Remembering Immortals, Artist Rita Jhunjhunwala’s Way

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New Delhi(PTI): It was as a girl of nine that artist Rita Jhunjhunwala attended one of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s motorcades, and the former Indian Prime Minister’s iconic slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ was etched on her memory forever.

“I remember we were so influenced by his message that we stopped consuming ann (grains) once in a week,” she says.

To celebrate the contribution of Shastri, Mahatma Gandhi and other “Indian legends” in making India the great nation it is today, the city-based artist has come up with an evocative portrait collection that is being exhibited at Indian Habitat Center here.

Titled ‘Immortals’, the exhibition, that begins here today, has 35 large works in various media — acrylic and charcoal on paper, acrylic and mixed media on canvas and sculptural installations in wood.

Jhunjhunwala says she has consciously refrained from creating mere photo-realistic renditions of the personalities, and instead placed the portraits against symbolic backgrounds, with incidents associated with each of them.

The artworks have been executed in her trademark brush strokes.

The artist began the series with a couple of portraits of Gandhi.

She recreates Bapu’s Salt March in one, and portrays the Mahatma’s affectionate relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru in the other.

“Mahatama Gandhi was the prime figure in my mind when I planned to pay tribute to some of the legends in India. Today, we may analyse his decision with a critical eye but he has been the most instrumental in India’s freedom,” she says.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s portrait is replete with symbols of strength while Subhash Chandra Bose’s portrait lights up with the colours of nationalism.

The collection also has features Rabindranath Tagore gazing calmly into a cascade of books, while Mother Teresa’s image is all about compassion.

The exhibition also has on display images of renowned artist M F Husain, Indian classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar, Swami Vivekananda, Dr C V Raman, Ramkrishna Paramhans, Amrita Shergil, A P J Abdul Kalam among others.

Recalling her meeting with Kishori Amonkar, Jhunjhunwala says the vocalist touched her “deeply”.

“She was extremely encouraging and loved the portrait I had made of her with her mother, Mogu Bai,” the 61-year-old artist says.

The exhibition is set to continue till October 5.

 

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