Ordinary, or even less than ordinary, men and women went through a magical transformation when they found themselves posing for a quick portrait by Mumbiram. It was rarely planned ahead. It just happened spontaneously. Rag-picker girls got transformed into heroines of Sanskrit classics. Cart-pullers exuded aura such as seen in a Rembrandt painting.
Look at this handsome young man looking straight at you confidently yet genially. He is perfectly at ease, even amused, at being the subject of portraiture of Mumbiram. The turban sitting gracefully on his head has its loose end resting gracefully down his shoulder. You nearly envy him.
Now hear the real life story of this soul. This man in this painting is the younger brother of a boy that was Mumbiram’s childhood friend. This man’s older brother had become an engineer, made a construction company and was the success of the family whereas the younger brother had turned into a mysterious case. Everybody, including his brothers and sisters, had given up on him. He would be without home, lie around on the streets and sleep in the staircases. His parents had given him the name Dhananjay, a name of Arjuna to whom Krishna spoke the Bhagavad Gita. But everyone contemptuously called him Gotya, which meant ‘marbles’ ! Gotya was lying in the landing of Mumbiram’s staircase for many days. Nobody even looked at him anymore.
What had inspired the artist to make a painting of this man will always remain a mystery. This day Mumbiram called out, like Jesus must have called out to Lazarus, “Dhananjay! Come lets make a picture”. Dhanananjay came. Before long Mumbiram had completed the rendering and put down the brush. Gotya had become a celebrity now.
What we can see is a man with a delicate face and delicate hands holding some kind of a pouch. He is sitting in Mumbiram’s favourite armchair in Mumbiram’s legendary studio at the Mandai market place. The red turban was given to him by Mumbiram. He is wearing it confidently. His tilted head and his elbows resting on the arms of the chair give him a noble composure. He is clearly touched by the legendary magical touch of Pygmalion who loved his subjects so well that they came out alive out of the rocks he was carving.
The brushwork is clear and minimal. Not designed to display the painterly virtuosity of the artist. Any other way it would have been an irritating distraction.
This is a work of Mumbiram’s early ‘Personalism’ period which later evolved into Rasa Renaissance.
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