What can be more fascinating than an amalgamation of old trains, Hindu deities and popular Bollywood posters on canvas?
Nepalese artist Uma Shankar Shah presents this unique blend in an exhibition here. Presented by Gallerie Ganesha, Shah’s first solo show ‘Roti- Beti’, comprising paintings and etchings, is on at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre till April 24. Shah said that the work depicts the twin inspiration for this show.
First that trains gave people their economic livelihood (Roti), and second, the fact that many Indian women after marriage migrated to Nepal (Beti). Trains connecting India and Nepal have always promoted trade and fostered socio-cultural relationships but for Shah, trains — especially the steam-driven ones — are about several childhood memories.
“While all this was happening and the railway system was becoming a centre of attraction for the Mithila region people, I was also fascinated by trains as a kid and every day I would go to the railway station to watch the trains passing by,” said Shah.
“Nepalese have been astonished by trains ever since their introduction in India by the British and it became a symbol of a search for new life in the hearts of Nepalese people,” he said.
The establishment of Indian Railways brought about a variety of changes to the Indian sub-continent. Nepal too benefited from this as a number of financial opportunities, with India, were created. “My happiness would have had no limits if I ever had the opportunity to touch those trains,” Shah said.
“In the 40 years that I have grown up with these trains, I have developed a sense of empathy with them where it feels as if I understand the moods of happiness, sadness, uselessness, loneliness of these machines and this is what I have presented in these works,” he added. Bollywood film posters also find space in his canvas, another one of his childhood memories. “The cinema hall in Janakpur had just started and the first place these posters were put up was at the railway station,” he said. “I was fascinated by these posters. Actors like Nargis, Manoj Kumar, Madhubala were my favourites.” Shah also depicts a lot of Hindu deities in his work, given that Nepal has a 94 per cent Hindu population.
Shah has also done a series of paintings depicting the beautiful landscape of Nepal. Shah is also exhibiting an 18-feet long, three-dimensional train installation in fibre and metal, which, with its roof and compartments, platform and human figures, will bring alive the whole rail experience for the viewers.