Bandra’s charming lanes keep throwing up surprises in the form of old world bungalows which seem to have withstood the vagaries of time (with the help of responsible families living within them of course). As part of the Bollywood Art Project, celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema, there are many such murals adorning the otherwise drab walls of many a houses in Bandra.
While entering Bandstand from the HK Bhabha road (im not really sure of the name) you come across these two murals depicting the original Superstar Rajesh Khanna on one side of the wall and his successor Amitabh Bachchan on the other side.
The project was started by an artist named Ranjit Dahiya last year and there is a third mural as well on Chapel road, which i will hunt down when i head to Bandra the next time:)
Was walking around Colaba yesterday outside the Jehangir Art Gallery. I couldn’t find one of my favourite artists from the Pavement Gallery, the footpath outside the art gallery. Maybe it is the rains, i thought. I recalled a profile i had done on him back in my Journalism school days, as a part of our project. This was the very first profile i had ever attempted. The text is pasted below. He has appeared on this blog many times before as The Perfectionist and the unperturbed artist. This is one long post, so don’t blame me if you are bored:P
Shades of Truth
His weapons of choice are quite modest. A clip pad, four clips, Staedtler charcoal pencil, and a blade to sharpen the pencils. The fingers that make such confident strokes are frail, but the spirit is indomitable. At 60, Vijay Balkrishna Parasnaik, is probably the eldest artist around the Pavement Art Plaza.
Having done his Diploma from the esteemed JJ School of Arts in 1978, Parasnaik has been working for nearly 40 years now. He has worked in various capacities ranging from Visualiser to Art Director to Studio Manager. Companies range from newspaper houses like Indian Express to advertising agencies like Age Communication. But his first love has always been sketching portraits. “I had an interest in this art-form since my school days. My father, the late Balkrishna Parasnaik, was also an artist. His artistic genes have really helped me”, adds Parasnaik.
Born on the 2nd of October, 1948, Parasnaik is one person who totally shares the same view of life as the great personality who shares his birthday: Mahatma Gandhi. In fact he resembles Gandhiji even in his food habits, for Parasnaik is a pure vegetarian, surprising considering he comes from the Konkan belt. “I have never had friends who indulge in drinking and smoking. In fact if possible, I even avoid anything that has onion and potato in it”, he adds.
How does an artist find his mood to indulge in his art on a bustling pavement like the Jehangir Art Gallery pavement? “I am not a slave to mood. I can work at any given time and under any given circumstances. My work gives me immense pleasure. I work here from 3pm all the way to 6pm, everyday. Most of my work is done at home, but this atmosphere is ideal for me. I am not affected by the passersby. I hardly ever look up from my portrait”, says Parasnaik, making it sound so very simple. “There was no concept of pavement artists, when I started off. Now this pavement has become a gallery of sorts”, says the lanky artist, conspicuous by his traditional hat and soda bottle glasses.
But isn’t it illegal to display your art here on the pavement? “Displaying art isn’t illegal. Thanks to Cowasjee Jehangir, the owner of the Art Gallery, struggling artists have got a chance to display their work. Since I am the oldest artist here, my place is fixed and no one tries to occupy it. That ways I am respected among the artists here. But even otherwise, I face no problems from the BMC or the police. They are very co-operative and never harass us”, Parasnaik clears the confusion.
Most of Parasnaik’s clients are middle class people who want to get their portraits sketched, for which Parasnaik charges a nominal Rs.500 for an A3 size page. “I work according to orders. Most of my clients come back with more portraits to be sketched. I rarely do live portraits, as I get very little time from the pending orders. But when I do, I charge only Rs.200 for them”, adds Parasnaik.
He avoids charcoal sticks and thinks that Indian branded pencils add a shine to the portraits which is undesirable. Parasnaik uses the expensive Staedtler pencil as it gives the portraits a matte – finish.
Parasnaik has never felt the need to display his works in art galleries. “This pavement is my gallery, and my work does all the talking. I don’t need the crutch of an art gallery for that. My work gives me the motivation that money never can”, says the humble artist, whose students have gone on to having solo shows in the art galleries around town.
Certain things don’t change. For the pavement around the Jehangir Art Gallery, the mob surrounding a lean artist will always be there. “I am 60 now, but that doesn’t mean I will put up my boots. I will continue to go on and on, as this is my only motivation”.
— October 2008
The betel leaf, commonly known as Paan, was first cultivated in Malaysia! From there it traveled to India and just like many other things non-Indian, has become a part of the nation’s psyche. I love paans, the ones without tobacco ofcourse. Nothing like a mouth stuffed with paan after a heavy meal.
Mumbai has many such paan shops, with glistening betel leaves welcoming you and the typical tinkering of the solid aluminum stick against the copper vessel containing the chuna. I used to think that Mumbai has a thriving paan culture, thanks to the evident red stain marks that one comes across everywhere. That was until i made a trip to a relatives place in Gujarat.
The paan culture there is mind boggling to say the least. Paan shops are mere hole-in-the-wall establishments here, but in Gujarat (Jamnagar in particular) there are proper shops with paan stalls. And these shops also sell other items like cold drinks etc, but paan is the primary source of income. The bewilderment dosen’t just end there. I was taken to places where there were around ten to fifteen paan shops located beside each other and still managing to do brisk business. Came to learn from my Gujju relative that many shops have an account system with their customers, who make monthly payments for a fixed quota of paans per day. And a daily quota of paans can cross anywhere from fifteen to twenty paans per person. Fascinating, for someone who is used to eating a paan and paying on the spot.
I wont even start with the varieties on offer. For instance, I tried a chocolate paan, which was a normal sweet paan dipped in chocolate and frozen. The choclatey dimension added to the raw taste of the betel leaf was quite good.
Ok Ok i know i am deviating here. Well this paan seller from Bhuleshwar brought back memories, so captured him on camera. The thing that really attracted me to his shop was the placement of the blue colored paan masala sachets which gave a sort of continuity to the blue colored doors of his shop. Also this is probably the only paan seller i have come across who had no hint of red around his mouth, a rarity in Mumbai.
Jaywalking on the streets of Kolkata was one of my favourite pastimes during the weekends. I purposely used to travel long distances, cus it gave me an oppurtunity to explore the city, the real Kolkata. As far as politics in Kolkata goes, its all Left dominated. The party has been in power for over 30 years now. Its no wonder then that one comes across many such grafittis all across Kolkata. Flyers are common, and stick on paper posters are very popular but Kolkata is a land of artists. So hand painted political announcements are dime a dozen here.
I was glad to have learnt a few Bengali alphabets. Well thanks to the liberal use of Bengali all around, i used to relate the Bengali script with its Hindi/English names that were written above it. And i learnt a whole stock of Bengali alphabets. Whilst walking towards Sovabazaar Metro stn one day, i came across this Grafitti and i tried reading it. I could. I cant read the whole thing now as i have lost touch with the script. But i still can read the main message.
The red word written below read, “Sammelan” and the bigger sized font reads “Brigade” followed by the black “Cholun” below it. I know there is no “O” ki matra there but that is how it is pronounced. The script is very artistic indeed. I hope to learn more alphabets. i think i should get the Ananda Bazaar Patrika, to sharpen my Bengali.