RANA CHANDRA SHAMSHEER JANG
PRIME MINISTER OF NEPAL
AND M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
Royalty comes on board
The Art exhibition at Lahore Museum in 1920 brought M.A. Rahman Chughtai to the attention of the Indian world. His works were not only loved but were being sold. The challenge of the Bengal School was on the artist and his Punjab School was coping with the giant tigers of India. A famous work by AbindaranathTagore had won world wide attention, namely THE LAST DAYS OF SHAH JAHAN, and was being reviewed all over. M.A. Rahman Chughtai thought the work did not do justice to Muslim subject, for the Tagores had no knowledge of the momentum of Muslim feelings. In fact the remark of the artist was that Tagore’s Shah Jahan looks like a DHOBI (washerman) and not an Emperor at all.The response of Chughtai was the making of the PASSING OF SHAH JAHAN.
The whole story is in the research brochure THE CHALLENGE OF M. A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI TO THE BENGAL SCHOOL OF ART. Suffice to say that Chughtai’s work was also making waves in India. In Mussorie in the week from 1st to 10 June, 1922, with catalogue number 35, the same work was exhibited at the Mussorie Fine Arts Exhibition. There walked in a man full of sorrow. His wife had died recently and he was heart broken at that moment. The subject of a dying Shah Jahan related to his passions and he immediately fell in love with the work. The work was bought by him for RS 1500, an Indian price record of that period, with a few other works. The total of RS 3000 was spent on Chughtai’s paintings.
Who was that man? A man of forward vision. The Royal family of Nepal, who no longer wanted to be a King and turned Nepal into a democracy and became perhaps the first Prime Minister of the country. Of course Rana Chandra Shamsheer Jang. Politics aside, his sensitivity to Art was unquestioned. This one purchase put Chughtai Art on the market place of India. In a letter to the artist, Rana Chandra Shamsheer Jang, wrote in 1922:
“I admire the Passing of Shah Jahan. You must have been congratulated on the bold and artistic rendering of a great subject.”
With so many negative reviews coming from Calcutta from the Tagores, the letter of the Prime Minister of Nepal came to the Chabuk Sawaran house of the artist, and brought great joy to him for Royal appreciation. Master Sher Muhammed said the definite words to Chughtai artist, when he said that had Shah Jahan been alive he would have trampled Tagore’s version under an elephant’s feet and weighed your work in gold. More on that later.