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Two IIT graduates add colour to the life of Kolkata

The artwork at Salt Lake Sector 5 metro station

The artwork at Salt Lake Sector 5 metro station

When you look at the artworks adorning the newer metro stations in Kolkata, you are unlikely to connect them with engineering, least of all chemical engineering, but there’s a link. Two men in their mid-twenties — Ritesh Verma and Prateek Sachan — who graduated in chemical engineering from IIT-Delhi in 2017, are these days busy lifting the environs of recently-built metro stations in the city of joy with mural art, having done similar projects in 24 stations across Delhi.

“There’s no doubt our batchmates are earning much more than us, but we feel proud that we are creating value for our artists and designers and for the many artists we collaborate with. Also, we never feel we could have picked up something else because we see great opportunities lying ahead of us,” said Mr. Verma, who along with Mr. Sachan started ‘The New Art’ in 2018 after refusing to sit for campus placements.

They have already livened up the walls of six metro stations in the city — Phoolbagan, Bengal Chemicals, Salt Lake Stadium, Sector 5, City Centre and Karunamoyee — and are currently working on the Sealdah metro station. Once Sealdah is done, they will move on to the metro stations of Esplanade, Mahakaran, Howrah and Howrah Maidan.

“Every station has a different theme, depicting local flavours. The theme at Sealdah is ‘art forms of Bengal’, while the theme at Howrah Maidan station would be ‘sports culture of Bengal’, focusing on rural, indigenous sports of Bengal,” Mr. Sachan said.

When asked what was the difference in response to art they found between Delhi and Kolkata, Mr. Verma said: “Delhi has a lot of amazing artists, and a large number of people appreciate art there. That’s why we worked on back-to-back projects there. But Kolkata is something else — the whole city is steeped in art. It’s a very colourful city, with a lot of paintings, sculptures all around, and it has very talented artists. Most people in Kolkata have an ingrained acumen for the arts.”

Inception

The journey in art for the duo began almost immediately after they graduated from IIT, when they happened to beautify the depressing walls of a hostel in Satna (Madhya Pradesh) during a project they had undertaken to modernise the hostel and realised that mural art could do wonders. That’s how they set up ‘The New Art’. Even though they have worked extensively in Delhi and are currently engaged in the newer metro stations of Kolkata, their most difficult project, till date, remains the Capital station in Gandhinagar in Gujarat. “It was a very big wall that we had to paint, and the deadline was last March. We had about eight artists working at a height of 100 feet for around three weeks. Our fingers were crossed, but we acted patiently and delivered the artwork in time. The station was later inaugurated by the Prime Minister,” said Mr. Sachan.

For big-scale or multiple projects, the duo collaborates with freelance artists, mostly local talent. “Our projects provide them short-term employment, and that inspires us a lot. We believe that when we scale up, we’ll be able to affect the lives of many artists positively by collaborating with them, and that gives us a lot of motivation,” said Mr. Verma.

The pandemic, according to the two batchmates-turned-business partners, did interrupt their work briefly but that the lockdown gave them time to reflect on their work. “It was an opportunity for us to up-skill ourselves and become better at what we do. We have also come to believe that the pandemic has made people acknowledge art better, and that in the longer run, there will be greater appreciation for art and the art sector will flourish,” added Mr. Verma.


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Printable version | May 26, 2022 12:56:36 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/two-techies-add-colour-to-kolkata/article38196135.ece