Ninety-three-year-old sculptor Ram Vanji Sutar always dreamed of making the world’s tallest statue.
Sutar’s wish was granted when American art historian Michael Meister selected his statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel outside the Ahmedabad airport as the best model for the tallest statue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated at Kevadia in Gujarat on Wednesday.
Having created nearly 8,000 sculptures in a career spanning six decades, the challenge before Sutar was to depict the personality of Patel in the statue that, at 182 metres, would be the centre of attention.
“He was the Iron Man of India. The resolve with which he worked, his decisive personality, his firmness had to reflect in the statue,” Sutar told DH at his 2,000 sq mt studio in Noida on the eastern fringes of the capital.
He had wished to portray the walking style of the Patel in the statue, but had to agree to a posture with both the feet together on the advice of structural engineers.
Sutar, along with his architect-turned-sculptor son Anil, made several trips to a foundry in China that was engaged by project executors Larsen & Toubro for casting the bronze cladding of the statue.
“We had to ensure that the finer details of the statue — the folds of the dhoti, the fabric of the jacket, the feet, fingers and toes — were depicted accurately,” Anil said.
Born in 1925 in the Gondur village of Maharashtra’s Dhule district, Sutar began his career as a modeller in Maharashtra's Department of Archaeology from in 1954. Over the four years he spent there, Sutar restored many sculptures at the iconic Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad.
Sutar came to Delhi in 1959 and joined the Department of Audio Visual Publicity under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting as a technical assistant in the exhibition division. However, destiny had charted a different course for Sutar, who soon branched out on his own and started taking up independent projects.
“The first statue I made in Delhi was of Govind Vallabh Pant, located outside Parliament House,” he said.
Sutar is also the creator of the critically acclaimed 16-foot statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a meditating pose in Parliament House, which also is home to 14 of his other statues of national icons.
At 93, Sutar is miles away from retirement and busy creating statues of late prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to be installed in Dehradun and a Buddha sculpture for a private collector abroad.