Things changed dramatically when the organisers got in touch with students to give ‘a different taste’ in the pandal
A quiet curtain has been drawn on the fun, frolick and festivity called The Durga Pujas. Kumartuli in North Kolkata, the hub of master iconographers, has expectedly gone in hibernation for a very brief while before the buzz of activity is back, prior to Deepavali. What is quite interesting is that there has been a new pluck of artists who have really made hay while the sun shone. They made the best of their available talent, working almost 24X7 to finish their latest ‘assignment’ – decoration of the pandals they had been assigned with. Their design, their artifact, their intricate craftsmanship literally drew hundreds of ‘Wows’ from the puja crowd that thronged the pandals.
Meet a group of students of the Government College of Art & Craft who had begun lending their lovely touch in one of the biggest cultural and religious extravaganza in India, much like the famous annual carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Swasta Bhattacharya, Souvik Das, Nirupama Majumder and Pinaki Bose are among those in the art college to have bagged a lucrative deal from the organisers this year to help them turn the respective puja pandals as innovative as possible with their touch of brush and paints. Besides cash, they will be getting certificates from these organisers for their contribution which, in turn, will embellish their CVs. These certificates, the students agree in unison, would benefit them when they would seek for job or official engagement later in their career.
“This is a great opportunity for us. Apart from getting practical experience, not only we’ll be able to show our talent and work to a large number of viewers, our future employers will also get a handsome idea about what we are capable of,” says Souvik Das who was engaged by a club in Tollygunj at a mutually agreed remuneration. As one steps into the pandal-in-the-community and comes close to the sanctum sanctorum, one would discover Souvik having sunk himself in his myriad tools – paint brush, thin bamboo sticks and a themed Patachitra.
His plans are simple – before the organisers dismantle the pandal, he would endeavour his best to recover part of his creation as much as possible. But what will he do with them? Souvik won’t reveal them though.
The trend of engaging the students of the art colleges in enhancing the beauty of the pandals is not new. In localities where these students used to live, organisers used to sort of do everything – from coaxing to promise of some endowments – in order to involve them in the beautification of the pandals. And the students would obviously chip in with their might. It was a voluntary work and they would hardly get due payment for their labour because the organisers used to tag them with local decorators and their talent used to go unrecognised. Plus, when these students used to apply for jobs later, they were hamstrung, for they would fail to mention their experience in absence of any concrete record.
Souvik apparently would loathe missing this opportunity. At several places in the decorated stuff, he left his initials in a manner that would be hardly amiss to the discerning eyes.
The art school students, who first started chipping in for some quick cash, felt the need as well to become a part of the puja preparations because this not only gave them some engagement, but also some hands-on experience beyond the corridors of the college. Hence, the practice had been going on for about a decade or so. Most students began bunking classes at least two months prior to Pujas though their work would never be recognised officially.
Things changed dramatically this year when the organisers of SB Park Puja got in touch with Nirupama for offering them with ‘a different taste’ in the pandal that would have more of an aesthetic appeal than anything else.
“I didn’t waste a second to accept the proposal. The only thing that took just a few minutes to be sorted out is the remuneration part because I alone could not have done this. Naturally, I would have required help from the art college students and I can’t ask them to work for free,” explains Nirupama who didn’t crib at the remuneration offered to her. “I’ve paid all the students for assisting me”.
The long queues before the Park pandal and two ‘Sharad Samman’ awards bagged by the organisers under the category of pandal have only gone to prove that the city and adjoining clubs will increasingly start using the art college students in future. This will definitely make their job hunting process much easier, they agree unanimously.
What do the students feel about it? First, they feel decorating a Durga Puja pandal offers them a huge scope for learning several domains of art. The portfolios they work on and the hands-on work at the pandals are, indeed, a huge difference because Durga Puja needs a holistic approach and a student who is good at painting may require to know something about sculpting and a student deft at sculpting would need to know painting as well. Hence, the work on the pandals is an added qualification in the students’ CVs.
Secondly, making a quick buck is less important as far as the career prospects are concernced. Any artist would feel obliged to be a part of Durga Puja. From this year, the practice of giving it an official recognition has begun and this is what the students have been forward to as this will enable them to get a handsome package when they seek a corporate entry.
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