Sculpting awards is in his blood

Sculpting awards  is in his blood

Sporting fraternity and sports lovers across the country applauded and felt happy when President Pranab Mukherjee handed over the prestigious Arjuna Awards to several eminent sports personalities at a glittering function in the national capital recently on the occasion of National Sports Day.

However, nobody perhaps would have given a thought to creator of the slick and wonderfully crafted trophies that dazzled in the hands of these well-known sporting icons. The unsung hero is Gajendra Prasad Sahu, a painter and sculptor based in Bhubaneswar. 

The 53-year-old artist has been making the Arjuna Award trophies for the last five years. Not only Arjuna Awards, Sahu is also the creator of well-desi­gned Dronacharya, Dhyanchand and Tenzding Norgay trophies that are presented every year by the Union Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry to an eminent coach, an important hockey player and an individual for bravery respectively.

“It gives me immense pleasure to make these trophies,” said the artiste with a broad smile. Son of a farmer in Paikasta village in north Odisha’s Balasore district, Sahu was drawn to painting right in his childhood by watching his illiterate mother, Ambika Sahu creating attractive Rangolis at home during festivals.

“My mother used to draw attractive Rangolis at home during festivals and I too was trying my hand at it. Later, I participated in painting competitions in the school. By the time I reached school, I had already made up my mind to be a painter. In fact, once our teacher in school asked all the students what they would like to become after they grow up. And my prompt answer was that I want to be an artist,” Sahu said adding that he was also encouraged by the drawing teacher of his school as well as some well wishers in his village.

After completing the pre-degree course from a local college in Balasore district, his desire to become an artist landed him in an Odisha government-run arts college at Khalikote in Ganjam district from where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

 He began his professional career in the advertisement department of a local daily and subsequently joined as a faculty member in the Department of Graphic Art in B K College of Art and Crafts in Bhubaneswar. He continues to work as a faculty in the well-known state government institute.

The turning point in Sahu’s life, however, came in 2009 when the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs decided to re-design the trophy for the popular and most sought after Arjuna Award for sporting icons and invited applications from artists across the country. 

He responded and sent the sketches of his design which was approved by the union ministry. Once the preliminary sketches were okayed, he was summoned to New Delhi to submit his final design, which, too, was approved and he was assigned the job of making the trophies for the prestigious sports awards every year. He won the job despite stiff competition from individual as well as institutional competitors. “I had never expected that the important job will be assigned to me. Therefore, when I came to know about my selection through the media I felt elated,” the artist said.

To make the trophies made of bronze every year -- each trophy weighs about 1.5 kg -- Sahu seeks the help and assistance of four of his students -- Manas Maharana, Santosh Routray, Chatrapati Biswal and Tapan Maharana whom he fondly calls “The Think Tank”.

Interestingly, through he creates the most-coveted trophies for the Indian sports icons, he never had any personal interest in sports. “Right from my childhood I was never interested in sporting activities. In fact, I don’t understand any sport not even the hugely popular cricket though my wife  follows the game,” says Sahu, father of two sons. While one is emplo­yed and the other is studying MBBS.

“Though I am not interested in sports I feel extremely happy and satisfied when I see the sports icons of our country holding the trophies made by me in their hands. The feeling cannot be explained in words,” he maintained. These feelings along with the prestige his works have brought in for his home state have prompted the eminent artist not to demand a raise in making charges for the trophies. The making charge has remained the same as it was in 2009. And he has no complaint. “I make the trophies on a no-loss-no-profit basis,” he said.

In addition to Arjuna, Dronacharya, Dhyanchand and Tenzding Norgay awards, he has also been making trophies for the Odisha government’s annual film awards for the last 10 years besides the state TV awards introduced last year.

His works of paintings have also found a place in art galleries and exhibitions in different parts of the country. In fact, he is currently busy preparing for his forthcoming “Group Art Exhibition” scheduled to be held in New Delhi in January next year.

“Me and three other artists will have 10 patinings each at the exhibition,” Sahu said. His artistic contributions have already fetched him several awards both within the state and outside besides felicitation by eminent personalities like the former president Pratibha Patil, chief minister Naveen Patnaik and BJP stalwart L K Advani. The professional sculptor and painter is also a part time singer and actor. “Acting and singing are only my hobbies,” he insisted. 

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