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Art Street: How a farmer’s figure in Mumbai’s Prabhadevi came to be known as the ‘naked statue’

Dr Aditya Kamat, the son of noted sculptor Ramchandra P Kamat who designed the popular sculpture, said the ‘nagda putla’ actually depicted “a farmer with maize in one hand, pigeon in the other and the wheel of science near his legs… to symbolise the importance of farmers and progress.”

Designed by noted sculptor Ramchandra Pandurang Kamat and set up in the 1950s, the statue has also faced some opposition from religious groups in the past but has managed to withstand it for over half a century now.

Over the last six decades, a statue of a farmer with maize in one hand and a pigeon in another at Cadell Road in Mumbai’s Prabhadevi has come to be known as the nagda putla or naked statue. Designed by noted sculptor Ramchandra Pandurang Kamat and set up in the 1950s, the statue has also faced some opposition from religious groups in the past but has managed to withstand it for over half a century now.

Vinayak Talwar, a volunteer with Khaki Tours who takes people on trips in the Prabhadevi area says the nagda putla is a popular local landmark. “It is called the nagda putla since it appears that the statue is not wearing anything. It is located in the vicinity of where Ramchandra Kamat resided in Prabhadevi. He came from Goa and is also responsible for the statue of Goddess Laxmi atop the Laxmi Insurance building in Mumbai,” Talwar said.

However, the most well-known of his works is the sculpture of Abbe Faria at Panaji in Goa. Faria was the pioneer of the scientific study of hypnotism and Kamat is given credit for the bronze statue of Faria that appears to be trying to hypnotise a woman. Kamat passed away in 2000 at the age of 96.

His son Dr Aditya Kamat still resides in the Prabhadevi building where the sculptor lived. “My father’s work was so good that when the dean of JJ School of Art saw it, he directly admitted him to the second year instead of the first. And before he completed the second year, he was admitted to the London Royal Academy of Arts and also won medals there. Eventually, he returned to the country,” Dr Aditya said.

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He added that the nagda putla was actually the statue of a farmer with maize in one hand, pigeon in the other and the wheel of science near his legs. It was to symbolise the importance of farmers and progress. “The structure also had a placard that said Kamat Studio to indicate that the sculptor resided nearby. Over the years, people have had their own interpretations and it has come to be called the nagda putla,” he said.

“However, if you see, there is a cloth that has been sculpted in the structure but people don’t see it. In the 1970s, a religious group opposed it claiming that it was obscene. My father explained the concept to them and told them what it meant. They went away without causing any trouble,” Dr Aditya revealed.

There have been so many misinterpretations regarding the statue that at times people also think it is some religious structure and come to offer flowers and even pray before it, he said. For locals, however, the nagda putla has remained a landmark all along.

First published on: 21-05-2022 at 01:21:28 pm
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