Imagery of the Soul on paper
relation with paper and scissors started early in life. It was at old Calcutta, with
grainy and patchy walls with mottled play of light and shade, in a quaint building of
colonial architecture this paper bridge between reality and imagination started.
Like bits of sunlight that seeped in through the gaps in the window shutters, pieces of
paper lay scattered on bed where I played, and with a small pair of scissors, cut out
shape after shape in pure joy.
At that time I was a child of five and was not aware of the paper cutting tradition I was
born in and the link that joined me to the master artists of yore.
Later I learnt of my grandfather, late Sashibhushan Pramanik, who dedicated his life to
this traditional form of art and also about the masters who would create wonderful paper
cutout images to decorate Vaishnav temples at the times of festivals such on Rasa,
Janmashtami and Jhulan in Bengal, Mathura Vrindavan and Orissa.
Way back from the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu when faith and dedication had other
meanings in life, paper cutting masters plied scissors and sharp cutting tools to create
silhouette and filigree designs that were created without any drawing or tracing.
The rhythm of the "Mridangam" in the "Natmandir", the
"Kirtan" songs of devotion overflowing the heart with a nectar that takes the
soul from the bondage of apparent to infinite, in the way of light that formed the path
and the goal both in the existence of those who chose to travel along it.
"Devasthanakala Sanjhi" paper cutting art was a part of that way.
The "Leela" of Krishna, the lover supreme, with Radha the eternal devotee was
portrayed in paper, creating a material support for the subtle "Rasa" or
emotional entity. The spiritual intent and the application of the art allowed a set of
values that had nothing to do with the modern day concept of success in the lives of those
who practised it.
In the rat race of today's modern society the time honoured values of devotion, patience
and spiritual joy are little understood or thought to be necessary, and Devasthanakala,
dwindled down to a shallow craft form of mimicry, or passed into oblivion with its
technological excellence from the places where it was previously practised.
In today's world where spiritual philosophy has given way to the concept of commercial
gain, I like a lamp that flares up into a flame before it finally dies down, strive as a
"Nimitta" or a medium in the hand of Govinda making complete and complicated
compositions without any drawing or tracing, preserving this rare form of art, atleast for
the time being.
The imagery of my soul in paper, utilizing the negative and positive aspects of space
both, have found visual expressions through the epics of Mahabharata, Ramayana, the life
story of Gautama Buddha and Jayadeva's Lyric Geeta Govinda.
I make paper cuttings on other themes such as birds, animals, history of art and some
contemporary scenes. Innovations have allowed a new idiom to this form of art without
distorting the basic technical aspect or the philosophy.
In my own way I sculpt paper in to three dimensional forms by cutting and folding to give
it volume and structural stability.
Moving visual forms have always interested me, and to expand the perimeter of Indian paper
cutting art and for the sheer joy of experimentation, I started making paper cutting
I first made animation films (16mm) in Calcutta in 1998.
The recent paper cutting animation movies (digital) were made far away from the cubist's
delight of old Calcutta, in the heart of the Himalayan foot hills with the mighty backdrop
of imposing ranges, in a little mountain village, in our studio with just a few multimedia
equipments and lot of imagination, with my friend Arup Chandra. I make the visuals and the
animation themes and Arup does the photography, editing and music synchronization work.
The movements are not made with any computer software but created manually.
The individual creative involvement is a very important part of paper cutting animation
movies. The computer is used only for editing, lettering and sound synchronization. The
animation movies were very well appreciated when several small movies were shown at
British library, Chandigarh (14th March 2004) and India International Centre, Delhi (31st
So far we have made, the short animation movies The Magic Scissors, The Cockroach
and the Lizard, St. George and the Dragon, The Enchanted Palace, The Flight, The Animal
Concert, The Bull fight, The Animal film company, Radha Krishna Leela, and The Fantasy.
We are working on the production of other animation movies specially one on
"Mahishasuramardini Durga" and one on Buddha's Sadhana at Urvilla (Bodh Gaya)
titled "Light through the leaves".
Zee telefilms telecast a short portion of my paper cutting animation in March 1999.
Chandigarh Doordarshan and Delhi Doordarshan (National) have screened some parts of our
animations too in July 2004. The successful presentation of the paper cutting animation
movies prove that traditional art and modern technology can join hands without distorting
the time honoured outlook and methods creating a perfect harmony.
Published in Indian Horizons
(Volume 52 Summer Issue 2005)
Indian Council For Cultural Relations
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