92-year-old Ram Vanji Sutar and his son Anil Ram Sutar (59) had one cherished dream. This father-son duo want to make the tallest sculpture in the world. Thanks to a ₹3,600-crore investment from the Maharashtra Government, the dream is finally coming true.
At 395-feet tall – twice as high as the Statue of Liberty – statue of medieval Indian king Shivaji envisaged by the Maharashtra Government will be built on 16 hectares of land in the Arabian Sea, 3.5 kilometres away from Mumbai, by these two sculptors. Till date, these sculptors have designed three Shivaji statues, apart from innumerable statues of various historical figures like Gandhi and Nehru. The duo are currently in the process of completing the 550-feet bronze statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat.
In a discussion with Youth Ki Awaaz, Anil Ram Sutar talks about the ₹3,600-crore Shivaji statue, his view on the expenditure being incurred for the project and why he thinks the BJP government is right in building giant sculptures despite the damage to the exchequer.
Shikha Sharma: It is estimated that the sculpture will cost about ₹3,600 crores. What is your view about the enormous expenditure that will be incurred? Do you think it is justified?
Anil Ram Sutar: If Shah Jahan would have worried about the cost of building a mausoleum for Mumtaz, Taj Mahal would have never been built. All the great monuments of the world – the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty – were built without thinking about the cost involved, for a larger purpose. This project should be seen in that light. It is a prestigious project, and like the Great Wall of China or Eiffel Tower, will attract huge crowds, and generate revenue for the government. Many short-sighted people only want to look at the money that will be spent, but there is more to it than just money. This will put India on the world map.
SS: Members of the Koli community have said that nearly 400 Koli families will be affected and that the Kolis will be banned from their own traditional fishing waters once the memorial is set up. What do you have to say to that?
ARS: You know whenever something new is thought of, there is always some amount of controversy. I remember the same thing happened when the decision to install the Sardar Patel statue was made in Gujarat. Eventually, the protests died down and we are now making the statue. I think when it comes to things like these, people should think, “Desh ke hit mein kya hai? (Is it in the country’s best interest?)”. There is only a portion of land that is being reclaimed for the memorial. It is not like all fish will die. This is not being built to destroy, but to build. Fishermen will always be able to fish. And the statue isn’t the first thing being built on reclaimed land. Mumbai itself is built on reclaimed land. Nobody has a problem with that.
SS: Tell us a bit about the sculpture. How did you get the contract? And how much time will it take for the project to finish?
ARS: We have been in constant talks with the Maharashtra Government for the last one year. We sent them a few models, and a few days ago, one of the models was approved by the government. We are now waiting for tenders to be floated to finalize contractors we will work with. Once the contractors are finalized, we will begin work on the statue. Around 2,000 people will be employed to build the sculpture, and we should be able to finish it in 2 years.
SS: But why make such huge statues in the first place? What purpose do they achieve according to you?
ARS: If you don’t want the next generation to think Indira Gandhi is the daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, I think building statues or sculpture is very important. Of course, there is no practical value to it. But aesthetically, culturally and historically, it is important that every generation has its own monuments and sculptures. Otherwise, how will the next generation learn about its culture, its leaders? Unless you don’t make a Gandhi statue, will the next generation know who Gandhi was? “Soch ko barkarar rakhne ke liye, Soch ko badalne ke liye, badhane ke liye,ye zaroori hai (This is about an idea and this is really important to continue the idea, to change the way people think and to promote the idea)”. Art doesn’t have any purpose per say. Yet, rulers and kings have always invested in it. That is how we know about them today. Else, they would be forgotten.
SS: You have built statues and sculptures for various governments. How is the BJP government different from the others?
ARS: Yes, we have built sculptures for different parties. Everyone has their own agenda, and their own reasons for wanting statues built. This government likes building large, larger-than-life statues. Which is great, because before the BJP, we didn’t have any big statues. To see a large statue of Buddha, you have to go to Hong Kong, to see Michelangelo, you go to the Vatican. This is the first government really focussed on claiming its icons.