Jean-Xavier Renaud and Gaelle Foray at the pandal in Jodhpur Park. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
A celebration of the centenary of Indian films by France through a Durga puja pandal. The city is getting to see a novel collaboration with Jean-Xavier Renaud’s paintings and Gaelle Foray’s film being integrated into the theme of Pallimangal Samity in Jodhpur Park.
Alliance Francaise du Bengale is a partner in the project with director Stephane Amalir lending full-fledged support. Also performing magic at the puja’s inauguration on Tuesday were street artistes from France, Francoise and Renaud de Swetschin.
Jaydeep Mukherjee, an international travel consultant, got the French on board, enthused at the offer of collaboration from high-profile French tourists whom he showed around last Puja.
Jean-Xavier and Gaelle, who reached Calcutta 12 days ago, have been at work at the Anwar Shah Road pandal. Walking through the slush, the couple says: “We have never experienced a tropical shower. Back home, when it rains, it freezes over.”
The painter, says his wife Gaelle, is famous for big paintings. She herself is a multi-media artist, working with video, painting and photograph.
The first section of the pandal is a gallery of stills from 128 Indian films. Next is a box-office with a ticket counter which leads to a studio floor. On one side is a film set with sundry old shooting equipment. Two projectors will play a collage of Ray films.
A video piece made by Gaelle will be beamed on the ceiling. “It is a montage of French classics by directors like Jean Renoir and Jacques Tati,” she says. In the spirit of East-West collaboration, the mandap will be inspired by the Uttam Kumar-starrer Anthony Firingi, based on the life of Hensman Anthony, the folk poet who settled in the French colony of Chandernagore.
Jean-Xavier has sketched two huge eyes that will look the visitor in the eye from the wall when he turns around after seeing the idol. “Inside bubbles on side walls I have painted faces of French and Indian film personalities,” he says.
On getting the offer, they read up on the Internet about Durga puja, “but not much”. “We wanted to keep our mind clear to take in first-hand impressions.” They have been visiting other pandals too.
“There is no street art festival in the world like this. The closest would be the carnival in Strasbourg where people express themselves by dressing as they please, preparing giant caricatures of politicians, or making tableaux on trekkers,” says the painter.
What has already made an impression on them is the variety of influences that are sucked into pandal decorations. “We love how open Indians are,” he says.