‘BRUSH’ WITH LIFE!

Nikhil Ballal

Tell us something about your childhood?
VJ-I was born in VitthalMandir in Vardha
district. My both grandpa’s were painters, my
mother was a sculptor and father a goldsmith.
So this is how I became a painter (laughs).
I am been taking painting lessons from the
time when I was in mother’s womb. In
childhood we would often visit my maternal
uncle’s (mama’s) place. There I use to observe
my Ajoba( grandfather) painting.
Objects like walls, paper, canvas, wood,
glass,sand,clay and plaster enticed me. I use
to draw anything that I saw. My mother would
bring books which comprised of interesting
pictures than stories. Hours I would spend
imitating these drawings on canvas. One such
painting which I drew in ninth standard
eventually helped me to get entry in my
dream college- JJ school of Arts.
Due to my painting skills I was one the
popular person in my school and village.
Teachers, villagers and my friends would take
my help.

Tell us one such work of your childhood
which made you popular.
VJ-When I was in school I happened to
see one of SM Pandit’s painting. It was of
Saint Tukaram. I wanted to copy that on
canvas. Unfortunately I wasn’t having it so I
started searching. Finally after three long
months I got it. As soon as I got it I shut my
room and started painting immediately. I
painted the whole night and came out next
day in evening only after completing the
painting. Such passionate and sensitive I was
about painting since childhood.
Playing, studying never interested me. I
merely managed to get 40% in my tenth
standard. I went to Nagpur in search of
opportunities. With some personal contacts I
got a chance to work in a studio. I use to
observe the film posters outside the theatre
which was besides my studio. One such poster
was of SmitaPatil’s filmUmbartha. I drew that
poster in which SmitaPatil came alive! It was
appreciated by all which made me popular.
But since I had not taken formal education
I was weak in Grammar of Painting. I knew I
can master this art only in JJ. This compelled
me to come to Mumbai. I travelled to this
island city with only 300Rs.

How did you enter JJ?
VJ-That is an interesting story. I was too
poor to afford fees of JJ. In order to gather
money for JJ fees I started hunting for a job
and finally got one of a coolie! I worked as a
hamal for few months until I got a job in Vilas
Art signboard. In Vilas Art, I did all types of
work such as painting signboards, walls,
posters and bill boards. The flex technology
fortunately had not arrived! As our village
was influenced by Gadge Maharaj’spreachings we never shy
away from any work. This helped me to
survive in Mumbai.
One day after gathering some money I
finally dared to enter JJ. There I came to
know that the entrance test is immediately on
next day. I was shocked! How can I pass the
entrance test without studying? I had a
sleepless night that day!
Next morning I went to JJ with all my
paintings. I told the examiners my entire story
and persuaded them to judge me by my work
and not by exam. They were suspicious about
my work. When I showed them my painting
which I had done in school they were astonished!                                                                                                                          They couldn’t believe their eyes
and started interrogating me just like how
cops do. But finally they were assured that it
was done by me and selected me.

How were your college days?
VJ-They were amazing! When I came to
Mumbai I didn’t knew English it was difficult
to understand the grammar of painting but
gradually I learnt. Today I can proudly tell
you that I give speeches and conduct
seminars in English (smiles). It was difficult to
adjust with the urbanites but I was so
focussed in my work that it didn’t bother me
much. I was so illiterate that I was oblivious
of my birthdate too!
But I feel I was lucky to take birth in
impoverish family. The crisis helped me to
become more strong and hungry (for
success). The fire in my belly gave me the
strength to confront challenges and overcome
the hurdles.
Recently I saw news where wild dogs
ate tigers that ran away from circus. This is
not at all shocking because since the tigers
were living in such a protective environment
that they could neither attack or save them. I
was lucky to not be a tiger of who is under
the control of ringmaster (smiles).

When did you become an established
painter?
VJ-It took me almost thirty years to conduct my solo exhibition. Last month I
travelled to Chicago to exhibit my rare
paintings. I am a voracious reader it is also
reflected in my work. My every painting is
thought- provoking. Everytime you look at it
you will decipher a different meaning.

How must a common man interpret a
painting?
VJ-For instance, take this Swami
Vivekananda portrait you will see a face of a
tiger in the background. Now you may be
wondering why tiger? Tiger is such a wellfounded
and deep rooted animal that if it is
not hungry he will just walk away by a deer
without even looking at it! Swami Vivekanand
was exactly as solid as a rock!
Also I have played with colors there is
bright yellow and slightly orange color on the forehead                                                                                                                of Swami Vivekanand. This depicts
his intelligence!
My recent exhibition’s theme was Man is a
seed! Animal is perfect whereas human beings
are imperfect! I know you may find this weird
but it is true! I have depicted that in my
paintings that God has sent animals on earth
with a certain fixed programming( computer
programming language) it operates accordingly
but that is not the case in human beings.
They never behave in a fix manner( programming).
One of my best exhibitions was ‘key to
divinity’. Under this theme you can see a
painting where you can see tortoise. You may
be pondering why tortoise? Why not any other
animal? Tortoise implies divinity it is a symbol
of a winner! He is such a self-satisfied animal
that it can survive without food and water for
more than two years. You will see a statue of
tortoise outside every temple. The reason is
that He wants you to become puffed up
before praying in front of Him. The best
prayers come only when you are big-headed.

Which is your best painting?
VJ-My best paintings are never with me
though they get sold!But one of my best
paintingis which displays the resonance and
vibrations which experience in a temple. I
have accomplished more than 20,000
paintings so far. Some of the eminent people
who have my collections are Mr. VinodTawade
(Education & Cultural Minister) Mrs. Shefali
Sameer Bhujbal, Mrs. Sangita Jindal (M/s.
JSW Steel Ltd. Mumbai), Mr. Dilip Vengsarkar
(Former Indian Cricketer), Mr. SandeshKirkire
(M/s. Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Co.
Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Darda (Chairman of Lokmat
Group of NewsPaper), Dr. Kalpana Desai
(Former Director of Chhatrapati Shivaji
Maharaj Vaastu Sanghralaya), Mr. Madhukar &
Chandrakant Shetty, M/s. Hotel Gajalee
Pvt.Ltd, ( Juhu, Parel, Varsova, Vile Parle &
Singapore, Pune), Mr. Chintamani Kaigaonkar
M/s. Chintamani Jewellers, Prabhadevi,
Mumbai,M/s. MhapralkarJewellers, Dadar,
Mr. Sameer Jathar, (Diamond Expert, Mumbai),
Mr. Francis D’souza, (Regional Director, ANZ
Bank, Singapore), Mr. Ashsih Shelar (MLA),
Mumbai,M/s. Hotel Leela, Sahar, Mumbai.

How is the process of completing a
certain painting?
VJ-It is like pregnancy. An artist is
pregnant and undergoes the same joy,
happiness and mood swings that a mother
experiences from conceiving to actual
delivery!

What would you appeal to the budding
painters?
VJ-Anyone can become a good painter
provided he has PATIENCE ,discipline,
organised and ready to undergo hardwork.
There is nothing instant in this world a baby
also comes out of mother’s womb after nine
months. Remember-there are no shortcuts to
any place which is worth going!
Lastly, Samudra tumchyaJaval yet nasto
tumhala tyanchya javal jave lagta…

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