Friday 17 January 2020

After JJ we all went our ways and till the new mediums like smart phones and social media came to rule over lives,

This was 1979 to 1984; some of the most definitive years in modern Indian history. We were just recovering from the emergency and the eventual downfall of Janata Party. It was a period of great turmoil – the Mumbai mill workers strike, rise of Bhindranwale, Sanjay Gandhi’s death affecting his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Bhopal gas tragedy, the Bhagalpur blindings, operation Bluestar - the period finally culminating in Indira Gandhi’s violent killing by her bodyguards in 1984.
Artist : Uttam Ghosh 

We saw it all, together, Uttam and I. Since then, we have had very strong views on the world that we lived in. There were innumerable conversations – some even resulting in fights! But by-and-large we agreed with one another. 

While all this was happening, his art was taking a distinct form. Added to his very strong lines was his peculiar sense of humor, and then ofcourse the political thought! The cocktail was dynamite!!

The discourse in most of India’s art institutes, as was the case in JJ, was primarily around the craft of that particular stream – application of color, line, form, light and shade etc. The entire effort in those five years was to master technique and eventually get consumed by the lucrative advertising and design industry.

Both Uttam and I had a fundamental problem with this approach. For us, all the educational institutions, not just the art institutes, were part of a social reality, of a historical process. We couldn’t divorce the technique of art with the politics of our land. This bonded us strongly to each other and as a result our final year projects too turned out to be similar. While most students did advertising campaigns on some consumer product or on a service, mine was on bonded labour and Uttam’s was on child labour.

Vilas Ghogre the well known shahir of Maharashtra.

After JJ we all went our ways and till the new mediums like smart phones and social media came to rule over lives, we were mostly out of touch. There ofcourse was that occasional phone call and going for each others wedding etc.

A cartoonist has a critical role in a democracy. S/he takes a ringside view of the real action and then presents it to the general public in a way that not only strikes an immediate connect and makes them laugh but also jabs at the heart. A good cartoon makes you smile and yet see the tragedy at the same time. Uttam achieves this dichotomy so wonderfully in his work. His cartoons are distinctive and rich in content. One unique thing about his art is that he constantly shifts between styles. He doesn’t have a particular fixed style like most cartoonists do. The content defines his style and I find it very interesting how he juggles effortlessly between various kinds of styles.

His personal political affiliations apart, his is the voice of the oppressed, the underdog, and he states his views fearlessly. In college we used to call him The-Ghosh-Who-Walks. Today he is The-Ghosh-Who-Walks-the-Talk!

First up, I must thank Uttam and his mother for the strong liver that I have. When Uttam and I were together at J.J.Institute of Applied Art, he used to get karela (Bitter Gourd) everyday for lunch. There were other vegetables too but there always used to be karela as well. That was a constant and the reason behind this was his mother, who insisted upon it since it was good for the liver. Well, it used to be so yummy that we used to dive into it as soon as he opened his lunch box. So, eating karela for five long years must surely have helped in improving my liver! 

Soumitra Ranade 
 film maker & Writer 

Friday / 17th /1/2020
Preview at 6:00pm to 8pm as open
on display till 23rd / 1/2020
Time: 4pm to 7pm

30/32, 2nd Floor, Deval Chambers
Nanabhai Lane, Flora Fountain, Fort, Mumbai - 400 001
Tel: 022 49786119

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Thanks for comment JK