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Moushumi Kandali
Date of Publish: 2015-09-12

Art & Artists:

(This section on Art -Discourse features noted artists of the north- eastern region with art historical significance. The focus of the section is to critically review their artistic endeavors and their contribution to the production and intellectual development of art to create a definitive contour.)

 Moushumi Kandali, Editor, Visual Art & Culture Section, nezine.com






Moushumi Kandali


Heart has its own reason… thus spake Blaise Pascal. Tarun Duvara, (Born: 1st March, 1921 Dibrugarh; Died: 9th July, 1998 Guwahati.) one of the pioneering spirits of modern art in Assam belongs to that rare breed of creative people who listen to the “Reason of the Heart” and sail against the tide to chase their cherished dream. He ventured into the realm of art, a unique calling in the mid-thirties of 20th century Assam. It was a time when the modern art scene in its embryonic state manifested hydra headed adversities. Working within the constraints of a peripheral pocket to the ‘mainstream’ of the nation, dearth of adequate infrastructure and lack of genuine art consciousness, Tarun Duvara spent his entire life in pursuit of art without succumbing to the circumstantial adversities where pursuing an artistic career was almost an impossibility .With his interminable passion he carved a niche for himself as one of the stalwarts of the first phase of modern art in Assam.

The first phase of modern art in Assam manifests British academic realism, renaissancesque representations with certain tinge of impressionistic and post-impressionistic rendering. The artists of  this phase delved into a definite range of thematic explorations, like that of  the scenes from rural life of Assam – its collective social occasions, the scenic landscape of the lush green Brahmaputra valley, and certain mythological  and historical  as also themes taken from literature with an underlying general mood for lyrical romanticism. The artistic oeuvre of Tarun Duvara epitomizes all these traits and trends, elevating it up to certain aesthetic level. His commitment to art is supplemented by his craftsmanship over various media of painting (oil, water-colour, pastel, charcoal, pencil), immense imagination and a poetic sensibility. The  lyrical  composition of “At the Loom” capturing the mundane yet creative moments in the everyday life of rural Assamese women, those magic- weavers -- who make fabrics of love as they say in the Bihu songs translating their dreams and desires into the threads,  the pensive child in “Detained’, the dynamism and the pent-up energy in the image of a tethered cow, the  element of ‘ sublime’ in  “Wasteland” or “ Sunset at Luit” speak in volume about his  artistic vision. His colour–schemata  unfurling in fine tonal gradation, the red glow of the sun, the soft warm tint of the hills and undulating greens of the plains, the blaze of the golden autumn hue, the impressionistic splash of the vibrant white-yellow-orange of the evenings are indeed visual delights! However, Duvara’s finest quality as an artist is manifested in his works of portraiture where bold, free-flowing spontaneous strokes complement the insightful characterization of the subjects. The inherent masculine beauty of the male portraits is noteworthy. His depictions of the locale, the thematics delving on the various shades and slices of indigenous ethnic lives are pointers to his cultural rootedness. Neither the predominating Bengal School representations nor the expressionist renderings of Rabindra Nath Tagore and Amrita Shergil but this definite cultural rootedness became the guiding force of his discourse.

The winning of the  P C Chatterjee Gold Medal in an All India art  competition in 1932, the publishing of the sketch of Pandit Nehru (autographed by him as a mark of appreciation) in several national newspapers and magazines, the words of admiration by Indira Gandhi about his fine designs based on the traditional Assamese weaving motifs , the selection of his design as the emblem for All India Dental Council, representing North-East in the international exhibition curated by Ramendra Nath Chakravarty, adorning the walls of Rastrapati  Bhavan with his paintings were some of the memorable anecdotes of his artistic achievements. Besides participating at several exhibitions in different parts of India, he also held    different solo exhibitions. Two of his solo exhibitions were inaugurated by Jai Prakash Narain (Jorhat 1947) and Jairamdas Daulatram (Shillong 1952) respectively.  Inspired by two of the first four trained modernist artists of Assam, Muktanath Bordoloi and Suren Bordoloi, Tarun Duvara had set out to receive six years of academic training in the prestigious Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta along with another artist Robin Bhattacharya in 1936 where renowned artist Mukul Dey was the Principal. His acquaintance with artist Ramkinkar Baij, Abanindranath Tagore, Atul Bose and others further inspired him in his artistic quest. It is herein worth mentioning that the head art teacher of the college, Ramendra Nath Chakravarty had not only praised Duvara’s artistic capability but also his dancing spree, and his “good figure” in a letter of appreciation!

Yes, besides his painterly talent, the versatile persona of Tarun Duvara had excelled in varied fields like dance, music and especially in the arena of acting showing vigorous endowment since his childhood. He won great   accolades for both his stage performances as well as character portrayals in movies. During his Calcutta days, he performed in many Bengali stage and radio plays and later in AIR Guwahati. The play” Juye pora Son” ,written by Phani Talukdar ,in which he played the lead role won the National Award for best drama in 1963.He acted in eight Assamese movies among which his spectacular acting in “Dr Bejbaruah” and “Pratidhani” were highly appreciated. If his acting ability was truly recognized by Rupkonwar Jyotiprashad Agarwala, his dancing skill was deeply acknowledged by Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha under whose guidance he performed Kamrupi Loknritya at different places in Calcutta, winning high admiration in prestigious functions such as the one in the aid of World Red Cross in 1940. His multifaceted persona took great pleasure in various fun activities thereby winning accolades in those as well, as evident in the All India Fancy Dress competition held in New Delhi where he won first prize for three consecutive years from 1972 to 1974. From creating new designs in textile to dancing  and  singing, to such entertaining performance in fancy dressing, Duvara shines with so much multifaceted versatility that he would have been the perfect “package” of a multi-tasking “ power  performer” to speak  in the language of the  present-day entertainment industry ! He worked as the art advisor and exhibition officer to the Government of Assam with great aesthetic sensibility, vision and innovation. Besides, he penned many essays and articles and published two books titled “Phulor saneki’ (Floral designs) and “Arts and Crafts of Assam”. He also cut two discs of the dramas Daksha-Yagna and Sita-Banabash with famous poet Ganesh Gogoi.

Dr. Surya Kumar Bhuyan in a poem about Tarun Duvara had once expressed that his artistic passions were like fire and his dreams soared up high. Dr Bhuyan wrote that days may pass and stars may fizzle out but someone someday in this place will definitely reminisce about a person named Tarun Duvara. Well, Dr Bhuyan was only partially correct for it is not one but many who now remember with regards this versatile persona who followed Pascal’s truism!




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