Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai

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By GET THE LOWDOWN ON THE INSTITUTE OF THE WEEK Satish Nandagaonkar As told to Satish Nandagaonkar
  • Published 9.02.05
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WHAT IS IT? India’s first and the oldest arts school. It has three independent entities — the Sir JJ School of Fine Arts, College of Architecture, and Institute of Applied Art.
WHO’S THE BOSS Ainawe, dean of fine arts, G.G. Waghmare, dean, applied art, Prof. Rajan Lahule, principal, architecture.
WHAT COURSES? Bachelors and masters in fine arts, architecture along with two PG courses and government diploma in commercial art.
HOW CHEAP IS IT? For fine arts and applied arts, Rs 500- 1,200 per year, while for architecture the fee is Rs 16,000 per year.
WHERE IS IT? Sir JJ School of Art, 78/3, Dr DN Road, Fort, Mumbai – 400 001. 022-2620488

It is rare to find an educational campus as vibrant and unique as this one. Sir J.J. School of Art is situated on Mumbai?s heritage road ? the Dadabhai Navroji Road. At one end of the road lies the Kala Ghoda heritage district, where every structure is an architectural exhibit; at the other end lies colonial India?s oldest art school with a formidable reputation.

The institution, which produced some of the foremost artists in the country, is as old as the first armed freedom struggle of 1857. It was founded by Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy, a Parsi weaver?s son who went on to become a shipping magnate and who donated his wealth to build some of Mumbai?s oldest institutions. Jeejeebhoy, a member of the Board of Education set up by the British, donated Rs 4.71 lakh to set up this institution.

The Kipling connection

Lockwood Kipling, father of the famous author Rudyard Kipling, was the first principal of the institution, which was named after Jeejeebhoy. Rudyard Kipling was born in the colonial style bungalow in the campus in December 1865. The well-preserved bungalow is now a tourist attraction.

Initially, painting and architecture were the two chief subjects taught at the Sir J.J. School of Art. Later in 1912, the architecture division began formally granting a diploma and slowly began to assert its independence. In 1936, a full-fledged five-year course in architecture started, and in 1958 an independent college of architecture was instituted. ?We now offer a five-year BArch and MArch along with postgraduate courses in urban design and conservation,? says principal Prof Rajan Lahule, who also studied architecture at J.J.

The placement scene

The college of architecture is essentially state-run, but it is moving to accommodate newer trends in the dynamic field of architecture. It will start six new postgraduate courses in architecture in 2006. It will also offer a masters in management in 2005. In 2004, it conducted its first ever placement programme and 70 architectural firms came rushing to pick its students for internships.

Some of the firms were based in Singapore and Sri Lanka. The college has a staff of 28 professors and a strong visiting faculty of 65 people selected from the architecture industry. Keeping pace with the use of technology in architecture education, J.J. has over 100 computers for students to remain abreast of changing trends.

'Syllabus needs upgradation'

The college of architecture remains the most dynamic of the three departments in J.J. School of Art. The Institute of Applied Art caters to visual communication and commercial art and offers a five-year course in fine arts. It offers all the subjects ranging from poster designing, photography, block making, interior decoration, calligraphy, printing, packaging and book binding. ?Leading ad agencies visit our annual student?s exhibition to pick the up the best talent,? says dean, Prof. G.G. Waghmare, whose first floor cabin is surrounded by sculptures, wall murals and other artefacts.

Says Aarti Sharma, a fourth year BArch student, ?Despite being a government college, the college is very professional. It has a good faculty and great facilities. Till 2004, it didn?t have a placement programme, but when it did start one, it was a huge success. We had more architecture firms coming for recruitment than there were final year students!?

However, Sharma feels that the college has to bear with the constraints of a bureaucratic set-up. ?Most of us feel that our syllabus needs to be upgraded. But again, one can?t blame the college for the Mumbai university decides the syllabus,? Sharma says, returning to the game of volleyball in the courtyard.


I was a fine arts student at Sir J.J .School of Art from 1960 to 1965. I specialised in mural painting. It was the prime institute for fine arts then and had a galaxy of some of India?s contemporary painters as teachers. The dean of the college was P.A. Dhond whose mastery over landscapes and seascapes in watercolour remains unmatched even today. We also had giants like Shankar Palshikar, Sambhaji Kadam, and Baburao Sadavelkar teaching us. I was good in oil, portraits and compositions. I also won the prestigious Gladson Solomon scholarship. I had a decent career as a painter with seven solo shows to my credit. My seniors at the college are today India?s foremost painters ? Jatin Das and Laxman Shreshta. Prabhakar Kolte was a junior. My love for theatre eventually changed the direction of my career, but I can trace the roots to my teacher Prof Kadam. He directed my first one-act play in college.