Caught on candid camera

Over one hundred photographs of the doyens of the Modern Indian Art movement in their candid moments have been captured by septuagenarian artist and photographer P Mansaram in an ongoing exhibition

Persistence goes a long way, believes artist and photographer P Mansaram, who attributes that trait in contemporary artists and gallery owners as the force that sustained the Modern Indian Art movement "They received very little support, yet were brave enough to pursue art as a profession," says the Indo-Canadian.

An image of MF Husain with his wife Fazila

The artist, now in his seventies, recalls leaving his hometown of Mount Abu in Rajasthan, in 1954, to study Fine Arts at the Sir JJ School of Arts in Bombay.

Once here, he found himself in the midst of what would later be defined as the Modern Art movement. Mansaram would develop an interest in photography, bartering a portrait for his first camera at a garage sale.

In the neighbourhood
Since he would frequently meet up with fellow artists, including MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta and Ebrahim Alkazi, who also had their studios on the same premises as him at the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute.

Artist Jehangir Sabavala

The phase marked the beginning of his chronicles of the movement both as a participant and a spectator. The result of those chronicles is a series of 125 candid and posed shots of personalities from the creative world, including art critics, gallery owners, musicians and actors.
Those featured in the collection include actor Raj Kapoor and writers Shobhaa De, Behram Contractor and Khushwant Singh the images offering portraits of famous faces before they were famous.

Highlights include images of artist MF Husain having a tete-a-tete with his wife Fazila and artist FN Souza out on the streets of New York.

Leaving Bombay
In 1963, Mansaram left Bombay to study in Amsterdam at the State Academy of Fine Art on a scholarship. "My father was an engineer and he frowned upon my choice of career," says the artist, who received scholarship aid. "From there I went on to study film-making in Canada," he adds.

Author and playwright Partap Sharma

Mansaram says that he had to work as a teacher in Canada, where he would eventually settle, to make ends meet. "People abroad worked as daytime lift operators, librarians and secretaries to save money and get time to pursue their true calling. I followed the same path and had a lot of fun in the process," he reminisces.

His advice to anyone seeking a living in the art world: "Artists must have a fire in their belly. As long as you have it, it will keep you going. If it's gone, your creativity and talent will also disappear."

Till January 30, 12 pm to 8 pm
At Piramal Art Gallery, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call 22029483

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