The Hindi movies that I grew up watching in the ’70s, in theatres, and then in the ’50s and ’60s on Television, left lasting impressions. What attracted me most was the song & dance and the costumes worn by the stars. Many years later, I learned to my surprise that almost every look that was created for the actresses right from Waheeda ji, to Mumtaz ji to Zeenat ji – was by one person - Bhanu Athaiya!
Actor Tanuja narrates Bhanu Athaiya's transition from art to Indian cinema while carrying her love for art on her sleeve. Lovingly addressed by Bhanu as 'Tanu', the actor reminisces about Bhanu's eagerness to delve into the actor's role before designing her costumes.
Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya (b. 1929) was born in her 300-year-old sprawling ancestral house in the heart of Kolhapur. Bhanu grew up surrounded by indigenous and western political, social and cultural influences. Her ability to translate all this information into the medium of cinema and art made her the first Indian ever to win an Oscar. Bhanu Athaiya is not only recognised as the revered doyenne of Indian costume designers; but also a remarkable modernist artist.
In lieu of India's 75th year of Independence, Google Arts and Culture celebrated Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya as one of India's trail-blazing icons. She leaves behind a rich and wonderful legacy built on creativity, fortitude, and immense talent. One of the early members of the Bombay Progressives group and India's first Oscar-winning Costume Designer, Bhanu Rajopadhye had a historically important early career as an artist, exploring the possibilities of Indian Modernism with her contemporaries at the J.J. School of Art and the Progressive Artists' Group.
An unabating artist whose creative expression was unfazed by the trials and tribulations he faced, A.A. Raiba (b. 1922) was relentless; almost restless in his artistic pursuits till the very end saying, “Itni Umar Gayi, Kam khatam nahi Hua".  His visual narrative was derived from his love for Urdu poetry and Islamic Literature. Born in Mumbai, most of Raiba’s works exude nostalgia and are intimate observations of old Bombay and his travels all over the country. Raiba’s oeuvre is rooted in intensively researched history with influences from his lifelong practice in Calligraphy.
A ray of light enters Lajmi’s room and falls on a half-painted canvas. The artist’s room is dipped in evening hues as twilight knocks on the door. Brushes stacked in paint holders stand in awe-filled unison like silent spectators as unsuspecting Lajmi continues to paint into the night. Seated on a wooden chair propped up on two cushions, Lajmi’s creative spirit knows no rest. Lalitha Lajmi’s nocturnal artmaking which was first born out of necessity is now a habit she has woven into her creative process.
Like a blithe child colouring on the walls despite protests, nothing deterred F.N. Souza (b. 1924) from asserting his art. His art, whose first impact is to shock, elicits a childlike element of uninhibited honesty with no filter, unafraid, and almost oblivious to those offended. His unrestrained and thought-provoking body of work makes one wonder about the power of art and its hold over the human psyche. Broad and bold lines jump out of the canvas attacking with speed, deeming him an eternal rebel.
A meditative quality fills the senses as one steps into Raza's creative sanctuary in Delhi. Walls of art adorn each corridor, doorway, and room, giving one a glimpse inside the artist's mind. The leitmotif of Bindu in Raza's art looks out from all his canvases. While old photographs and a typewriter tell stories from another time. This studio is an exhibition of Raza's intimate world as an artist and a dreamer.
This particular work, titled WOUNDS-104, being a very explicit depiction of Hore’s 'Wounds' gives one an insight into the artistic process.The work’s base layer is an etching dated in Bengali as 1972. There is a faint signature to the left that reads SO(mnath), followed by an eight in Bengali. Hence this piece seems to have been worked on by the artist for over a decade- the 70s and 80s, suggesting that masterpieces are indeed not made overnight.
Somnath Hore was not one to paint the blue of the skies, the glitter of the sands, or the green of the whispering trees, but the helplessness of the trembling hand attached to an emaciated body collapsed on the floor. In Somnath’s vision, it is the spectacle of man’s suffering that steals the show.
The illustration and painting of the globe of ideal- the form of beauty appeared on the playground of five elements in tone a rhythmic posture by the display of harmonious posture. The awakened inner soul of mankind unifies the different sentiments by the marvelous tonal sublimation, the fine arts born in a rhythmic aptitude.
Sometime in the middle of December, in 1949, I met Prodosh Dasgupta, Prankrishna Pal, and Rathin Mitra at the Calcutta Photo Society at 157B, Dharamtolla Street. Prodosh happened to be a previous acquaintance. The other two gentlemen, however, I met for the first time. “Why, we’ve been looking for you. There’s something we would like to discuss,” they said.
Art Rebel Centre, founded in 1933, was formed and led by Gobardhan Ash, Abani Sen, Annada Dey, and Bhola Chatterjee. Subsequently, some of those invited to submit their work in exhibitions accepted membership. These include Lalit Chandra, Haridas Ganguly, Samar Dey, Amar Dasgupta, Sachin Das, Kalikinkar Ghoshdastidar, Khagen Roy, and Suren Dey, among others. Manoj Bose and Rabi Bose became members too, despite not providing paintings for exhibitions. The following is a brief history of how Art Rebel Centre came to be.
[The present article by the veteran artist Gobardhan Ash, stands testament to two of the pioneering ventures, in recent years, at creating a cumulative creative space for young artists of this country ━ both of which he had been a part of. Mr. Ash was subsequently involved with the Calcutta Group as well.]
Each time young Homi Wadia entered the set with his producer-director brother J.B.H. Wadia, his eyes would light up like a kid in a candy shop. His gaze was not stuck on fantastical costumes or the star-studded cast but set on the camera. This demonstrated his childhood aptitude for mechanical processes and all things technical. It was not long before he decided to dispense his studies and join his brother in the art of film making.
A young boy's obsession with film was the cause of his secret trips to Bombay's cinematheques. Perhaps it was J.B.H. Wadia's heart thudding in anticipation that often broke the silence enveloping the dark movie theatre right before the big screen would light up. Mr. Wadia was a dedicated student of film since his high school days, growing up in an ever-present environment of cinema. Bombay's historically prominent locations dotted with stand-alone theatres were photographic landmarks etched in J.B.H's memories. These glorious theatres were not just recreational spots for the cinephile but institutions that shaped his cinematic oeuvre.
J.B.H. Wadia (1901-1986), the founder of Wadia Movietone, was the great-grandson of Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia (1702-1774) of Surat, Gujarat, of the Wadia line of shipbuilders who founded the Wadia Group in 1736.
Cinema came to India within a couple of years of its invention in the last decade of the 19th century. Dadasaheb Phalke, however, is considered the Father of Indian Cinema as he was the first filmmaker to have produced the very first full-length film in India that could be shown theatrically all on its own. This was in the year 1913. Overnight, it replaced live theatre with cinematic features. This was the beginning of the Indian film industry which soon became the second-largest in the world after Hollywood.
In the mid-1700s, the Master Shipbuilder Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia built a grand bungalow in tony Parel, which came to be known as Lowji Castle – with an imposing entrance hall and a wide oak- wood balustrade leading from it to the living area! Lighting up the entrance lobby were several colourful stained-glass panels with the family crest and motto – “Honor and Magnanimity” along with the sailing ship at the centre of the design! Several generations of the Wadia family lived in this palatial abode right up to the late 1800s. It is recounted by J.B.H. Wadia's family members that the elite of Bombay society wined and dined at the ‘castle’ including senior members of the British establishment.