Ever noticed those colourful loud posters of the gods, goddesses and filmstars painted up with cheap quality paint, most of us wouldn't even look at? However, for Patricia Uberoi, a sociologist with the Institute of Economic Growth, these loud, colourful pieces are the easiest way to feel the pulse of the common Indian Man. "It is only when someone has stayed abroad that he notices these colourful calendars and posters as a distinct feature of this country," she says. These paintings, mass produced on cheap material, are much more creative than high art. "Unlike hi-art where signatures tell you who has painted the paintings, these ones carry no weighty signature," says Patricia.
Patricia first got fascinated with calendar art some 30 years ago, when she went to shimla after her wedding. And it was there at the Chawla glass house that she found her first set of calender art. "The first few pieces were for the heck of it," says this collector whose collection runs in to a few thousands, thirty years hence.
Today, when the Uberois go calender hunting, they look for new themes, symbols and some amount of social information. "It is very interesting to observe the various meanings that the Indian history and art industry brings out. In fact, the present trend is to paint gods as babies," says Patricia.
A section of Patricia's calender art focuses on women. Her exhibition From Godesses to pin-up icons, which portrays women in various roles that they play in society, is currently travelling the world over. The display has intelligently categorised women as they are perceived in society and in the world of calender art. There is a section on women as godesses, as mothers and on the commodification of women.
According to Patricia, in the beginning most of this art was anglicised. It was Raja Ravi Varma who first started the trend of producing reprints of his paintings. "The reprints couldn't do justice to his paintings but they established a new trend. In fact, the images of gods and goddesses as they are seen today in the world of calender art were first made by Raja Ravi Varma. Today, even if a match box carries a print of a Raja Ravi Varma it is worth a fortune," she says.
During the British rule, calender art acquired an anti- british theme. "A lot of them were banned and burnt," she says. However, today there are not many prints which are doing justice to nationalism. "Indira Gandhi was the last prime minister featured on calender art. It would be difficult to find a painting of Vajpayee," she says.
In the beginning, most prints were made from paintings. "Colours and sparkles would be put on the face of the god or goddess to make it look different, even now some of the prints are made that way," she says. However, handling the pieces are a "nightmare" for Patricia as most of the works are done on cheap material.
"the ones made a century ago are still there because they are made of quality material, says Patricia, lamenting on the poor quality of material now.
For now, she preserves them in acid free paper.
This article was published in Dailypioneer.com I am among the ones who try to re-create calenders. I saw my mother drawing calenders as hobby. I learned from her.. though not to her perfection.. I used to enjoy drawing nice pictures on calenders.