Friday, August 26, 2016

Sanatan Dinda - The Man who transformed Pujas into Meaningful Art Works

If Kolkata Durga Pujas were to be compared with other alternative genres of exhibition art, then this guy would actually be the Led Zeppelin amongst Idol makers; the AR Rehman of transforming Durga Pujas into works of art and most importantly, the James Stewart of Puja-bred popularity. SANATAN DINDA, the champion artiste who’s a colossal rage in terms of Kolkata Durga Pujas. And even though he continues to be one of the iconic names during Pujas, his real celebrity lies in his global recognition in the field of sculpture, painting, body art, etc. But nevertheless, inspite of his busy international itinerary, Dinda ekes out precious time for his beloved passion of creating marvels during Pujas. This is something, which sets this man apart.

Sanatan Dinda, seen here during 2015 Pujas near his pavillion
at Chetla Agrani (Courtesy - Lopamudra Paul)
Born in 1971, Dinda is a first class graduate in painting from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata. Almost equivalently adroit in painting, sketching, sculpting, mural making and installations Sanatan’s work always embellishes a magical and divine tenor. Having brought up in the gloomy alleys of North Kolkata, pretty close to the potters’ quarters of Kumartuli…. the grime and the soot and the ageless Ganga taught him the finesse and fads of conventional craft of idol-making. With the superimposing economic hardship, Sanatan had to muster enough resolve, even in his foundational years, to persuade himself that he could reach millions through his passion of painting and sculpture.

Keen on innovating, his murals included imagery of ordinary men and women as well as Buddha with underlying layers of flora, inscriptions and other patterns in the background adding to their visual charm. Even though his initial works were more abstract and in landscape format, his current works focus on three dimensional sculptural paintings of forms that transcend the two dimensional confines of a canvas. Now his work can be counted as a leading sample of modern Bengali visual art. His artforms often symbolise a bond between convention and modernity by effectively conjoining spiritual fantasy with surrealism.

Sanatan has been acknowledged as one of Bengal's most accomplished painters, with his work acclaimed internationally. His recognition is far and wide, from Buckingham Palace to Sachin Tendulkar’s drawing-room. His aficionados include a varied range of people, from Amitabh Bachchan to Sanjib Goenka, Harsh Goenka, Tina Ambani to Shahrukh Khan. In the relatively short span of his career, Dinda’s exhibits have been showcased all over India as well as in US, Singapore, Dubai and London, finding their own space in distinguished compendiums such as that of the Duchess of Kent, the Belgian Consulate, ISKCON and in private collections across the globe.

A Dinda Masterpiece in one of the Private Collections in Kolkata 
His much revered 'Yug Purush' series of portraits have a dash of super realism, or according to art experts - 'ultra' reality. Dinda's works capture intense echoes of his soul where he tries to encompass a vast ocean of his life’s experiences like childhood fantasies, political conflicts, flaccid socio-economic condition and parenthood. Sanatan portrays relationships in various facets. The altercation, the congruence, the sensitivity and the perpetuity of societal relationships are lucidly depicted in his compositions.

But like a true artiste, trying to discover fresh ways of expression every passing day Dinda has ventured into a new art form, one that he had wanted to attempt for a while, and one that calls for an entirely new canvas. During his Art College days, Dinda had painted nude models but now he paints on a nude model. Painters usually bring a bare canvas to life. Here, he was working on an animate canvas that wasn't two-dimensional and rigid, but three-dimensional with various contours and textures. His first foray into Body Painting took him to the Austrian town of Portschach am Worthersee in 2013 for the World Body Painting Festival where he ended up in the top 10 amongst 132 participants all over the globe. In 2015, Dinda bagged the coveted runners up prize at the same Festival with his theme of surrealism where the artist distorted the model’s body through sheer imagination and nimble art to uncover a terror-stricken boy peeping out of the womb. And this is where Sanatan has taken a quantum leap to the global Art arena and this is also one of the primary reasons why these Pujas we will miss a signature Sanatan artefact.

