Three Bengaluru residents conceptualised a project that turned the dull and dreary walls of Indiranagar into a colourful canvas that serves as inspiration for students passing by it on their way to school; the project features illustrations made by artists from Italy and Colombia as well
Three Bengaluru residents conceptualised a project that turned the dull and dreary walls of Indiranagar into a colourful canvas
Getting caught at atraffic signal forever in Bengaluru is as natural as breathing. However, if you have a choice of which signal to be stuck at, the one on 80 Feet Road, near CV Raman Hospital would be a good option. It is a gloomy weekday morning and most passersby can be seen turning their gaze to the left. Some wear curiosity on their faces, others a smile. The reason? Freedom Wall, a newly unveiled art project by city residents Dushyant Dubey, Sameer Kulkarni and Satyajit Indramohan.
Located on 5th Cross and 80 Feet Road, the initiative aims to bring to life forgotten heroes, freedom fighters and patriots via murals. In just two months, the walls of CV Raman Hospital compound have been converted into a colourful canvas that pays homage to legends from across the length and breadth of India.
A view of the wall
What most saw as a blank wall was an opportunity for Dubey, Kulkarni and Indramohan, who felt that students of the nearby Resurrection High School should have something inspiring to look at as they make their way to school every morning. “We wanted a mix of personalities because not every child is the same. So we have a painting of Srinivasa Ramanujan for children who love mathematics, if someone is into botany, the artwork of JC Bose can be their inspiration, and there is Jiddu Krishnamurti for the more spiritual minded. We have something for every child,” says Dubey, a 30-year-old corporate marketing manager.
Painting of Srinivasa Ramanujan
Initially meant to be on just a long stretch of wall on 5th Cross Road, the scope of the project expanded after the three men (who have termed their collective, Namma Walls) visited the MLA of CV Raman Nagar constituency, S Raghu. With his help, the team was able to procure permission to include the compound wall of CV Raman Hospital too. In total, 40 panels have been covered across both sections of the project, which was put together by a team of eight illustrators and eight painters.
Behind the scenes
The project was conceptualised in April and 38 of the 58 planned illustrations were completed in June. Besides logistical support, MLA S Raghu also helped the team with financial assistance, which covered everything from the cost of the material to the remuneration for the artists. The remaining 18 illustrations are pending until approval from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) comes through. Each painting also carries a QR code that currently takes a viewer to an online encyclopaedic entry about the historical figure but work is on to build a dedicated website and add more audio visual elements to the QR code.
In some ways, finalising the list of heroes for this project took Dubey, Kulkarni and Indramohan back to school since it meant poring over forgotten textbooks. The panels do not just include portraits of the famous figure but also depict significant scenes from their life. For instance, there is Babasaheb Ambedkar presenting the Constitution of India, Chandrasekhar Azad preparing arms for the Kakori train robbery, M Visvesvaraya supervising the construction of Krishna Raja Sagara dam, Krishnadevaraiya constructing the Virupaksha temple in Hampi, and so on.
“One criteria was prominence. Everyone already knows of Mahatma Gandhi so we wanted to feature other figures who contributed to the history of India,” says Dubey, explaining how the initiative also lines up with the Government of India’s Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative to commemorate 75 years of Independence. “We did not want to limit it to just freedom fighters. These people were pioneers in different fields like science, technology and education.”
Paintings of actors Dr Rajkumar and his son Puneeth Rajkumar
It was S Raghu who suggested the artworks include some figures from Karnataka too, including actors Dr Rajkumar and his son Puneeth Rajkumar. This, of course, is a favourite among city residents, many of whom stop by to pay their regards to the late actors or to tell the team how much they appreciate the project. The heartwarming stories do not stop there. Pointing to a painting of Lachit Borphukan — a commander-in-chief of the Ahom army, which is located in modern-day Assam — Dubey explains how many Assamese in the city have marvelled at the sight of him here in Bengaluru. “We once had a delivery agent show us the goosebumps he had on his arms when he recognised the painting on the wall.”
The project began in mid-April and was completed in mid-June. Made possible by remote working, Kulkarni recalls how the three of them would often rush to the site during breaks or sometimes set up shop on the site to supervise the work of the artists. “We’ve had everyone from policemen and party-goers to expats coming up to strike a conversation with us about this project. An ex-Army officer saw us doing this at midnight and requested a tour for his children,” says the software engineer.
True to what he said, a few moments later, someone in a car stalled at the signal to come up to speak to Dubey and Indramohan. The man, they explain, appreciated their effort and wanted to know if his sons could help out with the initiative. “This is what our social life looks like these days,” adds Kulkarni.
Even as the paint on these works has started to dry, the three are already brewing more ideas. “Our next project is on Old Madras Road. Karunada Kanmanigalu would be more focused on icons across fields from Karnataka. As proud Kannadigas, we want to give it our best,” says 28-year-old Indramohan.
Saalumarada Thimmakka illustrated by Carl S from Colombia
The project involved eight project involve and eight artists, from different parts of the country such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal. Two international illustrators were also a part of the team — Ricardo from Pesaro, Italy and Carl S from Fusagasugá, Colombia. “I responded to an ad that Dushyant had put out and that is how we started,” says Carl, who illustrated the paintings on SL Bhyrappa, Aryabhatta, Ram Manohar Lohia, George Fernandes and Saalumarada Thimmakka. After learning about the basic background of these figures from Dubey, the concept artist did his own research to learn more. “I didn’t know much about Indian history and culture prior to this project. But I enjoyed the vibrant colours and the different backgrounds of all the interesting characters,” says Carl, who took away a lot more from the collaboration. “Art transcends all boundaries and we can use art to connect people from all over the planet,” he says.