road to Rajani Bhattacharya Lane meanders through a marketplace. Khoi is strewn between baskets of greens on the tarmac, reminding you of the crematorium nearby. Someone has died. Someone you did not know or maybe someone you had forgotten like an aged artist, an actor you once admired? Could you have helped to make his life comfortable, saved a life, given him due respect?
A veteran artist who lives at 10C Rajani Bhattacharya Lane is doing his bit. Sunil Das, whose paintings have always throbbed with the passion and pain of everyday living, has formed a trust to help “painters, sculptors, graphic artists, writers, singers, musicians, theatre actors, folk performers, dancers, film-makers, photographers… anyone who has been involved in creative work and is really in need”.
The seed fund of the Sunil Das Art Foundation, Rs 1 crore, came from the 74-year-old artist himself.
The board of trustees will examine applications and distribute funds. “We may not be able to do much at present but we can help out in emergencies like hospitalisation or buying expensive medicines,” says Das.
Those applying for help need not live in Calcutta. People from any part of India can apply.
The sufferings of aged performers and artists have always haunted Das. In his youth, he remembers often seeing “a shabbily dressed old man wandering around with a torn umbrella scrounging for money”. He later learnt it was Uday Shankar’s accompanist, eminent musician Timir Baran.
Should not the government have established such a fund to help creative people in need? “Why must we always expect the government to do things for us? Why can’t we form funds? Every para could have a fund. It need not be a big amount, if everyone contributes just a rupee a day, can you imagine how much money that would be? And if that is used to help others or for some substantial community work, the world would be so much better,” says Das.
Unfortunately, the city does not always care for its most gifted — this is where actor Tulsi Chakraborty and commercial stage artiste Sabitri Chattopadhyay died in penury. “People forget that you cannot live in isolation. I remember when a sulphur factory some distance behind my house caught fire, we couldn’t see it or the flames but our room was filled with yellow smoke,” says Das.
The problem so far has been spreading word about the existence of the foundation. “I learnt on TV of a noted baul singer who was ill but couldn’t reach him on time,” says Das.
To seek help from the fund or if you know someone in need, dial 9830218232 (Kanchan Dasgupta) or 9831492757 (Ashish Gupta).