Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fading Glory of an Institute



Kalacharya Pujya Pandhe Guruji Chitra Shilpa Mahavidyalay (Hon.Master Artist Pandhe Sculpture Institute), Khamgaon presents itself as a sepia toned picture. Time is frozen here. The architecture is magnificent and impressive. But a closer look reveals the dents in its fa├žade and contours. It is from this old building, one of the two fine arts institutes in Khamgaon, Buldana district, Maharashtra functions. To be precise, this is the only institute that imparts exclusive training in sculpture. Many illustrious personalities including Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Indira Gandhi had visited here. It also has produced interesting artists like Atul Mahajan and Nilesh Kumawat. But the current state of this institution gives us a very sad picture.

We reach Pandhe Guruji Chitra Shilpa Mahavidyalay around four o clock in the evening. Sanjay Gulani, the head of the institute receives us with happiness. He speaks to us about ‘fine arts college.’

The institute was established by Mukund Srikrishna Pandhe in 1921. He was a versatile artist with many qualities. He spent his time practicing sculpture, painting, music, literature and philosophy. The story goes that a young Pandhe was not admitted in Sir.J.J.School of Arts and he came to Khamgaon to start his own institute. He trained students in sculpture and painting, and also he inspired the students to pursue different fine arts forms.

Pandhe was attracted to Gandhian ideals. He started a Gandhian movement in the institute by incorporating spinning and making Khadi clothes. Gandhiji was so happy with Pandhe’s works and he even visited the art institute to see the nationalist fervour of students. Pandhe was such an ardent follower of Gandhiji, he wanted his students to follow the Gandhian ideals. Whenever Gandhiji called for strike, the students in this institute dared the British soldiers and got themselves jailed.

History of the nationalist movement still lingers around in the campus. Tilak Rashtriya Vidyalaya functions from here and it is under Tilak Rashtriya Vidyalay Trust. The sculpture college comes under this trust and is affiliated to the Directorate of Art. It follows the curriculum of Sir.J.J.School of Arts.

Small kids play in the school ground. They come from the surrounding villages. Their uniform, dresses made out of white khadi reflects the ideal of the school. Now the school has a computer centre, though the sculpture institute that comes under the same trust does not have a computer access. “Our students also will be trained in computer use,” says an optimistic Gulani.

The institute gives away Government Diploma in Sculpture. It is a five year course. The first year is in foundation of art. The succeeding four years are for sculpture education. The students are mainly taught in making portraits. The institute got affiliation with the Directorate of Arts, Mumbai in 1996. Ever since there is a minimal change in the curriculum.

“Previously we used to teach them only portraiture. Now with the affiliation, we teach them composition, life studies and creative sculpture,” says Gulani.

Many students from this institute have become famous sculptors in the mainstream art circuit. Some of them come back and give instructions to the current students. However, the institute and its students are bogged down by several limitations. Primarily, it lacks teaching faculty. There are three teachers now. One of them is a guest lecturer who teaches art history.

The library facility is minimum. There is no funds for the upgrading of the library. “The institute itself is running on the nominal fees given by the students. The trust does not have enough money. Hence the teachers also do not get any salary. We are given an honorarium. We do commissioned art works to earn a living,” explains Gulani.

The students who pass out from this institution either become assistants to famous artists or set up their own studios to do portrait works. Only a few students go out for higher education.

Even in its perennial struggle, the students have learnt to look up to the sunny side of life. They do hard work and they are excellent in portraiture and sculptural techniques. What they lack is opportunity and exposure. But the present state of things does not seem to give them much hope.

There is a small museum in the campus. There are several interesting murals, paintings and sculptures done by the direct students of Guru Pandhe. But many of them are already cracking or fading. The murals done directly on the walls are in the utter state of ruin. "During the rainy season water comes up to the level of windows. The walls get soaked and the murals are spoiled,” says Gulani. He is planning to restore them even if he has not received any financial assistance to do so.

“Is it a special story?” I ask myself when we return from the institute. I feel that it is the same story of the several regional fine arts colleges in India, may be with a different complexion.

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