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Power Of One Team

Sreenivasan Jain: Hello and welcome to this NDTV special Power of One, with one of the finest contemporary artist in India Atul Dodiya. Thank you very much indeed Atul for joining us in the NGMA in Mumbai where your beautiful latest work is on display. This is called 14 stations, and it is a journey you were telling me from your home in Ghatkoper into south Mumbai. So each of the station has a well know Bollywood icon.

Atul Dodiya: Yes, villain.

Sreenivasan Jain:Villains, from the past all along the way. Since this is a program on Profit, I am entitled to ask you, how much is it for? 

Atul Dodiya: Well, actually.

Sreenivasan Jain: Okay, that is a trick question. It was really an idea to get you talking about the value of art, and how everything comes with a price tag. It is like how movies are released and they say, "Yeh 80 crore ki movie hain, yeh 100 crore ki movie hain", today that is happening with art as well. So tell me if somebody like yourself, when you are constructing, lets say this latest series that you are doing, the commerce part of it is completely shut out , you are totally immersed in the creative process of it?

Atul Dodiya: It always has to be that way, otherwise you will start churning out stuff or cater to the market,  and the quality of work will go down. And in my case I have also tried different things, and if I know once that I can do this the way, this is the way it has to be done and I have already done it. I won't get any joy out of it. So this is the first time, I did this series of station signs and with the Bollywood villains, from Pran to Shakti Kapoor.

Sreenivasan Jain: Why villains?

Atul Dodiya: Villains, because the show is all about cinema, and it is know as 'Cinema City', which is going on right now at the NGMA. And when I was invited, I thought cinema is too vast. And the city is too vast a subject, how to deal with it? Then what is close to me, the suburbs of Mumbai Central line, where I live.

Sreenivasan Jain: And your studio is at Ghatkopar, and you live there.

Atul Dodiya: Besides that, 50-60s hindi movies which I do see. And the villains, how they are portrayed in those films the style and the stylised manner in which they used to speak and dress, I still admire. And that is also missing from the contemporary Hindi films these days, may be they have become too realistic. So the villains earlier who were portrayed over the top, maybe Ajit or a Pran or a K N Singh, that I thought it would work well with the theme.

Sreenivasan Jain: Do you have your favorite villain?

Atul Dodiya: Well, there are few. But say, Pran. Pran is my favorite.

Sreenivasan Jain: Pran was brilliant.

Atul Dodiya: And yes, that is why I have put him on Ghatkopar.

Sreenivasan Jain: And the last villain, that I see is Atul, you introduce yourself with your own work.

Atul Dodiya: Atul is a station in Gujrat after Vapii. I wrote my name in just to break the monotony of male villains and the 14th station, Bindu the vamp, so that was the twist and fun.

Sreenivasan Jain: You always have the element of playful, in your work. But tell me something, like this now it is a collection of 14 paintings. What will happen to it? Will it all get sold in one go, or will it be picked up by individual collectors picking individual canvases?

Atul Dodiya: In the recent past, I have done painting keeping a series in my mind, like these 14 stations, ideally I would want it to be together. And when you put it together you need more than 100 feet long area to have them in a single row. But then it becomes a large body to acquire, so many and it is tough and ultimately they may just disperse.

Sreenivasan Jain: But for someone like you, who is at the top of the game in Indian contemporary art, how does it work to people, collectors, galleries already start approaching you while you are in a process of doing your next series and is it almost like an advance booking or is it faster after it goes on display.

Atul Dodiya: It use to be like that, but certainly it is not the same. 

Sreenivasan Jain: Earlier it was like, people would come while you are still working and tell you I want this and that.

Atul Dodiya: People would enquire and people still do that and they get to know that, I am working towards a show. And I generally exhibit with my galleries in Mumbai or Delhi. And now working towards a show in Paris. So galleries start  giving words to collectors, "Atul is working on certain theme and he is going to show." So that is how it happens, and I am not the part of this process. I don't entertain collectors coming to studio. I mean they can come with the gallerist.

Sreenivasan Jain: The most sensitive aspect of art, which is the pricing. It is always that tricky thing with art that it is supposed to be insulated from the grubby dealing of commerce. But, obviously it is not the case, art is highly valued. So how does it work, for example the determination of pricing, how does it work.

Atul Dodiya: It is a history actually. When I first exhibited 20 years back, at the JJ School of Art, and first time showing it professionally. The price was tagged likewise, since I was emerging and growing.

Sreenivasan Jain: So how much did you sell your first painting for?

Atul Dodiya: The first painting which I had exhibited here in Mumbai in a group show at Jahangir Art Gallery, was a 4 feet by 5 feet, this Parel station, which was sold for Rs. 2,000.

