M A I N   N E W S

An artist's tribute to Dalhousie
A.J. Philip
Tribune News Service

Bhamlada, October 28
The call of art drew him out of the security of his home in Calcutta and took him to sea-lashed Mahabalipuram. But it did not take him long to get disillusioned with the coastal town. It was then that he heard of Dalhousie where the hills seemed to touch the sky.

Prabal Pramanik settled the question whether he should at once leave for Dalhousie by tossing a 50-paise coin. That is how on the eve of Christmas in 1982, the young artist reached the Queen of Hills.

The snow-covered town, which is set neither in a valley nor on a hilltop, fascinated him so much that he decided instantly to buy a property and settle down there. Little did he know that under the law, only a person born in Himachal Pradesh could buy property in the state. He learnt later that the law made an exception in the case of artists.

The next best option for Pramanik was to buy a plot of land at the foothills of Dalhousie in Punjab. Thus he came down to this village at Bhatwan in Gurdaspur district. From here he made countless trips to Dalhousie where he sketched the hills, observed the traditions of the native people, recorded their oral history and experimented with paper cutting.

Over the last two decades, Pramanik has gathered a large collection of paintings and lifted the art of paper cutting to such great heights that he is today known as the king of paper cutting.

Pramanik is also known as the progenitor of paper cutting animation. He has done several books on paper cutting and has attracted worldwide attention for his natural skills that have been honed to perfection.

Indebted to Dalhousie for making him what he is today, Pramanik has been trying hard to express his gratitude to the hills in his own distinct ways. Concerned about the dying Pahari culture, he has set up an Academy of Art at Bhamlada where sophisticated equipment and technology are employed to document the rich cultural heritage of Dalhousie and its environs.

The Academy has a nature study wing named after his mother Kalyani Pramanik, who was a member of the West Bengal Public Service Commission. It has a large repertoire of oral traditions. Through visual recording and computing, he wants to provide for posterity glimpses of the flora and fauna of the area.

Pramanik has put together an exhibition of his art-works which began at Dalhousie today to synchronise with the sesquicentennial of the little town in Chamba district. Apart from animation movies and a documentary on the art of paper cutting, he will also show a documentary on Dalhousie.

The bespectacled artist is proud to mention that he has never sought or obtained any government funding for his artistic or anthropological work. In fact, he turned down a Punjab government fellowship which would have fetched him Rs 6000 a month when he felt a needy artist would have deserved it better.

Pramanik has little financial worries as he has inherited a flourishing book publishing house based at Kolkata his father Prahlad Kumar Pramanik, a freedom fighter, had started. He is happy to mention that both his parents had spent their last days in the proximity of Dalhousie.

For an artist who has held hundreds of solo exhibitions, the one at Dalhousie has a special significance. It is a measure of his indebtedness to Dalhousie which has brought out the best in him.

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