Updated: August 29, 2021 5:50:34 pm
When it comes to Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, art can be found just about everywhere. With roads and stadiums in the city having already been turned into a giant canvas, the latest spot to glow up is a subway in the New Town area. Adorned with vibrant paintings, a wall of the underground passage has captured everything quintessential to the heritage city.
Located at the crossing where Kolkata’s new attraction Biswa Bangla Gate stands, the subway connects Rabindra Tirtha and Smart Plaza. From the iconic Howrah Bridge to the Victoria Memorial, various images have been painted by hand on a section of the 240-feet-long corridor.
Besides the landmarks, the mural encapsulates the very soul of Kolkata ranging from its food to culture. Be it Durga Puja and kaash phool or boys playing football at the Maidan, it even portrays Bengalis’ favourite fish and the debate that comes with it, juxtaposing ilish (hilsa) with chingri (prawns) on the wall.
Led by city-based artist Sayan Mukherjee and team, a group of 10 illustrators and painters created the captivating mural in just ten days. Talking to indianexpress.com about the idea behind the artwork, Mukherjee said: “In true sense, it’s an amalgamation of both old and new Kolkata”.
His work speaks for itself. Strolling down the corridor, people can get a glimpse of what the city has to offer. While the British-era tram or the yellow taxi synonymous with Kolkata evoke a sense of nostalgia, the mural also features the New Coffee House and the Biswa Bangla Gate in contrast.
While Mukherjee’s initial draft tried to harness a wistful longing for the past, it was Debashish Sen, Chairman and Managing Director of the state Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO), who felt the artwork should have it all.
“At the end of July when I submitted my design layout, it mostly focused on older things about the city along with some people and motifs close to my work. But then Sen suggested we weave in the things New Town has. Now, I think it has worked really well,” Mukherjee said.
He explained that the artworks are not randomly placed, but there is a narrative. “If you get down from the stairs, your eyes will be drawn towards two characters looking at the entrance. It is meant to spark a connection between the viewer and the work itself,” he added.
The project is not just about revitalising a subway but also about a journey, said the young artist who has been behind similar murals in Kolkata, including one at Eden Gardens. In fact, for tourists who might find it difficult to cover the entire city, from Maidan to Belur Math, the mural is nothing short of a photo book offering a glimpse of most sites.
For HIDCO authorities, the initiative is another step taken towards urbanisation and beautification of the area. “It’s a pretty long stretch and was quite boring, so the idea is to make it interesting and engaging,” Sen said.
Sen said they plan to set up some makeshift stalls inside the underpass for commuters. “We plan to open about 10 kiosks, with some handicraft and jewellery perhaps,” Sen said, adding that they will start with three shops when the subway is inaugurated next week.
With New Town emerging as the next destination for locals and visitors, the Instagrammable subway wall has already managed to create a buzz.
With photographs of the artwork in progress having already taken social media by storm, both the artists and the authorities hope more appreciation will follow.
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