The Telegraph
Sunday , May 18 , 2014
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Other side of museum

The Indian Museum at night

The Indian Museum never looked better than it does now, during its bicentennial celebrations. But for the flyover, which blocks the view, the magnificent edifice would have been the most stunning colonial structure in this city. After dark it looks even better when the lights are on and it is visible from a distance. Its reflection looks magnificent in Manohardas Tarag on the other side of Chowringhee. This tank has been cleaned of late and the waters mirror the lights of the street.

But the Sudder Street side of the Indian Museum is in a mess as it has been taken over by several families of vagrants, who sleep, cook, eat and drink hooch and take drugs right on the pavement. They smoke ganja in full public view. When they light their chulhas the rooms of the museum overlooking the street are filled with smoke. The Calcutta Armed Police are supposed to be in charge of security around the museum, but as in other parts of central Calcutta, they turn a blind eye to these intruders. Worse, somebody has built a urinal on this pavement, and cars are allowed to be parked alongside the building, which the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) itself had designated a Grade I heritage building. But complaints to both the police and the CMC fall on deaf ears.

Inside the museum, the galleries look much better now that they are better lit, although the lights are a trifle too bright and cast dark shadows. The CCTVs inside the galleries have been upgraded but there are hardly any security men around to handle the crowd of 1,800 people who visit the museum daily. These visitors, many of them city slickers in jeans, seem to be totally unaware of the antiquity of these magnificent objects on display. In the Bharhut gallery, many of them sit on top of the railings to pose for photographs although the “Do not touch” notices are visible enough.

No child’s play

A scene from Amio Superman staged at Max Mueller Bhavan. Picture by B. Halder

The front rows at Max Mueller Bhavan were reserved for children, who gave the play a standing ovation. It was, after all, a story for them and about them, enacted by adults in children’s shoes.

Sutrapat’s Amio Superman, a Grips play (a play for children by adults) directed by Jayati Bose, is an Indianised version of Roy Kift’s Stronger than Superman. It tells the story of a boy on a wheelchair and his sister and their world of fun, pain, mischief, dreams and innocence as juxtaposed with the sometimes-insensitive adult world.

Sagnik Mukherjee, 34, plays 10-year-old Riju while 20-something Adrita Chatterjee is eight-year-old Pola. “To play a kid’s role and connect with the nine and 10-year-olds is a different ball game altogether. I was surprised to meet so many young fans after the show, some even with a chocolate in hand because Riju’s mother doesn’t allow him to have chocolate,” Sagnik said.

Agneesh Ray, 10, of The Cambridge School wants to see the play a second time because it was “such fun to see adults act like kids”.

Bose plans to take the play to schools next.

Art for love

Give Amitava Chakraborty a napkin and he will start sketching. Fellow IT professional Uttam Bhattacharya, on the other hand, always has a canvas ready to paint.

“As soon as one canvas is finished, I mount a fresh one so that I can use every bit of free time I get,” said Uttam.

For Amitava, the day is incomplete if “I have to go to bed without drawing something”.

The works of the two self-taught artists are on display at an exhibition titled Melange in the south gallery of Academy of Fine Arts till Monday.

Drawing is Amitava’s forte and his official tours to various parts of the world, including some years spent in Africa, have contributed to his style. “I find linear patterns that emerge from forms more interesting than realistic figures. So instead of drawing a mother and child or a portrait, I try to catch the geometric design they evoke,” he said.

Uttam’s father, who had also been an amateur artist, guided him in childhood before he started emulating Western masters and collected tips in chromatic treatment, brush strokes and composition from Bikash Bhattacharjee, Wasim Kapoor and others. He works in oil, acrylic and other media.

A young bohurupee on a train, a boy reclined on a buffalo’s back as it wades through a river, children playing hide and seek in a lane, a fakir and his dog are some paintings that catch the eye. “Things I see appear on my canvas, sometimes from memory several years later,” said the artist.

Uttam Bhattacharya and Amitava Chakraborty at Academy of Fine Arts. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya

Picture perfect

Photographer Poulomi Basu is all set to conquer new horizons with VII, a photo agency where she will work under a mentor for two years.

“I’ll be working with some of the best photographers in the world and taking some good shots,” said the La Martiniere for Girls alumni who will be mentored by Stefano De Luigi. “Photography gives me a high. It’s my life. I’m looking forward to this mentorship with VII, which is one of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world.”

Contributed by Soumitra Das, Chandreyee Ghose and Showli Chakraborty