Sadakchaap — a street exhibition converts Tulsibaug into a walk-in artiste’s village

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Indian Express: Viraj Patil, a shoe and t-shirt painter, sits at the crossroads in Tulsibaug, circled by several of his painted shoes. As he begins painting a new shoe, people stop and look. A biker passes by and asks whether Patil can paint a t-shirt for him and the two exchange contact details. With the new order under his belt, Patil continues painting with a smile on his face.

Monday mornings at Tulsibaug are usually quiet and forlorn, with shops keeping shut to observe the weekly holiday. This week, however, the streets were buzzing with activity, as over 60 painters and photographers taped their work on closed shop shutters while curious passers-by muttered amongst themselves and wondered what’s going on. Artistes from all over the city, as well as far-flung places such as Satara and Sangli, had come to Tulsibaug to display their work at the one-day street exhibition titled “Sadakchap”.

Freelance photographer Abhijit Patil had formed the “Sadakchaap” group on Facebook just two months ago, hoping to find others who would be enthusiastic about a street exhibition. Soon his phone was ringing off the hook and over a hundred people had called in and said they wanted to participate. “Only a certain class of people get to display their art in galleries because of the costs involved. And only a small section of people visit the art galleries. This is our way of bringing democracy to art,” says Patil.

Patil wrote to the authorities at Tulsibaug and received an immediate go-ahead from Vivek Khatavkar and Nitin Pandit, both Tulsibaug committee members. Khatavkar is the son of famous sculptor DS Khatavkar, who has designed some famous sculptures in Pune, such as the Common Man at Senapati Bapat Road. Khatavkar himself is looking forward to displaying his sculptures at “Sadakchaap”, while Pandit hopes the exhibition will bring the Tulsibaug community some goodwill. “Shops remain closed on Mondays anyway. If it can be used for such a good purpose, what can be better? We want Tulsibaug to be known as a place where such cultured activities also take place,” says Pandit.

There are photographs of concerts, festivals, slum-dwellers, dancers and scores of other subjects. Not limited to visual art, the exhibition also had a dance performance scheduled for the afternoon, featuring hip-hop and contemporary choreographer Shailesh Ghodke, as well as musical performances by flautists and other instrumentalists.

Patil’s vision of art for the masses seems to come true at this peculiar exhibition at Tulsibaug. Not only did the artistes have complete freedom in what they displayed, but the lack of an entry fee and the casual air at the exhibition drew several onlookers closer. Bikers and cyclists stopped mid-track to catch a closer glimpse of photographs that caught their eye. Atul Yadav was cycling to work when photos of Salman Khan at a blood donation camp piqued his curiosity. Sunil Janorkar, another passer-by said, “This is the first time I’m seeing anything like this and I hope it happens again.”

Abhijit Patil seems happy with the response the exhibition has received and says, “We’ll keep organising exhibitions like this every few months and hope that people will suggest other places in the city where we can do this as well. We’re also hoping to get more people from other cities next time,” he says.

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