July 12, 2011 3:37:03 am
B R Khedkar can never forget the year Mughal-e-Azam was released or the year after. Khedkar,the chief sculptor for the sets of the film released in 1960 had started an art studio in Pune in 1961. It was destroyed the same year in the devastating floods following a breach in the Panshet Dam.
Recalling the tragedy that day in July,exactly 50 years ago,Khedkar says the floods that had led to the loss of many lives and caused extensive damaged to property,flora and fauna,also washed away most of the works he had stored in his new art studio.
The 85-year-old sculptor,who has made around 400 statues of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,many of them lifesized ones,says the floods washed away the first statue of the Maratha warrior king he had made.
We used to stay near Mutha river. This was the area where around 1,500 people from the potter community used to reside. Around 8 am,we heard an announcement on radio about bursting of the Panshet dam. Fortunately,my wife and children were in Mumbai (then Bombay) that day, recalls Khedkar. He did not worry too much as their house was at a relatively higher ground.
But his new art studio on lower terrain stood about 100 metres from Dagdi Bridge was flooded. The waters washed away one of his special creations,the model of an eight-foot statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj he had painstakingly designed for over two months. The statue was finally remade and then installed at Satara Paudi Naka later where it still stand as one of the landmarks at the entrance of Satara.
Khedkars daughter Pratibha,who is now 63 years old,was in Std VIII then. From 1952 to 1960,my father used to do sculpture for film sets. He was chief sculptor in films like Mughal-e-Azam and Amrapali. In 1961,he started working as an independent sculptor. In the first year itself,this tragedy happened, recalls the daughter.
On July 10,1961,just two days before the flood,officials who had placed the order for the Shivaji statue,had visited his studio. The clay model was appreciated and approved. I was going to start final work in two-three days but the massive flood washed it away. What I made in two months,was destroyed in a few minutes. I had to start from scratch, recalls Khedkar. There was a mosque near his studio,a wall of which collapsed during the flood. This allowed water to enter the studio with force, he added.
It was Khedkars first statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Of the 400-odd Shivaji statues he has made so far,28 are ashwarudha (astride horse). Since the flood was in July,Khedkars studio also had more than 25 big Ganpati idols he had made for Ganeshotsav. They too were washed away.
In Mumbai,Khedkars family updated themselves about the flood through radio and newspapers. His daughter says,My father came to Mumbai three-four days. In spite of the tragedy,he had a smile on his face. In fact,it was he who consoled us saying,Dont worry,everything happens for good.
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