Developed in the mid-19th century, the Kalighat painting started with illustrations of Hindu gods and goddesses.
It eventually transcended into illustrating the lives of urban dwellers. The art is often infused with humour, satire, and socially relevant issues.
Kolkata’s Kalam Patua, a postmaster by profession, has mastered the art with over 40 years of hard work and dedication.
After work, the 58-year-old silently strives to reinvent the lost art of Kalighat by giving it a contemporary twist.
At the age of 10, he learned to draw and paint in the ancient pattachitra scroll style. As he grew older, he became intrigued by and subsequently taught himself the Kalighat style of painting.
After completing schooling in 1981, he learned that only a handful of artists possessed this unique technique, and took it upon himself to do something for the vibrant and beautiful art form.
“I grew up making 13th-century pattachitra or cloth paintings that depict the rural way of life in traditional folktales, mythologies,” he says.
“However, the Kalighat pattachitra is a medium of urban satire that brings to light socially relevant issues which started disappearing with the advent of printed pictures and calendars,” he adds.
Kalam’s paintings (mostly on paper) have subtle use of colours and are infused with tension, unease and shades of humour, making everyday mundane life fascinating.
From drawing a couple watching the 9/11 tragedy on television to a middle-aged man admiring a skimpily-clad mannequin, Kalam’s themes incorporate socio-political tales including consumerism, dowry, and feminism.
Kalam creates the same art that his ancestors practised for over 300 years, but because of the twists he gives to his work, he has gone beyond the pull of lineage to create art which is entirely his own.