Sreenivasan Jain: Who was the lucky buyer, you know who was the buyer?

Atul Dodiya: No I don't remember. It was long time back in '81. But then, when I had my first solo in '89, the same size painting was for Rs. 12,000.

Sreenivasan Jain: And today, Atul Dodiya canvas would cost approximately?

Atul Dodiya: This one probably will be around 25 lakhs.

Sreenivasan Jain: Unbelievable! So there is a whole set of process.

Atul Dodiya: It is a process, it is not that I decide.

Sreenivasan Jain: So you are not like a Bollywood star who can demand 10 crores or 20 crores. There is a certain science to it.

Atul Dodiya: In painting we grow gradually. We feel that, a person who acquires work should feel happy, he should feel he got a good bargain. He should keep the painting for a long time, enjoy it , wonderful thing that happened to him by keeping the price on the slightly lower side.

Sreenivasan Jain: For someone who is a regular collector of your work?

Atul Dodiya: No, it is a common thing for all the collectors. Once we have decided the pricing it can go to any collector.

Sreenivasan Jain: So the pricing is decided between you and your gallery?

Atul Dodiya: Together we kind of discuss, but sometime it happens, like I find this series has been difficult because of the work that has gone in it, probably because of the station painting and Bollywood villains being portrayed, sometime people find that abstraction is better. 

Sreenivasan Jain: So you are saying that, this might be sometime difficult to sell?

Atul Dodiya: Yes, difficult. It is not like that, you put any kind of work and it will sell.

Sreenivasan Jain: Oh really! Even for someone like yourself?

Atul Dodiya: Why it is not true in my case, because like in my last show, which I had in Mumbai, which was a text based work. So, it was like a black board paintings and the text was written in on it with a chalk, story of small boy and Mahatma Gandhi, they meet in their sleep and there is a dialogue. Now this kind of a work, which is not a colorful painting. The way normally one would see the painting to be. So this is a new experience for myself as well as for the viewer and the collector.

Sreenivasan Jain: So that gets sold?

Atul Dodiya: A few, I did not sell everything.

Sreenivasan Jain: How many series?

Atul Dodiya: I sold 6 out of 12.

Sreenivasan Jain: And the remaining stays with you or the gallery?

Atul Dodiya: At the moment with the gallery, frankly speaking today I am in a position that if my painting has not been sold and it comes back to me, I would be happy. I know the work is good and I had great fun doing them.

Sreenivasan Jain: So there is something nice about it coming home, that is a part of your own collection. In terms of art how does it work. When you sell a painting, how does the amount get distributed between you and the gallerist. Is there a fixed formula for that?

Atul Dodiya: In India, my gallery will have 1/3rd and 2/3rd comes to me. That is here. But when it is abroad it is 50:50.

Sreenivasan Jain: So is this formula for you specifically?

Atul Dodiya: No, it is a market practice.

Sreenivasan Jain: So in India it is 2/3 and 1/3 and abroad 50 50.

Atul Dodiya: That is also changing now, within India also. Depends on artist galleries.

Sreenivasan Jain: Why it is that, that artist can enforce their clout in India? I mean it is a good thing, artists are getting their share. Why is their a distinction?

Atul Dodiya: See it is good to have a gallery, because gallery handles the other aspects which artist sometime cannot handle. Getting works up to the gallery, sending works to the collectors, catalogues, organising parties, and showcasing art, so gallery is a great support to an artist. If you try to do those things on your own, it will be very difficult. So, all this they do and sometimes you know the gallery, it is a great support to the artist. Sometimes some artists, you know all artists don't sell well, and one has to keep on continue working. So the gallery sometime supports financially. Artist will keep on working.

Sreenivasan Jain: So gallery is also a support system, it is not just displaying and selling the art.

Atul Dodiya: Sometimes galleries are ware that this is a difficult kind of work, and it may not sell, say someone is working on video, photography or an installation, then those kinds of work are sometimes really difficult to sell. Still gallery will willing exhibit the work.

Sreenivasan Jain: So in a way it also taking a bit of a risk when it does that. You are putting out some commercial support or you are investing but you might not get to sell that work.

Atul Dodiya: Yes.

Sreenivasan Jain: It there a fair distribution for you, like  2/3, 1/3 or 50:50?

Atul Dodiya: 1/3:2/3 ratio is fine.

Sreenivasan Jain: 50:50 is a bit tough. Is it the same norm for international artist as well, 50:50.

Atul Dodiya: Yes, if it is big artist.

