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Friday, July 12, 2024

For the Love of Old Hyderabad 

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WOW! reviews an artist’s latest show where he recreates elements from the 70s Hyderabad he grew up in 

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Growing up in Himayath Nagar in the 1970s, artist Rahul Mitra was deeply influenced by his surroundings, and its art and culture shaped his childhood. He remembers classical musicians playing on the streets in the evenings, burra kathas in the neighborhood and screenings of mythological films on projectors in temples. What cemented his interest further were his visits to artist Surya Prakash’s studio. 

“He was my friend Nagesh Kukunoor’s neighbor in Vittalwadi, and I used to go see his works. He would spread them on the floor making it an impressive sight,” he recalls. Fate, however, had different plans for him when he went to the US in 1990 and pursued PhD in Bio Chemistry and Molecular Biology before working as a scientist. A visit to Venice Biennale in 2008 influenced him to not only pick up the easel but also start exhibiting his work. Mitra’s work is profoundly shaped by the socio-political dynamics he experienced during his formative years in a Socialist India.

The disparities between the rich and poor, the macro and micro issues that society faces and dual identities all served as inspiration. His current show, The Elephant in the Room, in acrylic and oils, showcases elements of Hyderabad juxtaposed against the issues it faces. From autos to arches of religious structures to issues of colonialism and modernization, they provoke the viewer to think.

“I want my art to raise questions and implore people to look within. There are many things that go undocumented in history. My aim is to focus on issues that are uncomfortable and compel us to look around. I’m influenced by early European art, but my roots are in Telangana.”

Mitra uses visual language drawn from the streets to interpret personal, socio- political dialogues exploring poverty, ennui, custom, love, strangeness, technology, and linguistics. His current work is a study of the underbelly of global cultures and has a distinct element of social consciousness and hidden imagery. Having exhibited his work across the world, the artist is now happy to explore themes that have meaning to him. Also dabbling in public art installation, the 56-year-old is clear on his future path – to continue to let his forever muse, Hyderabad, inspire his form on documenting social change. His works were showcased at Gallery 78 last month.

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