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Manu Parekh’s Life of Colours- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

Manu Parekh has lived a rich life. Of experiences. A Modernist, Parekh has been a painter for over five decades. Each of his paintings reflects a period of his life, a city that has impacted him, a realisation that has enlightened him or a person who has influenced him. 

Art curator Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya who blogs on Artalinda.com, has attempted to capture Parekh’s prolific life with a documentary, Manu Parekh-Crossover of Cultures.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Why did you choose Manu Parekh as the subject of your documentary?

I always visualise artwork through the artist’s life. Every painting is a connection to the artist’s inner thoughts. Manu Parekh was born into a very poor Gujarati family. But he transformed his life in the process of becoming an artist. He came to Kolkata, learnt Bengali and befriended poet Shakti Chattopadhyay, artists Ganesh Pyne and Jogen Chowdhury, just to get to know the creative culture of the city. When he moved to Delhi, it was a completely new experience for him. He lived a very colourful life and I wanted to capture that.

What direction did you take your research for this documentary?

Most Indian documentaries about artists and painters are about what school of art they follow rather than the life of the artist. I read a book about Jamini Roy, where artist Atul Bose had said that the only way to know a painter’s journey is through his paintings. They pour every ounce of their realisations, their thoughts and experiences into their works. India has had a very interesting artistic journey. You could say it started only in 1859, when Annada Prasad Bagchi started the Calcutta Art Studio in 1878. By this time, a remarkable number of art movements had already taken place in Europe. Our art followed them, but we were not followers. Rather, we were inspired by them to take aspects of their art and combine it with our sensibilities. I tried to view Manu Parekh’s painting in the context of the Indian artistic journey.

Is the documentary a director’s take on the artist or the artist’s presentation of the unseen parts of himself?

I had worked as a project director on a documentary on Himmat Shah before. I knew that I wanted this documentary to be more refined than my previous work. Here, I have tried to capture Manu da’s life through a conversation with his friend the late actor Soumitra Chatterjee. The artist has talked of his life while answering Soumitra Babu’s questions in the background, and we would visualise it with his paintings and other images. I am very much in awe of how Soumitra Babu transformed their story into a smooth flowing story. It made my job much easier.

Most know Soumitra an actor. How did you rope him in to be part of a documentary on a painter?

He is not only an actor. He was an artist and a painter too. For his wedding gift, Satyajit Ray gave him a book on paintings. Because of his long involvement with the arts, he had a great understanding of paintings as well. It was not really a stretch to bring him in for the documentary.

In the artist’s official website, it says that his current works are a reflection of his initial years, but a straight line cannot be drawn between these two points. How did you pick and choose the aspects of Manu Parekh’s life that you wanted to show on screen?

The documentary was completed in 2019. Till then, whatever he has gone through, we have tried to give a glimpse of everything. He moved from Varanasi to Kolkata, then to Delhi and back to Varanasi. Each city affected him differently, and that, in turn, affected his work. I have also tried to capture his relationship with his wife, Madhvi di, who is a Modernist herself. How they influenced each other as artists is an important part of my documentary.

So the documentary is not only for art enthusiasts.

Not at all. I have tried hard to change the ‘boring’ connotation that is often attached to documentaries. We had a great team. Dishari Chakraborty composed the music and Haider Ali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan’s grandson, played the shehnai. It has music, it has voiceovers, and it has appealing visuals, If we can watch the lives of actors, sportspersons and entertainers through this medium, I think we will find this enjoyable as well. The documentary will be screened at Bikaner House, Pandara Road,today at 1pm, 3pm, and 7 pm

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