Students of iNIFD Salt Lake began pandal-hopping way before the Pujas started this year. Technically, they visited thakurdalans of bonedi baris that host pujas, studied them, spoke to residents of the mansions and finally produced their findings in a painting and photography exhibition at their DD Block campus.
“Usually our institute’s puja event is executed by our fashion designing department but this time students of our Academy of Interiors ventured out,” said head of the department, Sreemoyee Ghose.
The 300-odd students toured the Basu Mullick bari of College Street and Daw bari of Posta. “The former is a home from the pre-industrial era and does not use cast iron in its thakur dalan. We wanted students to witness both kinds of architecture,” explained Ghose.
The students made the most of the opportunity. “I've been to Sovabazar Rajbari but only during the Pujas. This was the first time I got to see such houses in such detail and saw idols there in the making,” said one of the students, Prakriti Parui, who went on to win the top prize for her painting. “The families gave us much time and explained the origins of their pujas too.”
A visitor clicks snapshots of the exhibits
Jugesh Kumar was so fascinated by the orders of Greek pillars at the houses that he made them the focus of his painting. Bidisha Hansda drew a thakur dalan, Mousumi Pramanik drew a little girl watching the idol, with a dhaki in action beside her. “We’ve built several models as part of our projects but after this heritage tour, I think the ultimate would be if we are invited to build a puja pandal,” smiled Aditi Singh.
The photography exhibition had pictures of idols, architecture and sculptors at work. Suchismita Goswami clicked a work-in-progress idol that had cracked after drying. “I found this the most interesting as it symbolises women. Like Durga, women are strong; they may crack but they won’t break,” said the girl who made it a point to visit these houses during the Pujas too.
Students check out the images on display
Prashika Philip won the first prize in the photography exhibition. Puja Biswas enjoyed clicking the artisans of Kumartuli. “They may not have college degrees like us but they have tremendous experience. We beginners have erasers to correct our mistakes but they only get one chance to paint the eyes of the goddess,” observed the student. “I would have liked to speak to the sculptors but they are irritated by so many visitors. They kept telling not to use the camera’s flash. I bought a Rs 50 ticket, with month-long validity, to visit their workshop and click photos. I went thrice.”
The jury for the exhibition included the likes of Gautam Basu Mullick, of the Basu Mullick bari family and Rima Paul, daughter of eminent sculptor Mintu Paul who is following in her father's footsteps. “The students’ work is commendable but I felt those who clicked the photos could have spent a while more waiting for perfection. But I can hardly blame them for it was extremely hot when they had come over,” said Basu Mullick.