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Stone- Being and Becoming: Kounteya Sinha's photographic tribute to Kolkata's rickshaw-pullers

Stone- Being and Becoming: Kounteya Sinha's photographic tribute to Kolkata's rickshaw-pullers

India Blooms News Service | | 30 Jun 2016, 03:21 pm
Kolkata, June 30 (IBNS): Veteran actor Om Puri, with the trademark chequered 'gamchha' -- that most Kolkata rickshaw-pullers use -- round his neck, relived his iconic role as Hasari Pal in Roland Joffe’s The City of Joy recently. The occasion: a photographic tribute to the rickshaw pullers of Kolkata at a city art gallery.
In the movie, farmer Hasari Pal moves his family to Kolkata to start a new life and then becomes a rickshaw-wala in The City of Joy. 
The actor returned to Kolkata after 24 years as a guest at the inauguration of photographer Kounteya Sinha's photographic tribute to the rickshaw pullers of Kolkata, titled ‘Stone-Being and Becoming’ at the gallery. 
The actor said, “Rickshaw is an intrinsic part of Kolkata’s history. It should never die. It can be a massive tourist draw if Bengal markets them. They can take tourists to the most interesting by-lanes of Kolkata. Look at what Hong Kong has done with their rickshaws. Even in Kolkata, they should be allowed to function in areas where they are not a hindrance.”
“I want to ask the government why they are talking about doing away with the rickshaws? Have you sorted out your drainage system? In the monsoons, nothing moves in Kolkata but these rickshaws,” he said.
The actor also said that the government should provide an alternative plan to the rickshaw-pullers of the city for their survival.
He also expressed a desire that the film The City of Joy be shown to the city's rickshaw pullers.
Om Puri, along with actress Swastika Mukherjee, CEO and President of Apollo Hospitals Dr Rupali Basu and photographer Kounteya Sinha hosted 50 rickshaw-pullers at The Harrington Street Arts Centre where the exhibition is being held.
Actress Swastika Mukherjee said, “I think it is a wonderful idea and thought by Kounteya to pay tribute to the rickshaw-wallas of Kolkata. They are an intrinsic part of the city. We still rely on the honest ricksha-wallas when we come home at night and no other conveyances available. I had a great time being here interacting with the rickshaw-wallas. It was a great experience.” 
Speaking about the photographer’s works, the versatile actress added, “Kounteya’s photography is full of life and happiness. The stones come alive through his imagery.”
Talking about his exhibition highlighting the rickshaw pullers, Kounteya Sinha said, "They are synonymous to Kolkata’s daily life and immortalised in celluloid for years. But men who pull the emblematic two-wheeled contraption, the rickshaws of Kolkata have, for long, been social pariahs, shunned and neglected. I wanted to honour them as Kolkata’s real heroes."
He added, “Rickshaws are synonymous to Kolkata. Every photograph, memorabilia and cinema have immortalised them – be it the movie version of the City of Joy or the greatest works of Mrinal Sen. The irony however is that the men who pull these rickshaws are among the city’s most unimportant and neglected people who have no identity, no recognition and are not part of anybody’s plan. This has to change. Kolkata has to do for them what Mumbai has done for the dabbawallas”.
 Writer Anjum Katyal, actress Shreya Pandey, and Director of Oxford Bookstore, Maina Bhagat were also present
The photographic exhibition 'Stone – Being and Becoming' will continue till July 6.
(Reporting by Suchismita Roy; Image by Sandip Roy/ IBNS)