Art of Living

Debabrata Roy’s documentary on his grandfather,Jamini Roy,is an ode to the legendary artist

Written by Premankur Biswas | Published: August 20, 2013 3:49 am

It doesn’t take much to comprehend the width of Jamini Roy’s influence on Bengali aesthetics. A walk down Gariahat,south Kolkata,where hawkers peddle framed prints of his paintings along with portraits of Rabindranath Tagore and Sourav Ganguly,gives you a fair idea about his position in the glittering pantheon of Bengali icons. It’s the depth of his influence on Modern Indian Art that is subject of much academic research. In his documentary,The Art of Jamini Roy,grandson Debabrata Roy does a fair job of juggling the two. He takes us to the verdant Sushnia hills of Roy’s native home Bankura,he guides us through the exquisite terracotta temple complex of Bankura (the carvings of which echo in Roy’s works),he gives us a glimpse of the rambunctious Gajan festival where bare chested,garlanded men sway in unbridled joy,much like the Krishna bhakts in his paintings and the songs of the roaming minstrels,bauls,who roamed the villages of Bankura.

Debabrata also places Roy firmly in the Indian artistic pantheon by telling us about the artist’s amazing,determined rejection of Western academic naturalism,his contribution in reviving Indian folk art and the works of Bengal’s patuas. He also tells us about his grandfather’s curiosity about different art forms. He shows us the meticulously designed Tibetan thangka that his grandfather painted,he also shows us the impeccable copies of Van Gogh and Picasso,that was frowned upon by purists. He also talks proudly about the way Roy so successfully changes his very technique of painting at a very late stage in his career in search of new expressions.

Though depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses were his favourite theme,as is evident in his interpretations of Ganesh and Durga,and various scenes from The Ramayana,Roy was equally fascinated by the life of Christ too. In fact,his last unfinished work was an interpretation of Christ’s last supper,a theme he had explored before.

The best thing about Debabrata’s documentary is the number of rare archival footage that shows us the man at work. Under the mellow afternoon Kolkata sun,a gaunt Roy sits in his lawn and bends over a depiction of The Ramayana,stops to ponder and then again goes back to work.

However,if one were to view this film as a grandson’s tribute to his grandfather,one would be best advised not to expect any personal anecdotes. It’s almost as if Debabrata intentionally avoids any sort of sentimental recounting of his interactions with his grandfather. Instead,he chooses to explore the person as an outsider,a subject of awe and inspiration.

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