Today the Statue of Unity, one of the most expansive dream projects of the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi was unveiled by him with great fanfare. Built at an exuberant cost of about Rs 3000 crores, it is being presented as world's tallest monument, having a height of 182 metres (597 ft).
It is dedicated to the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who is known as the Iron Man of India. He was a freedom fighter and one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India. Interestingly, this hardcore Congress man had dared to ban RSS.
The statue, designed by a 93 year old well known Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar, is located on the river island called Sadhu Bet facing the Narmada Dam near Rajpipla in Gujarat. The monument along with its surroundings occupies over 20,000 square meters, and is surrounded by a 12 square kilometres artificial lake.
The exuberant cost of this zero utility project has already started a debate among both the politicians and a rightly concerned public. While the debate focuses more on settling political scores, the common man’s concern is chiefly on the wasteful and avoidable huge expenditure that was incurred on this project.
One wishes that Modi Ji had read the famous poem, Ozymandias, by P.B. Shelly that speaks volumes about the meaninglessness of such statues.
However, I being an artist, though of mediocre merit and small stature, could not digest the visual demerits of this statue. That is why I wonder why no one is debating on this important issue also.
It was unexpected of Ram V Sutar, he being a master and experienced sculptor. Pictures showing the gigantic image from its profile exhibit a perceptible loss of visual weight of statue's lower part in particular. The statue should have been visually weighty enough from its base to give it a monumental feel.
But the statue appears to be very weak to the extent that it gives a jarring impression as if the figure is ready to collapse any time! In fact the solid steel of the Iron Man's great persona is also missing from his stoic expression.
The aesthetic merit of art works is never assessed by their comparative physical sizes or weights. For instance, the world renowned wall paintings of Ajanta are not valued for their huge sizes but for their perfectly measured melodic renditions. Similarly our exquisite miniature paintings command, despite their mini sizes, a very high pedestal in the annals of world art history.
Comparatively speaking though the statue of unity is double the size of the Statue of Liberty, it does not match the monumentality of the iconic US statue.
Thus the much talked about giant-sized Statue of Unity will perhaps be remembered, in our otherwise glorious past history of art, as an unartistic pygmy due to its ill proportioned bodily divisions.
(The writer is an artist and retired Principal of Govt College of Arts, Chandigarh.)(Published on 05th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 45)