Sreenivasan Jain: Tell me Atul, when it comes to Indian collectors of contemporary art like yourself, so Indians always have this stereo type of being notoriously money minded. There is this  brilliant advertisement, where a guy is showing a bunch of people a space ship and he is talking about his virtue. And an Indian puts up his hand and says 'kitna deti hai?' . So do Indian look at art as investment?

Atul Dodiya: I will tell you. Like few years back,  when the work was not that expensive. I mean it is alway relative, but still say works of artists which sold for Rs.25, 000 or Rs. 50, 000 at the most. I am talking about 30-35 years back. It was a big amount, but still there were collectors who were acquiring. That time collectors did it for passion, they acquired art because they love art. Today there are collectors who love the work of art but because they are paying 30 lakhs 50 lakhs,  somewhere definitely they think if it is worth, if they want to resell is it a good investment as well?

Sreenivasan Jain: You can't not as well. In todays economic environment art has become an investment and an tradable commodity.As an artist does it upset you, you know someone saying that, 'I am paying 25 lakhs for it today, so I can sell it later for 40-50 lakhs?

Atul Dodiya: It really bothers. If the artist's work is seen only in terms of price tag, one does not work for that. One wanted to create because it was a tremendous urge, so I had to do this. I cannot keep a track of myself, you know following the same pattern, because this particular body had a response. I keep on doing that kind of work.   

Sreenivasan Jain: Then you get slotted.

Atul Dodiya: Absolutely, you get slotted. It is like death.

Sreenivasan Jain: Especially now, when you see so much of corporate interest in art. So many big corporates and individuals showing interest in art and at times, at least I feel as an outsider it is becoming competitive. You know so and so is collecting art, so someone will open a gallery. I mean, I don't know how that works for artists. In a way, I suppose it is good because it means that there is much more money.

Atul Dodiya: In a way this is really good. Because I will tell you, I remember when I joined art school in late '70s, and past out in early '80s, there were hardly three four galleries in Mumbai and few in Delhi and very few collectors, whom you could count on your finger tips, during that time joining arts, people would say 'yeh tho bukha marega', you know that kid of a thing was there.

Sreenivasan Jain: Did that happen to you, especially coming from a 'gujju' background.

Atul Dodiya: Yes, coming from a Gujrati background,  my parents, relatives would say, "he should join architecture, interior designing." But then I would argue,  "what about M F Hussain? But it will take long". But of course, there was a faith, there was a passion for painting and everybody at home understood.

Sreenivasan Jain: So one thing is that, a stereotypical image of struggling artist, with his 'jhola' is now faded. I mean when you cross Jehangir Art Gallery, that is almost extinct.

Atul Dodiya: Yes, exactly that was the time. I had a beard and a 'khaki kurta' and to mention seven colored 'jholas'. Those days even if I am walking on the moon, so I would say looking at the clothing,  'artist ja rah hain.'

Sreenivasan Jain: Even now, I know all of you who are at the very top of the game, who are doing exceptionally well and are wealthier then you would have ever excepted. Since most of you came from a very middle class family. Does it feel a little strange? I mean, when you look at your bank statement and say 'wow'.

Atul Dodiya: Yes,  true. Which is what I was saying it was very different 20 years back and not the way things have turned out with so many collectors from different backgrounds acquiring art is giving a huge boost to young artist . We are now allowed to experiment, try out new things. If today I don't sell my piece it does not matter. Which was not the same back, then it would hurt if your art is not selling.I come from Ghatkopar, raised in a 'chawl' . Comparatively I have a better space, I have my books, art books which are very expensive. Travel to place to see some shows, experiment with my painting you know all this helps.

Sreenivasan Jain: Yes, since you said material cost is high, since you have to import.

Atul Dodiya: Yes, especially when it is Italian, German made.

Sreenivasan Jain: Do you invest in other stuff like art or?

Atul Dodiya: I am very bad with equities and markets and all this thing.

Sreenivasan Jain:Come on Atul, you are a Gujrati. You should have a natural flair for it.

Atul Dodiya: I am terrible with it. I have people doing it for me.

Sreenivasan Jain: Is Anju, your wife, who is a superb artist, is she more sorted with finances?

Atul Dodiya: No, she is just like me. We sit and discuss though. Our interest is the same, we like movies, buy books and read so there is not any heavy planning to buy fancy car or house. We do things that we want.

Sreenivasan Jain:Or build a big house.

Atul Dodiya: Not like that, it just allows us to do things we want it.

Sreenivasan Jain: Atul Dodiya, thank you very much for talking to us.

Atul Dodiya: Thank you Sreenivasan.

7 years ago

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