Donating art during the coronavirus

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 15 May 2020

“Unless I am able to express 100 per cent of my feelings for a particular subject on the canvas, I won’t exhibit my art."

Shekhar Naik had his last art exhibition in 1994. After which the filmmaker and artist took a hiatus. Now, he is bringing his brushes back to life. During the lockdown, he has been coming up with one painting a day and has done 51 paintings so far.

Out of which he has gifted his landscapes and portraits to those who have contributed to CM’s Relief Fund for helping COVID-19 affected people and to actors and ordinary people who have been helping stage technicians.

A thoughtful gesture

“I was working on my landscapes, when the CM’s Relief Fund was announced. I decided to gift a painting to those who were going to donate or had donated to the Relief Fund. The recipients could choose the subject for their canvas. I had made the announcement on Facebook. A donation of approximately Rs 30,000 was made to the Relief Fund. I also took up a similar initiative for Marathi Natya Parishad — the actors are collecting funds for  technicians. If someone donated Rs 1,000 to the cause, I would make them a portrait of their choice – a veteran filmmaker, actor or any other person. A child artist of Bhandup, who had won some prize money in a contest, donated half of the sum to this cause. So I did a portrait for her too. In Pune, I gifted Poonam Yadav, a portrait of her grandchild. Once we resume normal activities, I will gift them the original copies,” says Naik, who recently directed Tuzi Aamri, a docu-drama based on the life of Amrita Sher-Gill.

Getting his groove back

Ask him if he has any plans to hold an exhibition of these works and he replies, “Unless I am able to express 100 per cent of my feelings for a particular subject on the canvas, I won’t exhibit my art. So far, I have just about managed to pour 10 per cent of my creative expression into these landscapes and portraits. I won’t put out my hobby work on display. Now that I have clicked the ‘play’ button, I hope to get my groove back.”

So far, the filmmaker has been making a “copy” of the photographs on canvas — the landscapes he captured through the lens. “I travel constantly, and I have many photographs. I have been painting the landscapes based on these images. Recently, I did a watercolour portrait of girls from the shepherd community. Although the mediums change, my vision or my eye for landscapes hasn’t. The eyes of one of the shepherd girls were very expressive, but in the painting, I might end up depicting the sorrow that I can read in those eyes. However, at the moment, I am still searching for my style, honing my craft that will allow me to paint the grief and sorrow. What I am doing right now is making a copy,” explains Naik.

Gopalrao Deuskar, his inspiration

His passion for landscapes began when he was in college. “I specialised in portraits but even then, I used to complete one landscape every morning before I left for college. Every night, I would be at Shivajinagar ST Stand, observing and painting. I used to stay with master painter, Gopalrao Deuskar when I was in college. I spent two years closely interacting with him. He was the one who taught me, ‘Don’t paint, until your drawing or sketching is perfect’. I learnt from him what level of passion you need towards your work,” adds Naik.

He is also toying with the idea of making a documentary on Deuskar’s life. “Not many know that Deuskar did the paintings of Bal Gandharva which are framed and hanging at the Bal Gandharva Auditorium today. I think we need to do a lot more to make our art students and the layman aware of the great artists who stayed in our midst. A docu-drama on his life is also possible, like I directed Tuzi Aamri in Marathi, based on Amrita Sher-Gill’s life. In that play, the letters written by the two sisters (Amrita and Indira) formed the crux of the play. Here, we don’t have any letters, but since I stayed with Deuskar, I know him more closely. It will be easier to discover him than Amrita,” says Naik.

New play

He is also coming up with a Hindi play, Aapki Aamri, along with the Marathi one. “I have got a new cast and we have been rehearsing on phone, (reading out from the plays) during the lockdown from our respective residences. We are ready to open as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Even if theatres don’t open immediately, we can always perform in colleges,” says Naik.

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