A 10-rupee ticket to travel back in time

Here’s why you should head to the National Gallery of Modern Art, this weekend.

Here’s what you can do for a trip that will take you back almost 80 years. Pack a snack box with some healthy sandwiches and carry a bottle of drinking water. Then head to the NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art), which is at the intersection (behind the petrol bunk) between Cunningham Road and Palace Road in Bangalore.

The 10-rupee ticket is for the adult accompanying you; kids get in even cheaper! We’ll get to all the exciting plans that the museum has planned for you later. What’s truly exciting is the current exhibition called ‘Varna Mythri’, which is on till February 19. This is a collection of paintings by Karnataka’s very own Rumale Channabasavaiah.

Renaissance Man

We’re used to reading about Leonardo da Vinci as the typical ‘Renaissance Man’ – someone who is VERY good at many things. He was a great artist (remember the Mona Lisa), an engineer who designed advanced weapons, an architect, an inventor and a prolific writer. Or Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, sculpted classic marble statues like David and Pieta, was an engineer, architect and poet. So it’s rather nice to discover Rumale Channabasavaiah, who was born in Doddaballapur about a hundred years ago. Here was an artist, freedom fighter, satyagrahi, a nation builder and ascetic, all rolled into one. 

His elder brother noticed his talent for art early and enrolled him in Bangalore’s first art school, Kala Mandir, back in 1929-30, where he took a few senior level exams, before moving to the Chamarajendra Technical Institute (CTI) to study art further. But his art career got nipped in the bud after meeting Gandhiji in 1934. In 1935, he exhibited 18 water colours at the Dasara Exhibition in Mysore and then abandoned art to immerse himself fully in India’s Freedom Struggle.

He got into politics, leaving home much to the worry of his parents. He was involved in the Vidhuraswatha incident near Gauribidanur, where the British fired on peaceful protestors, killing 10 and injuring many – what historians today refer to as the Jallianwala Bagh of the south. Between 1939-40 he spent 9 months in jail, at Bijapur and later near Ahmednagar. He also was imprisoned by the British at Bangalore Central Jail and the Byramangala Camp Jail.

After Independence, when he decided to get back to art, one of his mentors, Dr Hardikar, suggested that the new country needed ‘nation builders’ like him, so he delayed his interrupted art classes by another 10 years!

Back to art

By 1960, he must have had enough of politicians because he founded the Chitrakala Parishad. And by 1962, he began painting full-time. For the next 2 decades, till his tragic death in 1988 (when the auto he was travelling in was hit by a bus), Bangaloreans got used to seeing an elderly man who carried his own folding stool, easel and art materials, which he set up where ever he wanted to paint.

A lot of what he painted is still around. Like the ‘Jacaranda and Yellow Bloom (High Court)’ which is easily recognisable. So are scenes like ‘Gulmohur and Bamboo Grove in Cubbon Park’, ‘Yellow Bloom, Cubbon Park’ and a lot of others. Massive paintings of K R Circle will leave you stunned; one, because rarely did artists paint such large pictures in water colour, but also because K R Circle looks hideously different now!

So don’t miss this Bangalore artist’s work, before it is packed off to museums in Mumbai and New Delhi after February 19.

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