By Sahana Ghosh, Kolkata, Oct 9 IANS | 11 months ago

It is the craving for exploring the harmony between art, culture and religion that drives Durga Puja organisers, spread across the world, to bring out unity in diversity. So it's no wonder that organisers in India and Europe are channeling the best of both worlds to celebrate one of the country's biggest socio-religious events.


From getting French artists to deck up a marquee in the city to the Bengali community settled in Denmark ordering a traditional clay idol all the way from Kolkata, the European connection seems to grow stronger this year.

To inculcate the link between Indian and French cinema, as part of its '100 years of Indian Cinema' theme, the organisers of Pallymangal Samity marquee in south Kolkata's Jodhpur Park area, have flown in two visual artists from the country.

"A few months back, when I learnt that the Cannes Festival would celebrate the 100 years of Indian cinema and invite some of the leading Indian film personalities like Nandita Das and Vidya Balan, I decided to celebrate it too, but in a special manner by creating a pandal in Kolkata for Durga Puja, Alliance francaise du Bengale director Stephane Amalir told IANS.

The organisation has collaborated with Meghdutam Travels to bring in the artists.

Painters Gaelle Foray and Jean Xavier Renaud are almost done giving a French touch to the pandal resembling a classic cinema theatre complete with a box-office and a wall plastered with antique film posters.

On the wooden boundaries of the pandal, are charcoal portraits of renowned French filmmaker Jean Renoir, the legendary Satyajit Ray (a friend of Renoir) and posters of the Lumiere brothers projecting their first movie "Train Entering La Ciotat" on the walls of a Mumbai hotel, to showcase the Indo-French link.

"We love Ray's films...they are like French cinema...very realistic. Bollywood films with songs and dances are a bit too much for us...life is hard and Ray's films depict the harsh reality," Foray explained.


French artist works on design at a Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata.

Flanking Ray and Renoir - who was an inspiration for the Bengali icon - are murals of late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh and seven actresses, including Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rehman and Rekha.

Totalling 10, these charcoal representations, inside painted bubbles placed on 10 individual sketched palms (signifying the 10 arms of Goddess Durga), are in addition to two giant multi-hued eyes that are show stealers. Opposite this arrangement is a traditional clay idol of Durga and her family.

"The goddess is not real, so the eyes are also surreal," explained Renaud, who felt the mix of the traditional idol and modern artistry would create an impact.

The five-day carnival begins Thursday.

While Renaud and Foray get busy readying the pandal, 4,200 miles from Kolkata, the members of the 'Bengalis in Denmark' organisation in Copenhagen are looking forward to inaugurating their first Durga idol from the potters' quarters in Kumartuli here. This will be their second Durga puja.

"The idol has already reached the shore, and the excitement and preparations are in full swing. Guest performers from Germany and other countries are expected to add glitters to the cultural evenings, along with our cultural group 'Benodan'...games and competition of various levels and categories have been planned," a member of the group told IANS on the phone, requesting anonymity.

Commemorating the homecoming of the goddess as 'From Kailash to Copenhagen', the goal is to recreate the festive atmosphere of Kolkata in Copenhagen.

"Not only the Bengalis residing in Copenhagen but expatriates residing all over Denmark and parts of Sweden and Germany will be travelling to Copenhagen to witness the gala. Maa (Durga) would be worshipped for three days from Oct 11 to 13 following the proper rituals and traditions," the organisers said.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ians.in)

(Posted on 09-10-2013)