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Modi as ‘lovable king’ who ‘dared to dream’ — Delhi exhibition captures PM’s journey on canvas

The Exhibition, Inaugurated Friday, Will Run Until 3 Nov At NGMA, Delhi. It Features 55 Paintings By UAE-based Artist Akbar Saheb. It Was Previously Shown In Four Cities In Gujarat.

Paintings by Akbar Saheb at NGMA as part of an exhibition inspired by the journey and vision of PM Modi | Unnati Sharma / ThePrint

New Delhi: A bunch of concentric circles resembling a bullseye, a fighter-jet-like dart hitting it right in the centre and an empty drinking glass — this is what the 2016 surgical strike looked like in a painting displayed at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi.

Why an empty glass? Because reportedly, PM Modi did not even have a glass of water until the strikes were successful.

A painting by Akbar Saheb depicting the 2016 surgical strike | Unnati Sharma / ThePrint

Demonetisation, Ujjwala Yojana, Swachh Bharat —  many such schemes and policies of the Narendra Modi government have been depicted on canvas using oil and acrylic paints at the exhibition inspired by the journey and vision of the Prime Minister.

The exhibition, put together by curator Rajeev Menon, features paintings by UAE-based Indian artist Akbar Saheb. Union Minister G Kishan Reddy inaugurated the exhibition Friday, it will remain open for visitors until 3 November.

55 paintings on display

For 59-year-old Akbar Saheb, inspiration struck for the first time in 2012 when he suddenly started hearing about PM Modi. He said that he researched about Modi for the next two years and started painting in 2014, when the latter became the Prime Minister for the first time.

One such painting, titled ‘Dare To Dream’, documents the journey of a young boy selling tea in Vadnagar, Gujarat.

Another depicts the Gujarat riots — featuring the PM with a pained expression, a white pigeon is sitting on the top of Gujarat and a mob of sloganeering Muslim men.

A painting by Akbar Saheb depicting the 2002 Gujarat riots | Unnati Sharma / ThePrint

A painting titled ‘Lovable King’ shows him as a lion, who instead of hunting animals, chose to love and care for them.

In an attempt to document the questions PM had to face since the beginning of his political journey, one of Saheb’s paintings depicts Modi with his face resting on his hand while several media mics face him.

Out of 55 artworks at the NGMA, 13 have been dedicated to the PM’s biographical sketch, the rest depict his policies, or have been inspired by his speeches or vision.

The exhibition also features a collection of watercolour illustrations based on PM’s quotes from his flagship radio program ‘Mann ki Baat’. These illustrations have also been used in the 2017 book with the same title.

Some of the paintings showcase the policies and their impact. For example, a painting based on Triple Talaq shows a Burqa-clad muslim woman facing backward, looking at a new dawn. A painting on Demonetisation shows black footprints — a symbol of black money — walking away.

‘Modi hugged me’

All these paintings were created between 2014-2017. When asked why he has not made anything in PM’s second innings, Saheb said that he is working on it and something new is coming up very soon.

Modi was gifted the prints of some of these paintings when he met the artist in Abu Dhabi in 2015. Happily recalling the day, Saheb said he was given a timespan of three minutes to meet him, instead, PM Modi hugged him and kept talking to him for 25 minutes. The PM is set to see the paintings in their original form.

Curator Rajeev Menon, who has also worked with painters like MF Hussain, said he has personally reached out to the PMO to extend an invitation to the Prime Minister to see these paintings.

“The exhibition has been shown in four cities in Gujarat. After Delhi, we will go to Varanasi and Lucknow,” he told ThePrint.

He added that the PMO has also helped curate these exhibitions.

While inaugurating the exhibition, G Kishan Reddy said the paintings show the challenges faced by Narendra Modi and his achievements as Prime Minister, and that they are important as they show his impact around the world.