Dr. Banerjee in Dr. Kulkarni's Nursing Home and Other Paintings 2020-2022: Atul Dodiya

12 January - 25 February 2023

Life throbs in the frozen moment. We are inside the room where the artificial is real and truth resides. The actor does not lie.

Drawing from popular Indian cinema, Atul Dodiya creates paintings populated by iconic characters in his signature realistic style. This is not the first time Dodiya has painted from cinema, and in this latest series Dr. Banerjee in Dr. Kulkarni's Nursing Home and Other Paintings 2020-2022, he returns to the theme in a reel of 24 paintings.


24 is a particular number in cinematography, with 24 frames in each second. In this show, we see 24 paintings mimicking a running storyboard, creating their own fiction.


Watching and rewatching movies during the lockdown year of the pandemic triggered the series. Films like Padosan, Kapurush, Kagaz ke Phool, Awaara, Ittefaq, that he watched often with his parents as a young man, and one like Anand (from which the title of the exhibition emerges), where then superstar Rajesh Khanna paved the way for Amitabh Bachchan, all find a way into the work. In 2021, Dodiya had returned to Khanna as a protagonist for a private commission. Earlier Rajesh Khanna had played a larger than life hero in Dodiya’s school years when he would charm his 5 sisters’ girl-friends with his deft drawings of the superstar. Now, as Dodiya returns to cinema in this series of paintings, he returns to painting his sisters’ heartthrob.


Dodiya’s references to cinema go back as early as 1995 when he used images from the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ritwik Ghatak and Guru Dutt. Here, he looks closely at film sets from a range of popular and non-commercial cinema, from filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee to Satyajit Ray. The false character of sets – the fake staircase, a painted window, or a door that leads to nowhere; provide the vocabulary for this set of paintings. Dodiya looked at props – lamps, vases, telephones, photo frames, art deco furniture, faux antiques, or flooring that might have been laid over by paper to create a black and white grid.


While watching these films as closely as he did, Dodiya began to photograph his own decisive moment. Each of these “frozen moments”, carefully chosen, shot on his iPhone – sometimes depicting the back of the actor, at times walking from one room into another, or a bending woman reaching for something in a drawer, all became pictorial possibilities with the subjects imbued with a new mystery.


The false interiors are celebrated, recreated in the pastel hues of the hand painted photograph of the early 20th century. The pinks, turquoise, pale blues gather to build a tonal atmosphere where the unreal becomes a new story, another truth. 

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