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India is a country with a remarkable flow of continuity from its epic past to the present. Perhaps the reason for it is the fact that the majority of its people still live by agriculture, which is the material basis of our festivals, epics, icons and rituals. But at the same time the world has entered into our lives with industry, commerce, information technology and tourism, multiplying visual stimuli many times over. Many of our contemporary artists are losing their moorings under this onslaught, but the best are able to steer themselves free.
It is to the credit of Nitai Das, who grew up in Tripura and studied in Santiniketan, that he has retained his roots despite drinking from many different streams. This gives his recent works the feel of a contemporaneity rooted in our deeply humanistic traditions. In his recent works one sees flashes of Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Christ and Chaitanya, of the Pandav Vani of Chattisgarh and of terror and insecurity that threatens it all. But we are shown these things through the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, whether they are the farmers of Tripura, the travelling actors of Chattisgarh, college students of Kolkata, Delhi or Mumbai, or tourists in Goa.
He belongs to that great tradition in art, of Jamini Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, and Ramkinkar Baij, that reminds us that our lives too, if lived to the full, can expand to epic proportions. That is why Jamini Roy with all his training in contemporary French drawing, could justly claim he was only a patua. Nitai is a patua of Tripura but relevant to art lovers as far apart as Germany and Australia. His art branches out globally but its roots are authentic and deep. And that is what matters.
Art Critic,Writer,New Delhi