KOLKATA: A replacement for the Syama Prasad Mookerjeebust vandalised at a garden near Keoratala, as a tit-for-tat for the destruction of Lenin statues in Tripura in the immediate aftermath of the BJP coming to office there this March, is ready for installation ahead of the Jana Sangh founder’s death anniversary on June 23.The Trinamool Congress-led Kolkata Municipal Corporation had ordered the bronze statue as a replacement for the marble bust vandalised at the C R Das Memorial Garden in Keoratala. The original bust was installed at the park on June 23, 1983, exactly three decades after Mookerjee’s death in Kashmir.
Sculptor Goutam Pal, whose father, Kartick Chandra Paul, had sculpted the damaged bust, said he would be ready to hand over the statue by Friday for it to be unveiled at the site on June 23.
But the new bronze statue also comes with its bit of history. The plaster of Paris bust of the leader, on which the mould for the bronze cast has been made, was actually sculpted by Kartick Paul way back in 1942 when Mookerjee and Lokmanya Tilak visited Krishnanagar and sat for mini portraits at the sculptor’s studio. Mookerjee, originally a Congressman, quit the party and later founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. My father had an ability to create a mini clay portrait in three-five minutes. In 1942, when he was still very young, Rabindranath Tagore allowed him to make his portrait at a live sitting. He similarly drew live portraits of Mahatma Gandhi, Jayprakash Narayan and several other leaders. Mookerjee’s bust was lying in the studio. I retrieved it to make the wax model and then cast the bronze statue. The effort is mine but it is really my father’s work as the sculpting was done by him,” Pal said.
Days after the marble bust was damaged, TOI had contacted Pal and asked if he would help the KMC. Pal had then said that he would be more than glad to help if the KMC or state government officials approached him. The KMC contacted Pal after the incident receded from spotlight — something that Pal, too, wanted — and placed the order for the 2.5-foot-tall bust for Rs 2.5 lakh.Metal statues are less susceptible to hammer, the weapon used to vandalise the original bust, and so the choice of bronze as the material — instead of stone — can preempt similar damage again.
Apart from the vandalised bust, Paul sculpted at least four more statues of Mookerjee. Two of them sculpted in 1970 are installed at the New Delhi Kali Bari and Calcutta University.