MR VISHWANATH Pratap Singh could not believe his ears. “Really? No, I was not aware that my paintings have been sold. How much? Rs 90,000? How do I feel? Kya bataoon (What should I say?). I was living the life of a parasite. Bap dadaon ki jameen jaidad per jee kha raha tha (I was eating from whatever my ancestors left for me). Ab, apne talent se paisa mila hai. Khush hun ( I am happy that I am earning money because of my talent). Mujhe lagta hai, mujh se kafi jyada talented log hain. PM tha isliye publicity mil rahi hai.” (There are more talented people then I. I am getting publicity only because I was the Prime Minister).
Mr. V P Singh could not have been more forthright and to the point in self-assessment. His two paintings Bombay Crow and Bombay My Foot were sold minutes after the “Bombay” art exhibition opened on Monday morning at the Jehangir Art Gallery in South Bombay.
The former Prime Minister’s two paintings were among 74 paintings on sale. The exhibition promoted by RPG group concentrated on the single theme of Bombay city. India’s top painters including M F Hussain participated in the exhibition.
However, even Husain could not hold a candle to Mr Singh when it came to attracting buyers. While Mr Singh’s two paintings were grabbed by an anonymous buyer early on Monday morning, M F Hussain managed to attract a buyer, Mrs. Bhojwani, only on Monday evening. Ironically, M F Hussain had priced his much-hyped Mumbai painting (featuring actress Madhuri Dixit) at Rs30,000.
“Hum to man mauj se painting kar leten hain. Abhi to kaft sikhna hai. Suruwat hai,” ( I paint when I feel like. I have a lot to learn. It is the beginning) said Mr Singh upon learning that his painting was sold hours before that of M F Hussain.
Mr. Singh’s former Cabinet Secretary B G Deshmukh for one was very keen on buying his former boss’s paintings. “I wish they (Mr Singh’s paintings) had not been sold. I would have definitely bought his painting,” said Mr Deshmukh. “But wasn’t the price for Bombay My Foot too steep at Rs 60,000?”
“No, I do not think so,” said Mr Deshmukh. He paused and added: “Yes, maybe a little bit on the higher side. But any day worth Rs 50,000”.
So how did Mr. Singh price his paintings and assess the worth of his paintings? “Maine price nahi tai kiya. oh kuchh doston ne kiya,” (I did not fix the price. My friends did it) explained Mr. Singh.
Initially very reluctant, the former Prime Minister was persuaded by his friends to participate. After dilly-dallying for three months, he agreed.
On his visit to Bombay, (Mr Singh regularly visits Bombay for the treatment of cancer) the former Prime Minister with his retinue of lack cats seriously went around various places in Bombay and filmed the city on his camera.
This is technically not his first exhibition. He had participated in an exhibition held by Ms Maneka Gandhi in Delhi. However, then, his painting was untitled and not for sale.
As in politics, in the field of painting also, he has his share of critics. “V P Singh has undoubtedly the touch of an artist. However, two of his paintings Bombay Crow and Bombay My Foot were amateurish. If he is serious about painting, he should take it up full-time. It cannot be part-time,” remarked a leading artist, Altaf Mohamedi.
Another artist Laxman Shreshta, could not fully agree. Said he: “V P Singh is a keen learner. His painting of a nude woman with a snake around her legs shows that he has firm control over human anatomy. His choice of colour is also good. However, he has a long way to go.”
Mr. Singh disappointed many people who wanted to buy his painting that showed a muscular female with a snake wrapped around her legs and a man lying prostate next to her. The painting was not for sale.
“Why not?” Mr Singh said, laughing: “chhodiye, kya kahoon aap ko. Rajniti ke bare mein kuch puchhna hai to jawaab doonga (Leave it. What shall I say? Let us talk politics instead).
By Ketan Tanna