Chandra Shekhar adds, “That group was undoubtedly talented and hard working. At that time the ground was created for the formation of Bangladesh. In 1952, the movement for a separate home for the Bengalis began. They revolted against Munaim Khan. At that time artists like Hashem Khan, Rafiqun Nabi, Monirul Islam, and Abu Taher worked for a separate homeland for the Bengali speaking people.”
Speaking of the background in which he had grown up, Shekhar speaks of the local signboard painter in Chittagong, Ahmed Husain, he says, who painted cinema posters and billboards, and had had set up an art gallery there. In his childhood he saw a horse-drawn carriage around him. Hence, he says, he grew up in an area with urban characteristics. Poets and writers like Shamsur Rahman went to the gatherings that he visited.
At that time, during the Sixties, in the Pakistan days, the Beatles were popular. Bell-bottomed trousers were sported, he says. Just as today we tend to copy Mumbai, people in his youth copied the styles in Karachi, he says. The non-Bengalis, says Shekhar, who did business, mingled with the Bengalis with ease. “As I see it, there was no people to people problem. The division was a political one. The Bohras and Aga Khanis had friendly relationship with people like me. I believe that the politicians influence the people’s mind. Even today there are bitter fights and division between the people of Bangladesh. This is done by politicians who have their own interests. The politicians have wanted to draw people to their ends through propaganda. Poets, artists and musicians want to live in their own peaceful world. We want to live in peace in our creative world – with nostalgia and dreams for the future. The violence in the name of democracy does not create harmony.”
He says that earlier there were “addas” at cafes. “This may not be today. However, some artists enjoy getting together in galleries to exchange ideas. Again, galleries promote young artists with talent. When artists like me came to Dhaka in the mid sixties, we found only one galley, ‘Art ensemble’, managed by artists Aminul Islam and Abu Taher, in a small building, near the BDR gate along the Dhanmondi Lake,” he says, “A Pakistani lady had donated that building to the artists. Later on, there were art shops not galleries, like Saju’s outlet at Gulshan today. These art shops collect the best paintings and have exhibitions. Galleries tend to sponsor artists with talent, and just not sell and frame paintings. ”
The sense of values of the people of the 20th and 21st centuries seems to have changed so much that true art, with genuine soul-pitch and dedication cannot be easily dedicated as in the case of, centuries back, during the Renaissance painters of Italy and the great Dutch masters of the 14th and 15th centuries—with their inimitable colour combinations, play of light and shadow, and unique presentations of the human body and study of nature. Chandra Shekhar’s response to this is: “The artists at that time were thoroughly trained. They did not work from their memories. Their work was realistic and something the viewer was familiar with. The human beings and trees etc. were items in the paintings of Qamrul Hasan and Zainul Abedin. Visual beauty was of primary concern. These paintings were ‘visual’: So to put it. What came later was psychological. Art today reflects the struggles and strife of the artist more than being decoration items. If Zainul Abedin had been alive today, and man could live for a century, so to say, Zainul Abedin too would have painted differently. Time has changed man and his outlook. No man, if he is absolutely idealistic can survive in the present times. Man remains a product of his environment. Our singers, intellectuals, writers and artists must toe some line. He can’t shut out his actual beliefs from housetops. Human beings today are controlled by factors beyond himself. The world remains complex and difficult to judge.”