ON entering the office of Inspector General of Police Rajvardhan Sinha, one is welcomed by an unsettling painting. An elephantine figure looms large over its red, dripping shadow. The painter is a prisoner — artist Chintan Upadhyay. “Prison is not a happy place. One cannot expect a happy painting from an inmate,” said Sinha. However, the prison department is now planning to rope in Upadhyay to conduct painting workshops for inmates at Thane. “He has agreed to do so and we plan to start the sessions from next month,” added Sinha.
Upadhyay, an undertrial, is lodged at the Thane jail for his alleged role in commissioning the murder of his estranged wife Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani. He had gifted a painting to IGP Sinha. His another artwork hangs inside the Thane jail. According to sources, Upadhyay was “slipping into depression” inside the jail. The jail authorities noticed this and asked him if he would like to paint again. “During the jail rounds, a senior officer spotted Upadhyay lying in a corner of his barrack, blankly staring at the wall. He asked Upadhyay about his health and asked if he would like to paint again,” said another senior official requesting anonymity.
Upadhyay was then counselled and the authorities provided him with art material. “He is housed in a small barrack that ends at a wall. That is the only thing he sees the whole day. After Upadhyay showed signs of depression, he was counselled and painting material, including canvases and paints, were provided to him. Since then, he has been busy sketching and painting,” the official added. So far, Upadhyay has finished two paintings and is now creating a mural for the jail department. “We might put his artwork on sale. He is a famous artist and we are sure there will be many takers,” said an official.
“There is also a possibility that we might use his work to decorate the State Secretariat building,” the official added Bodies of renowned contemporary artist Hema Upadhyay and her advocate Harish Bhambhani were found wrapped in plastic sheets dumped in cardboard cartons and thrown in a drain in Kandivali on December 12, 2015. Chitan was subsequently arrested and chargesheeted as a ‘prime accused’ in the case.
In its 1,658-page chargesheet filed in March 2016, the Mumbai Police had described Chintan’s ‘hatred’ towards his estranged wife as the motive for murder. The chargesheet had named Chintan and four others, including a juvenile, in conflict with law. They have been charged with murder and criminal conspiracy. The chargesheet further claimed that the murder was committed at the ‘instance’ of Chintan, who conspired with absconding accused Vidaydhar Rajbar and gave him the contract to kill the duo. The case is currently being probed by the Mumbai Crime branch
Jail gallery for inmates
If everything goes as planned, the Prisons Department will feature a gallery for its inmates to display their artwork. According to sources, an NGO is working closely with the jail authorities to get a gallery sanctioned at the Byculla prison, which also houses the IG’s office. Currently, the artwork of inmates are displayed in the corridor of the IG office.
An official said the artwork will be displayed online and interested patrons could place orders. A nodal officer will then despatch the artwork from the gallery and the money would be credited into the account of the jail where the inmate is lodged. “The said jail will transfer the money to the inmate or his beneficiary,” said the official. “Without a centralised system, we find it difficult to coordinate with the jail which lodges the inmate whose painting is sold. This will make the task simpler. Also, we would try to get patrons to visit the jail gallery,” he added.