The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal opts out, Bengali soldiers on

New Delhi, Jan. 22: As Bappa Chakraborty gives finishing touches to six tableaux for the Republic Day parade, he rues Bengal’s absence at the show.

“I have been conceptualising and fabricating floats (tableaux) for the past 14 years. Some have even won awards. But it hurts that my state (Bengal) has not been showcasing its tableau for the last three years,” Calcutta-based Chakraborty, 48, said.

Chakraborty is, instead, designing floats for Delhi, Bihar, Kerala, the Ordnance Factory — a defence ministry department — and the ministries of railway and tourism. His handiwork would roll out on January 26.

According to Chakraborty, the Bengal government is simply not keen on putting up its tableau for the Republic Day show. The state, he said, is missing out on the big publicity that a show on Rajpath provides.

“They (the state) talk about globalisation and spend crores on advertisements to project Bengal’s image. But they don’t participate in the parade,” Chakraborty said. In the 1990s, Chakraborty had conceptualised three tableaux for his state.

More than 160 people are slogging daily now to put together the floats, each of which is on show for just 33 seconds — the time a float takes to pass by the President’s dais as the country’s First Citizen salutes.

For Chakraborty, the 33 seconds is what all the craze is about.

He is working on themes ranging from the Delhi Metro; Kalaripayat, a Kerala martial art; Bodh Gaya, freight train coaches, to an ordnance worker and Ajanta and Ellora paintings for his floats.

Each of his six tableaux is worth anywhere between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 12 lakh, paid for by the government concerned.

According to Chakraborty, a tableau is a “moving theatre” — a window to a state or a ministry’s socio-political and economic strengths.

Tableaux building is not a recognised art form, he said. It is more difficult than painting and other arts, in some ways, for a false illusion cannot be created, Chakraborty said. It is a synthesis of art, sound and choreography.

Chakraborty, an advertising proffessional, could not resist the visual appeal of the tableaux that rolled out on January 26, 1988. Ever since, he has been hooked to the art of tableaux building.

“I had come to Pragati Maidan in 1988 to exhibit something for northeastern states. I got an opportunity then to see the parade. Since then, I have been mesmerised by tableau art,” Chakraborty said.

Looking for subjects with visual appeal, however, is no easy job, he said. The subject to be realised must be well understood before it is presented in public.

Chakraborty said he spent several days at the Ajanta and Ellora caves to study the paintings before he could think of replicating them for this year’s tourism ministry tableau.

For tableau artists, the long hours of toil, however, come to a sad end. After the Republic Day parade, most tableaux are dismantled and the components discarded.

Chakraborty can console himself this year for he intends to donate a bust of the Buddha, part of the Bihar tableau, to a Delhi monastery.

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