The faces in Dhar studio

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  • Published 9.11.12

His studio in Mandirtala is a storehouse of faces. Ananda Kishore Dhar is a sculptor and he specialises in making portraits. He has made 38 of them, of different personalities from different fields. None have been done from photographs or paintings. All his subjects have posed for him for hours as he toiled with mud and cement trying to replicate each facial line and expression. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi are some who have modelled for Dhar.

Ananda Kishore has been sculpting faces for the past 24 years since he passed out of the Indian Art College in 1987. “My guru was sculptor Sunil Kumar Paul who inspired me. I trained under him till his death in August this year. He had a passion for sculpting people’s faces, and he passed on the passion to me,” said Ananda Kishore.

His first model was Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh. “Since I was a novice at that time, it took me 21 days to complete the sculpture and Jnanbabu would spare time for me every day at his home,” said Ananda Kishore. Over the years, practise has led to perfection and now, Ananda Kishore takes only two to three days to complete a portrait. His last model was Somnath Chatterjee. “He had just completed his term as speaker and he gave me some time at his home,” said Ananda Kishore.

Dhar thinks he is lucky to have been able to sculpt faces of so many legendary personalities and the experience has been varied. “It was not easy to get in touch with these people. After that it was difficult to convince them to give me sittings. I remember Ustad Vilayat Khan had agreed to give a sitting only after he heard that I had sculpted Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s portrait. Yet, he gave me time after a year when he came for a vacation to Calcutta. But he was very co-operative while I was working,” said Ananda Kishore.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi had come to perform at the Dover Lane Music Conference one year and willingly gave sittings for the sculptor at the Oberoi Grand Hotel.

He sculpted freedom fighter Ganesh Ghosh when he was admitted to SSKM Hospital. “He was Masterda Surya Sen’s close associate and he told me, while I was making his portrait, how he was introduced to Masterda by Aurobindo Ghosh,” said Ananda Kishore.

While most of Ananda Kishore’s works are now lying stacked in corners and under the bed in his studio, a few have been given space in public places. The portrait of Annada Shankar Roy placed at Paschim Banga Bangla Akademi is Ananda Kishore’s work. In 2007, another of Ananda Kishore’s sculptures portraying a woman holding diyas was placed at the entrance of Paschim Banga Bangla Akademi. The huge statue of a woman placed at the entrance to the Academy of Fine Arts is also his. He is currently working on a statue of Siddhartha Shankar Roy. However, Ananda Kishore still wants to make more. “I still want to sculpt the faces of Amartya Sen and Lata Mangeskar. If ever I get an opportunity I will do them,” he said.

Dalia Mukherjee