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Jamini Roy: A peep into the rebel artist’s life

Jamini Roy: A peep into the rebel artist’s life
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I was once startled to see a beautiful Jamini Roy painting at the entrance of industrialist and veteran art collector B K Birla’s house. He and his wife, wonderful hosts, told me that many years ago they had picked up the piece for  a paltry Rs 100 on a Sunday morning walk to the artist’s studio in the vicinity. Decades have flown by till art collector and restorer Ganesh Pratap Singh  decided to give us a glimpse into Jamini  Roy’s works and life  through a documentary titled, The Art of Jamini Roy. The occasion: 125 years of the artist’s birth.

Singh, who based his documentary on 300 odd letters written by the artist and about 1000 odd archival material, now plans to show the film on Roy at art museums  across the world which have  a Jamini Roy collection like the Philadelphia museum of Art. This has already been shown at  Max Mueller Bhavan, Gorky Sadan, Christie’s and IIC, Delhi.  Directed by the artist’s grandson Debabrata Roy, Singh and his team made trips to Roy’s ancestral home in Beliatore in the Birbhum district to discover the artist’s roots. 

‘Roy  painted ordinary men and women from the village, scenes from the Krishnalila, often  reinventing popular images from the patua’s repertoire. He broke with many traditions of his time’, Singh told Millennium Post.  

The letters were written by Roy to John Irwin, Bishnu Dey, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Hemen Mazumdar and Stella Kamrisch.

As this 53 minute documentary unfolds the author’s life, it becomes apparent that Roy pulled away from the Impressionistic art trending at the time. Sent to  study at the Government School of Art in Calcutta, he  was taught to paint classical nudes in oil but he soon realised that he needed to draw inspiration from Bengal’s own  folk and tribal art for inspiration. 
The Kalighat Pat, with its bold sweeping brush-strokes, also influenced his style. Roy’s idiom was a  reaction against the Bengal school and the western tradition.

Singh collected his material from two sources, Roy’s family and collectors of the 50s, like Bishnu Dey, Satsh Sinha, Hemen Mazumder and Atul Bose. Army  officers who were posted in the North East in those years after the World War, often picked up  Roy’s paintings for a song. Now, Roy’s originals fetch in the region of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh a piece.

Roy was awarded the Padma Bhusan in 1955. His work can be found in many private and public collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Singh, who also owns quite a few Roy paintings himself, now wants to write a book on him, using the letters, photographs, clippings and other archival material at his disposal. 
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