Fashion is a vibrant and ever-evolving art form that reflects the spirit of an era. In the annals of Indian fashion history, one event stands out as a pivotal moment in time – the first Calico fashion show of 1958. In 1958, Bhanu Athaiya was invited by Ebrahim Alkazi to design the first traveling promotional fashion show in independent India for Calico Mills. This event took place at the "India '58" Trade Fair in New Delhi, making it a pivotal moment in Indian fashion history.
Bhanu Athaiya's life story is a testament to the power of talent, determination, and passion. Born in Kolhapur, India, in 1929, Bhanu's artistic journey was shaped by her father Annasaheb Rajopadhye, an amateur artist who introduced her to the world of art. Kolhapur, a significant artistic center in the early 20th century, was a hotbed of creativity and social upheaval, with the local king actively promoting artisans. This environment exposed Bhanu to the likes of Abalal Rahiman, Dhurandhar, and Baburao Painter, who were prominent figures in the artistic circle of Kolhapur. Of particular note, Baburao Painter was a multifaceted artist who made significant contributions to both painting and filmmaking in India.
This academic exploration serves as an archive, offering a testament to the sought-after portraiture skills artist Atul Bose. Through a collection of newspaper cuttings, we delve into the intersection of artistry and history, with each article representing a chapter in the narrative of this renowned portrait artist. These cuttings, meticulously preserved, provide valuable insights into the recognition and praise garnered by Atul Bose's creations over time, as they secured their esteemed place within museums and government institutes.
The primary objective of this project was to create modernist generative portraits. We believe that NFT's purpose is to showcase serious modernist works. Inspired by a project dating back to 1948, we embarked on this venture with great enthusiasm and are thrilled with the outcomes.
As we prepare for the exhibitions of Gobardhan Ash and Rathin Maitra, we have realised that the context and continuum of the modernist movement around the 1940s are somehow forgotten. We strive to bring them to light with the hope of more research and discussions. (Refer here) This write-up focuses on Calcutta and Bombay.
The Principal of the Government Art School, Mr. Percy Brown was scheduled to retire In 1928. Jamini Prakash Ganguly, the Vice-Principal was still two years away from retirement, and in fact, owed two years’ worth of leave. Mukul Dey, the artist was rumoured to be next in line for the office of Principal of the Art School. Sri T. A. Achary held the office of Head Master, while Nandalal Roy Chowdhury was Head Clerk and Superintendent of the Students’ Hostel on Corporation Street, where he was a resident too. Perhaps, one may as well have approached these very individuals to inquire as to the situation that had been brewing.
Rathin Maitra (b. 1913), along with Prodosh Das Gupta, established the Calcutta Group, which gained widespread recognition in India for its influential contribution to modern Indian painting much before the Progressives.
Following the opening of The Legacy of Bhanu Athaiya exhibit was an insightful discussion between stalwarts Ritu Kumar (Textile Historian and Fashion Designer) and Kiran Nadar (Founder and Chairperson KNMA). H.H. MAHARANI Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda inaugurated the event and fondly spoke of her learnings while documenting and intensively researching the legacy of India's most globally renowned costume designer Bhanu Rajopadhye Athaiya.
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!
My first encounter with Bhanu Athaiya happened when I was working on my debut film, Sawan Bhadon, released in 1970. I was playing a village belle, and Bhanuji designed my costumes in the film. How can I put it – it was perhaps predestined, that God chose an exceptional artiste like her to come into my life at that point, in 1969, when I was a naïve teenager who knew practically nothing. Bhanuji became my teacher, mentor, creative guide, and friend all rolled into one.
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.
In these personal notes by Bhanu Athaiya, she fondly recalls her mother Shantabai with deep gratitude, love, and pride. She deems her mother the enabler of her success, dreams, and aspirations. Read on to know more.
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.
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.
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.
Ebrahim Alkazi and his wife Roshen Padamsee were significantly responsible for promoting many members of the Progressive Artists' Group not only in India but also at an international level. Apart from Alzaki; Mulkraj Anand, Walter Langhammer, Emmanuel Schlesinger, Rudi Von Leyden, and Kekoo Gandhy were also active as collectors.