Coming back to Durga Pujas in Kolkata and its connection with Sanatan…. for the last two decades, he has worked on traditional clay-sculpting of Durga idols, as an extension of mainstream art within the purview of contemporary installation art practices.

He is considered as one of the pioneers of theme based Puja in Kolkata. Not only does he add his signature style to most of his deities and pavilions but at the same time churns out dissimilar yet jaw-dropping forms of artwork each passing year. The evolution of Kolkata Durga Pujas into one of world’s premiere exhibitions of popular art owes one hell of a lot to Sanatan Dinda and this piece would look at some of his best installations and idols till date.

A listicle of Sanatan Dinda’s finest works in the past few years -

Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin 2011

Countless eyes provided an illusory background as Devi overcomes Mahishasura with the entire imagery suspended in mid-air. Holy chants added to the earnestness of this display by Dinda. The entry to the main dome had his version of a mortal man mounted on a row boat. Dinda extensively used Blue on the netting and other props which stretched out upto the rooftops of the bordering houses. A surreal ambience created through masterful treatment of light. Top draw effort….




95 Palli 2012


'Ananda' (Mirth) was the Theme. Hands are the most common organs of human articulation. Multitude of emotions are expressed through hand gestures and happiness is one of the most spontaneous of them. Hundreds of hands were used to elucidate this theme of Happiness. The entrance was adorned by a huge fa├žade of half Shiva-half Buddha while the main dome depicted a joyous Devi coming out of a carved holy manuscript. The walls were also embellished with signature fresco work.... Sublime.....




Barisha Club 2012


'Shroddha' (Devotion) being the essential theme of the club, the Goddess has been placed under a Shiv Linga. The Mandap is designed around Shakti (Power) where unholy forces are defeated by the flames of Divine influence. The Theme touches upon the eternal relationship between man and woman which showcases a pair of Feet at the entrance…. the left foot (with ornamentations) of a woman & the right of a man... truly Heavenly…


Barisha Club 2013


Celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the Club, Dinda masterfully used a mishmash of sculpture and painting to create a divine environ for the Devi. At the entrance of the Mandap, Brikshadevi (Tree Goddess) welcomed the audience into the pavilion symbolizing nature and power of Womanhood. The Mandap interior was flanked by sacred patterns, motifs, lotuses and other crawling foliage culminating in a human body lying powerless at Devi's feet. The image of Devi was in motion, with Mahishasura & Chanda-Munda pleading for her sanctification - in a typical Sanatan-style. The cynosure of the exit was a brilliant Wall Relief of of Shiva holding Sati in his arms…. Easily one of my favourite Dinda exhibits…


95 Palli 2014


This year saw Dinda create an uncharacteristic yet fascinating pavilion with a superlative Idol executed in Royal Golden hue. Innovative-ness seemed to be at its height with the Pandal in shape of a blossoming flower made of dinghy boats….. Mesmerising, to say the least.....


Chetla Agrani 2014


“Ananda Dhara Bohichhe Bhuboney” (Torrents of Joy streaming throughout the world) was the focal idea behind the Theme which epitomises festivity embracing all religions. The entrance had a stone Shivling while the main dome was similar to a tomb dating back to the Mughal times. The deity was stationed on a cross whereas the interiors displayed elaborate Buddhist compositions. The highlight of the Pandal exterior was a Devi fresco hinged on the wall leading us to the hypothetical Ladder to Heaven..... An Absolute Cracker!!!


Chetla Agrani 2015

Dinda at this Puja attempts at endorsing Womanhood, as he always does with his inimitable panache. The eternal discord between two primeval forces ie, Shiva & Durga is craftily manifested by the use of austere red and blue. Fittingly, the idol is very overwhelming revealing Woman power. Both interior and exterior of the pavilion have been designed out of recycled materials consisting of tin drums, Paint brushes, cans, metal shutters, steel spoons, mosquito nets etc.