Kolkata collector with a passion for art of the world ready to turn three decades of memorabilia into public archive
Once famed as Sheffield of the east, Howrah, across the Hooghly from Kolkata does not normally attract attention, except from the spiritually-inclined who go to Belur Math. That is set to change, as a museum of the arts is taking shape in one of its small streets, with a trove of collections on literature and the performing arts.
The curated pieces include an old music record made of pitch board, a mid-18th century Bengali manuscript copy from Bibliotheque national de France, and an old ivory-inlay veena.
There are rare books of Shakespeare from London, letters of Rabindranath Tagore, a bioscope and original film posters of Ray and others. Many of these artefacts are from a three-decade-old private collection now going up for public viewing at the Academy Theatre Archive.
Devajit Bandyopadhyay is the passionate force behind the effort. He almost chose to be a chartered accountant, for which he qualified like others in his family, but found more value in theatre and its music. His journey began when he left home, almost penniless, realising that “justice cannot be done simultaneously to two fields that are poles apart.” Sitting in his South Kolkata apartment crammed with books on the performing arts, he recalls his early days of picking up skills in music, painting, theatre and puppetry. “I sang, I held painting exhibitions and gave lecture-demonstrations even as I pursued my passion for music-in-theatre.”
Gina Lolobrigida book
Researching this topic (he has a Ph. D from Jadavpur University on Bengali theatre music), he scoured sources worldwide.
Piece by small piece, he built a small assortment of things, sometimes finding treasures like a signed book by film star Gina Lolobrigida and a Bengali LP record in Oxford Street, UK. He knocked at every door that held promise.
Today, there are 500 pieces of memorabilia, 40 musical instruments, 20,000 books, periodicals and manuscripts and about 24,000 records of Indian and western music and operas. Most are backed by accession reports and authentication certificates, says Mr. Bandyopadhyay.
“My passion binds me to each acquisition, but my 12-year chase to acquire the 18th century Bengali manuscript in Paris and the time I had to persuade octogenarian Istiauq to sell his bioscope from remain etched in my mind”, he says.
A hunt to get a book from a Kidderpore bookseller initially ended in failure, since the man was hospitalised suddenly.
He had lost all hope of getting the book when he heard that the store-owner had sold the entire cart to another book-dealer in central Kolkata.
“I located him. He was not in a very cooperative mood but I went with him to his godown and persuaded him to part with the book”, Mr. Bandyopadhyay recalls.
His passion for collecting and bringing artefacts from far and wide to an art-loving audience is undiminished.
He is now keen to set up the public archive and the digital venture was inaugurated by actor Madhabi Mukherjee, whose posters from Ray films are among the prominent exhibits.
Going public with art
Professor Jayanta Sengupta, Director, Indian Museum, lauds the effort.
He said at a workshop held recently to impart knowledge on restoration, that such private collections as they were a valuable source of conservation.
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Indrani Dutta / Kolkata – April 23rd, 2017