The art of identification

The art of identification

He sees through his ears: This is an apt description of Nitin Kumar Biswas,the sketch artist who aided police across the country in netting notorious criminals.

He sees through his ears: This is an apt description of Nitin Kumar Biswas,the sketch artist who aided police across the country in netting notorious criminals.

Hailing from a lesser known area of North 24 Parganas,Biswas,now 62,has been instrumental in cracking several cases that police were clueless about.

He listens to descriptions of criminals from witnesses who,more often than not,were shaken by the incident and had only a sketchy image in mind. “I ask them to calm down first,talk to them for some time and try to make them understand how important it is for them to be as accurate as they can and not imagine things,” he says. What follows is a series of trials and errors and,as his brain works on the verbal description,his hands try to give it an image on paper.

Now a resident of Baguiati,he had done his graduation in fine arts from Rabindra Bharati University and then Teachers’ Training of Art Appreciation from Calcutta University,followed by a diploma in Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science. Although he had aspired to be an artist,his needs got the better of his aspirations and he had to join the Kolkata Police force as a constable in 1974.


Little did he know that his natural talent of translating descriptions into sketches was known as Portrait Parle in the global law enforcement arena and was conceived in 1960 by an American,Hugh Mac Donald.

His talent was noticed by a visiting CBI joint director in 1975. He called him for a meeting and the then constable not only drew the officer’s portrait in 10 minutes but also convinced him that bringing faceless criminals alive on a canvas was an effective way of dealing with them.

That was the beginning of a long success story as his works helped police departments across the country solve several cases that seemed impossible to crack. In the long list of cases that his sketches helped solve are the Nirankari Baba murder case in Delhi,theft at Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s place,Rs 37 lakh diamond robbery case and the killing of five policemen at the Mizoram-Manipur border.

His skills brought him fame and several job offers from police departments across the country but his loyalty towards Kolkata Police was undeterred. He has also found a place in the Limca Book of Records.

From drawing portraits from verbal description,he graduated into reconstruction of human faces from skulls. That helped in identification of people long after they were dead. He authored several books on his area of expertise and his talent received accolades from the President,Prime Minister,chief minister and CBI.

Of late,he has been ailing due to wrong treatment,and a chemical reaction has made his fingers shaky. “It is not possible to draw any more portraits at the moment,though I keep getting calls from the department,” he said,adding that his ailment had proved to be an impediment to the publishing of his latest book on forensic anatomy. “The manuscript is entirely ready but I would need a helping hand to take this book out,which can be a milestone for lawkeepers” he signed off.