SAMARENDRA NATH GUPTA AND M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI;
BOTH ENEMIES AND PLACED AT SELECTION COMMITTEE 1934.
The artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai cleared his 8th examination from the Railway School in 1911. In 1915, he was very much in Mayo School of Arts, having obtained a diploma in Photo-lithography, and as there was scarce people in that department, he was also teaching there, as Incharge of same. He was even sent to the office of Archaeological Survey of India for a month or so training in etching. All this is on record.
Somehow or the others some people react to each other in instant likes and dislikes. That was the case with Samarendra Nath Gupta, who came from a totally westernized family, having a leading journalist of that time as his father. The father was supporting the advancement of his son. Chughtai Sahib represented a different culture in total. It was like East meeting West at that time. If you see a group photo of Mayo School of Arts, you find both Chughtai Sahib and Gupta together and even in the photograph hostility can be seen. The illusion that Gupta knew much is separate, Gupta was in no mood to teach these “uncouth” Punjabis anything like Art. Just note the dress of Gupta in a three-piece western suit, and look at the dress of Chughtai in simple clothes, even a shalwar kameez. It is recalled that Abindaranath Tagore insulted Chughtai in Calcutta as a “Kabli-wala”, and having hands like that of an ironsmith. Kabli-wala is related to vendors from Kabul and the important story generated by uncle Rabindaranath Tagore.
The challenge of M.A. Rahman Chughtai to the Bengal School of Art was great, as Chughtai Sahib use to say that Bengal school was like a giant tree, which smouldered all others under its shade. When asked about the similarities of his Chughtai School with Bengal School, Chughtai aptly remarked that the only similarity of both schools is that they use paper and water colour. (And even the paper Whatman used was different, as well as pigment paints of Winsor and Newton). Tagore used rags to wash his works, while Chughtai used fancy Japanese brushes from Kyoto Japan. But the biggest difference was the Ideology of both the artist. A detailed discussion will be found in my book, “The challenge of M.A. Rahman Chughtai to the Bengal School of Art”.
Mian Inayatullah was a friend of Chughtai Sahib and used to borrow works from him to use in his own name for advancement. A look at the initial FAME and later, shows two different signatures. Earlier look with signature of Abdur Rahman Chughtai, later the signature of Inayatullah. Similarly was the case of the painting POISON CUP. Gupta goaded Inayatullah to take a stand against Chughtai, and it finally led to so much bitterness, that the artist finally decided to resign from the Mayo School of Arts. And he did that. The spur was the report of Gupta to Lionel Heath against the integrity of Chughtai sahib. A discussion took place elsewhere.
Now coming back to a selection committee of Arts for selection of paintings for a London Show. Clips from newspaper Civil and Military Gazette are attached. By 1934 Chughtai Sahib was already given a title of Khan Bahadur, after his European tour. And his professionalism could not be denied. On 7th June, 1934, Gupta and Chughtai Sahib sat together to choose artists whose works were to be sent for a London show. Strange bedfellows indeed!
P.S.Ms Kalyani Sen a daughter of Samarendranath Gupta posed many problems for her father, as her reputed affairs with Muslim boys was resented by her father. The grandson of Pitras Bokhari informed me last year that she was well known to Pitras Sahib too. It was an obvious environment for change. All in the past now.