The Maharaja Suite
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A new film documents the works of Stefan Norblin, a Polish artist who had fled to India after Hitler attacked Poland during WW II.
The story of Stefan Norblin and his art has finally been resurrected from the obscurity of the past," says filmmaker Malgorzata Skiba, running her eyes over a print of an unusual painting of a bejeweled Indian woman but with non-Indian features. The painting dates to the '40s when famous Polish artist Stefan Norblin stood on scaffolds at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur and created titanic murals depicting his own version of Indian mythology.
Malgorzata is Polish but lives in India, and her film on Norblin explores the six years that the artist lived in this country as a court painter. Titled Chitraanjali: Stefan Norblin in India, the documentary was screened yesterday at the India Habitat Centre. This is arguably the only cinematic effort to understand the artist's work in India.
Norblin landed in Bombay in 1941, after the September Campaign, Germany's invasion of Poland, with his wife Lena Zelichowska, a famous Polish actor of the '30s. After being commissioned by the royal families of Morvi in Gujarat and Ramgarh Raj in Patna, he held an exhibition in Bombay in 1944. One of those impressed with his work was Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur, who roped in the artist to create artwork at his palace.
The hour-long film fuses the grandeur of the royal structures with Norblin's modernist and art deco style, thus painting a bigger picture of Indian art through a series of interviews serving as a informative backdrop. "It's like a fairy tale. We didn't want to have an eye-candy film but something that would provide a background into the Indian art deco style as well as an insight to Norblin's work in India," says Malgorzata. Norblin left the country with his wife and son in 1946 for San Francisco and in 1952, committed suicide at the age of 60.
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