Padma Bhushans have strings attached, says veteran Bengal artist

March 27th, 2010 - 10:32 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Kathmandu, March 27 (IANS) At 74, veteran Bengal artist Suhas Roy is willing to explore new ventures and collaborations in Nepal and elsewhere. However, what the creator of the acclaimed “Radha” series is not even willing to contemplate are honours conferred by his own government.
“Padma Shris and Padma Bhushans don’t come openly,” he says. “They always have stories behind them. You need affiliations to the government, parties.”

The statement by the former head of Kala Bhavan at Viswa Bharati, West Bengal, comes after the controversy triggered on the state awards last month.

They were refused by the grande dame of Hindi literature, Krishna Sobit, and West Bengal’s theatre doyen Badal Sircar while the government’s nomination of US-based hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, who faces criminal complains, came under criticism.

Roy, whose paintings are in the Vatican, 10 Janpath Road, the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and galleries and private collections all over the world, came to Kathmandu for his first solo exhibition in the Himalayan capital, organised by the Siddhartha Art Gallery and Kolkata’s Akar Prakar in collaboration with ITC’s joint venture, Surya Nepal.

The exhibition, inaugurated by the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, and on till Friday, brings to Nepal Roy’s famous “Radha” series - the portrayal of the ideal, universal woman, like Mona Lisa.

Begun in the late 1980s, Roy has painted over 12,000 Radhas, and plans to continue painting more.

“I did landscapes for 10 years,” he says. “Then I got bored and wanted to do something different.”

Asked by a gallery to paint something for an exhibition on Krishna, the mythical Indian character famed both as a warrior-statesman and as a lover, Roy says he was inspired to paint Radha instead, Krishna’s legendary consort.

“Radha became an iconic character even though she was considered to be Krishna’s aunt and married and their love was illegitimate,” Roy says. “For me, she became the symbol of perfection, the eternal woman who would never age, like Mona Lisa.”

The first Radha images, drawn against trees or foliage, were inspired by the Santhal tribal women who used to work at his residence in Shanti Niketan, Roy says.

Besides the Radha series, he is also continuing with his Durga and Christ images.

Roy says he is happy with the public admiration he receives and steers clear of hype.

“My Radhas have no gimmick like Maqbool Fida Hussain,” he says. “Hussain never had a relationship with (Hindi film star) Madhuri Dixit and yet his series, (said to be inspired by Madhuri), became the talk of town for other reasons. Hussain is talented but gimmicky at the same time, like Picasso.

“I don’t want to be like anyone. If my paintings are appreciated by the future generations, I will live through them and I am happy with that.”

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