Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nagpur Fine Arts-Waiting in Wings

Nagpur comes as a cultural shock to us. After the dinginess and chaos of Ujjain, Indore, Dhar and Bhopal, we find Nagpur an organized metropolis, waiting in wings to get the public acclamation as a metro. Our tiredness after three hundred kilometres of drive disappears as we see the beauty of the city of Nagpur.

The streets are in order. Vehicles ply the road as per traffic rules. The colour of the city is predominantly green as there are trees and parks all along the streets. It is four o clock in the evening and the streets look pretty much empty. Our destination is the Government Chitrakala Mahavidyalay.

Amitesh Srivastava, a young artist residing in Mumbai has already made arrangements for our meeting with the faculty members and the department heads. He has done it all over phone calls and text messages. Thanks to Amitesh we have the correct address of the college. Somu re-charges himself with two glasses of pineapple juice bought from a wayside vendor. Myself and Feroze settle for one glass of the juice eat. Generally we take a light breakfast and skip lunch during the travel and take in a lot of fluids to keep ourselves light and energetic.

The drive towards Nagpur was exciting. After Bhimbedka, Feroze takes the charge of the car. Somu takes rest and I keep the position of the navigator. Though it is called a national highway, it is a two lane narrow road. Heavily loaded trucks move like old people on a morning walk. Feroze does his best driving and on the way we see a few trucks lying tipped in freaky accidents. One place we see the head of a truck perched up on the road and the rest of the body lying in a canal. It almost look like a beautiful girl in bikini in a swimming pool coming back to have a sip from her wine glass. The wet beauty of mangled iron thrills me in a strange way.

When I go to sleep in the back seat, Feroze is still at the wheel. After an hour I get up and Somu takes the wheel and Feroze goes to the back seat. Somu wants to cut the distance as early as possible. He is an aggressive driver. He zooms between trucks and tempos.

“You may reduce the speed a little,” Feroze says from the back seat.

Somu slows down. “I have taken a lot of accident pictures when I was a photo journalist. I don’t like over speeding,” says Feroze.

“Above all I don’t like to be photographed by others when I am on a trip,” I comment. “Feroze is doing the job well. And we don’t need to be featured in the news for wrong reasons.”

The Government Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya is in Laxmi Nagar, just opposite to the famous Diksha Bhoomi, where Dr.Ambedkar had converted his followers into Buddhism. Now the Diksha Bhoomi has a huge dome like structure that reminds one of the Sanchi Stupas.

At the college, the teacher couple Prabhakar T Patil and Manisha Patil welcome us. The annual display for assessment is going on when we are there. The works look extremely refreshing and the final years BFA students works look almost ‘gallery ready.’
“It is quite interesting to see such ‘finished’ works,” I tell Mr.Patil, who heads the painting department. His face glows and he tells us that the teaching faculties are always ready to inspire students to do paintings in contemporary style.

Government Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya is one of the most famous art colleges in Maharashtra. This is one of the three colleges that come under the direct administration of Directorate of Art, Government of Maharashtra. This board conducts talent tests and recruit the students for the colleges in Aurangabad, Nagpur and Mumbai. This institution is affiliated to the Nagpur University and follows the syllabus adopted by the famous Sir J.J.School of Arts, Mumbai.

“This is a strange kind of administration, you may find. But we are trying our best to make this college one of the best fine arts colleges in Maharashtra,” says Manisha Patil, who is a painter herself and an art history post graduate from the Fine Arts Faculty, M.S.University, Baroda.

The library has a lot of books and the students are connected to the contemporary art scene in India. They often travel to Mumbai to attend shows and participate in ‘Monsoon Show’ organised for the students of Maharashtra art colleges. Every year the students from this college bag the major awards.

“We help them to think differently. Though the department has certain limitations to administrative apathy, we don’t wait for the administration to help us in everything. We are practicing artists and all the teaching faculties conduct their own exhibitions. This helps the students to form their future as potential artists. They do not join the course just for a degree,” says Prabhakar Patil.

Though Nagpur as a city has got all the facilities, it does not have professional private galleries or public galleries. There is a huge gallery run by the South Central Zone Cultural Centre under the central government. “But corruption is rampant everywhere in this establishment. So we cannot depend on them. They conduct annual competitions and keep the award winning works with them. Then they sell off the works and keep the money for themselves. They behave totally irresponsibly and even the young students know about it. So the presence of SCZCC does not inspire the students anymore,” says Mr.Patil.

This fine arts college in Nagpur has three departments namely painting, applied arts and art teacher diploma. There are around two hundred and fifty students in this department and twenty five teachers are employed to teach them. There are more girls than boys and their proportion is 60: 40.

“Girls students do not come here to get a degree before their marriage. They are quite serious about their studies. Many of them take up jobs in good schools and many others go for higher education. Some of them become full time artists and the history of the former students inspires the students who join the faculty,” says Manisha Patil.

This thirty year old institution stands in contrast with the fine arts colleges in Madhya Pradesh. The teachers seem to work selflessly to improve the quality of the students. However, it is noticed that when it comes to the gallery recruiting, the students from this college are omitted.
“There is a reason for this,” says Manisha Patil. “The name of the institution counts a lot in the commercial market. Even if we have a similar teaching methodology like Sir.J.J.School of Arts, we don’t have its visibility. We need to gain more name. Our students are efficient.”

Art history and criticism, though not a major paper in the curriculum, are taught in this department. “We try to instil enthusiasm for art history amongst our students. I studied in Baroda art history department and I try to follow the same method here,” Manisha Patil says.

Her efforts have found fruits as every year at least one student from this college opts to study art history in Baroda. “They are vernacular students. They have language problems to study art history. But they try their best and many have gained post graduation in art history and criticism from Baroda,” Manisha Patil’s words reflect her satisfaction.

The students in this college are quite familiar with the contemporary art scene in India. Though the teachers say that the students are not influenced by the ongoing styles of the famous contemporary artists, their works in display prove that they have imbibed the styles of Indian contemporary art rightly.

Thanks to official hurdles computer facilities are not in this college. But all the students are familiar with computer applications. They do try various things out of the syllabus. The teachers themselves participate in art camps and workshops, and exhort the students to attend camps and workshops. There seems to be a healthy atmosphere in this college.

The galleries have not yet started coming to this college for recruiting students from the campus itself. However, friendly teachers, students and artists come to this institution whenever they happen to be in Nagpur. “Though they do not conduct official workshops here, we facilitate interactions with the students and the visiting artists and scholars,” tells Mr.Patil.

‘Grooming’ is the word that Manisha Patil uses for the teaching practice in this institute. “We groom the students in the BFA level and they will be able to get admission in any other college for higher studies as they are well groomed.”

The teachers have transferable jobs. The Directorate of Art shuffles the teachers once in a while and this affect the smooth functioning of the colleges. But the teachers face it in a healthy way. Wherever we go, our concern is students, they say in unison.

There is a special energy in this college and that is quite palpable in the faces of the students who prepare for the annual display, which is opened to the public. At times, the students are able to sell their works for good prices from these shows. They are not worried about the lack of patronage within the city because they find their patrons in the neighbouring Mumbai.

The scenario is very promising. This college has all the potential to be acknowledged as one of the best fine arts colleges in India. What it lacks is an external push. The moment it comes, this college is going to attract more attention than any other regional colleges in India.


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