Activism through art: the journey of Baadal Nanjundaswamy

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Protests against civic apathy are not uncommon, but only a handful can express their angst through art, like the Karnataka painter Baadal Nanjundaswamy (42).

Affectionately referred to as Baadal by his friends, Nanjundaswamy said ‘Baadal’ was actually his ‘brush name’. The painter said: “I don’t remember exactly but I advised, advised many people during my childhood. For this reason, many people started calling me Paagal. Over time Paagal morphed into Baadal and I kept that as my brush name.

The youngest of five siblings, Nanjundaswamy comes from a humble background. His father, Nanjaiah, was a “Nati” doctor (traditional Indian doctor). Baadal is the only one among his siblings to have graduated. But he had to bear all his study expenses.

Baadal’s shop, Art Zone, in Mangaluru’s Lake Kukkarahalli had become an attractive spot as he painted mural graffiti all over the structure. (Baadal Nanjundaswamy FB)

He won the Bachelor of Fine Arts Gold Medal at Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts in 2004.

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His store, Art Zone, in Mangaluru’s Lake Kukkarahalli had become an eye-catching spot as he painted mural graffiti all over the structure.

Baadal first came to prominence about 12-13 years ago for his painting of a swimming pool near Mysore Palace to highlight the poor road conditions in the city. “The roads were really bad and my painting caught the attention of the media and the public. More importantly, the problem was resolved very quickly by the civic agencies.

However, he had also used art to protest civic apathy earlier. In his paint studio, he used to post signs challenging those in power. One of these works of art protested against the establishment of a thermal power plant in Chamalapura, which eventually forced the government to withdraw the project.

Even after Nanjundaswamy moved to Bengaluru, he continued to raise civic issues through his works. One of his works that caught international attention was a video of him dressed in an alleged spacesuit walking down the main road in Tunganagar, which resembled the craters of the moon. It happened when Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to make a soft landing on the Moon.

A theater artist at heart, Baadal has also written short stories, including comics. “For a short while I worked in mobile libraries where I read all these comics that encouraged me to write comics. I do it whenever I’m free,” he said.

Baadal’s works have gained such popularity that he was even invited to draw several portraits, including that of Sachin Tendulkar, at the Students Activity Center of IIT Bombay.

A theater artist at heart, Baadal has also written short stories, including comics (Baadal Nanjundaswamy FB)

Nanjundaswamy, who also works as an art director in Kannada films, continues to be a full-time artist. He now lives in Bengaluru with his wife Manjula and six-year-old daughter, Banna. Banna, by the way, means color in Kannada.

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