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ONE DAY | ONE EVENT IN THE LIFE OF A de-classed RADICAL OR TITVALA: 6 DRAWINGS OF CHITTAPROSAD

Akansha Rastogi
Curator and Independent Researcher, akansha.knma@gmail.com With Sanjoys presentation the stage is already set for me, where I can begin the reimagining of the Radical. In my first option for the title I use de-classed Radical for Chittaprosad for two reasons. Firstly, to indicate what all of us know already know that Chittaprosad gave up his second name Bhattacharya gesturally suggesting the disowning of the class and caste he was born into, and becoming an individual. And thus, also performing within the framework of a political ideology. The Party giving him a mode, sanctions and a platform to perform in a definitive way, for example his act of reportaging invested in the construction of the heroic image of the insurgent. The second reason is I borrow the term from an article published in Masses of India, Vol. 2 No.3 in 1926, that mentions, the declassed intellectuals are beginning to recognize the importance of establishing relations with the massesthe talents of the revolutionary bard, Nazrul Islam should be devoted to the voice of suffering and aspirations of the downtrodden dumb millions. Let him sing for them to inspire them with the courage to revolt against exploitation and with the hope for a new era of freedom and prosperity. This quote brings us to think about the relationship between the poet/ artist-activist and the agricultural labourers and industrial workers. The artist/ poets role is to inspire, giving a voice to the marginalised, as they are incapable of rising by themselves. They need to be awakened, and the big pre-supposition dumb millions articulates the same prejudice that Partha Chatterjee refers to while positioning of the subaltern. This brief presentation is part of my bigger research-project that is the visual representation of peasants and workers movements in the 1940s works of Chittaprosad, Qamrul Hassan and Somnath Hore. Today, I want to concentrate on one day in the life of Chittaprosad, the works or the visual records made by him in the span of a single day in a single location. Which is as much to see what all he is annotating to the case he is making So, I present six drawings that he had painted on 7 January 1945 at Titvala, a small town in Thane district, Maharashtra. These seven drawings are visual records of the momentous date, 7 Jan 1945, when the Communist Party of India had organized its first session of the Maharashtra Provincial Kisan Sabha at Titvala. Kisan Sabhas also resonates the context and the title of this conference AWAZ DO. Maharashtra Provincial Kisan Sabha at Titvala was attended by the local Warlis, and proved to be a benchmark, developing into Warli peasants revolt in 1946. Narayan

Kulkarnee in his essay The Warli Revolt writes, In January 1945 the Communist Party under the leadership of Mrs. Godavari Parulekar and her husband Comrade Shamrao Parulekar set up a Maharashtra Prantik Kisan Sabha which held its first conference at Titwala, very near Kalyan to which they managed to get, with great difficulty the attendance of about 250 warlis to begin with. Thereafter a host of Communist workers descended into this part of Thana district, began to prepare the Warlis to fight against the injustice, held many meetings and taught them the principles of Communism. (p.362) This is the biggest drawing of Chittaprosad (amongst whatever I have seen of his works, and I have seen a lot). Showing the panoramic view of the conference with Warlis assembled inside and outside the shade, their carts parked under the trees, flags of CPI hoisted, loud-speakers placed, and the rough, dry landscape in the backdrop. Now, if we begin with a simple reversal of the process of what Chittaprosad saw and what he visually annotated to actually reading from what he annotated and reaching to what he saw. It is strikingly different from the insurgent raw energy, the awakened clamour of most of the drawings of CPI assemblies that Chitta has painted. It is the silence of the gathered and yet scattered / dissipated masses (individuals), seated in all attention with their backs towards the viewer that engulfs the whole work. This silence also suggests Chittaprosads position, sitting far away from the actual event. He captures something in process, in occurrence, a moment of highly charged meditation with no active judgement of its success or failure of this rural mobilisation and the signs of solidarity in terms of political subjectivity of the gathering being suggested within the painting, nor the emergence of a collective peasant consciousness. This panoramic view is followed by the zooming in, and recording of the details. This Untitled work depicts a group of women and children, attending the conference, standing under the tree facing towards the right, and listening attentively. Compositionally, the group makes a triangle, a unified geometric formation juxtaposed with the solid form of the tree-trunk. Again, the landscape serves as a strategy of registering and essaying the figures in the locale, as if to convey it is not just anyone, not a general man/woman, but people from a specific location, community and region. From exteriors he goes to an interior in this work. An educated gentleman in shirt is explaining the exhibition and introducing the communist leaders to the Maratha Aboriginal Untouchables (I quote from the inscription on the drawing). Stalins image is easily recognisable. Here we are introduced to the ancillary exhibitions part of CPI conferences, for which Chittaprosad himself has also made drawings and posters. I quote Chitta from an interview in a documentary film on him Confession, made by Czechoslovakian director Pavel Hobl in 1972, talking about the beginnings of his political initiation and its relationship with his artistic practice. At the beginning of the 2nd World war I took refuge in a village near the Burmese border. There I happened to meet with several organisers of underground peasant movement. From them I learned for the first time about fascism and civil war. The assault on Burma brought the war closer to the borders of Bengal and the members of the organisation asked me to produce posters against the Japanese fascists. Posters were attached to the bamboo poles and mats on the cut field behind the village. And it

was actually my first exhibition. His own experience of assimilation into the Party and awakening brings us to dwell upon the political initiation of the masses in the Kisan Sabha, and the role of such exhibitions in achieving that. This drawing actually depicts the double bind of artworks in an artwork, serving the same purpose of sharing, awareness and documentation. Most of the works form this series of drawings have a border enclosing the picturespace, presenting a frame as he makes portraits of specific individuals as well as drawings mapping the entire scape. During the same day, 7 January 1945, Chittaprosad goes on to making portraits of peasants, local leaders embedded within the landscape. This is a portrait of Budhaje Khordke, father of Thakar Bhai with his face diagonally placed within the bordered picture-space, cutting through the landscape behind him. The wrinkles on his face are fine lines, juxtaposed with the framing of thicker ones that are used for the turban and the neck, which also resonate the rough graphic landscape behind him. To highlight this point further I bring this work which he had made 4 days ago while touring other nearby villages. These two works offer a productive relationship between the body and the landscape, i.e. of reading the local-native inscribed or situated inside the landscape, and also the body resonating the landscape. Thus, the body of the protagonist, or the even of the collective masses (the number) emerges as the site of negotiation. Inscribing the portrait or a group of figures in the geographical landscape, or the issue of the land itself is an important pictorial aspect in the Titvala series of drawings. In this context of such a reading and juxtaposition of the body of the peasant as a site and the farmlands as geographical site, the noncultivating zamindars and sahukars become the antibodies. It is different from situating the figures in an interior of a house or a village, in terms of the claim that is being built through the pictorial coding. However, also in the same day Chittaprosad makes this portrait of Thakar Bhai, son of Bhudajee Khordke, which is different from what we have seen today. Patil, the Headman of Maratha Peasants is painted all alone, without any backdrop. While drawing the Headman Chittaprosad returns to his regular angular perspective from the ground that makes the protagonist figure gigantic and assertive in his political choice as the transformed, awakened subject.

In each of these drawings individuals are made more important than the landscape, and in some they are minusculed by it. Also, in all these drawings the need to resistance, the enemy is out.

a historical project | documentation