Of Desires and Designs

Art by Sarmistha Banerjee and text by Pritha Mahanti

In an industry that peddles the idea that a ‘no’ coming from a woman is in fact a veiled consent, it is rare to come across female characters who hold their ground unapologetically. Sarmistha Banerjee picks up four such characters from Bollywood, recreating their iconic visuals. Sarmistha’s particular focus is on their outfits, which she infuses with Alpona motifs. This creative choice is not simply about aesthetics. Alpona is a traditional Bengali folk art that has its humble origins in the hands of rural women who dipped their fingers in a liquid rice flour paste to draw ornamental designs on the walls and floors of their homes. Once restricted to auspicious occasions, the ritualistic Alpona gradually evolved into and was institutionalised as a distinctive fine art form. Through the bright patterns against bold colours in the recreated costumes, Sarmistha not only captures the spirit of these indomitable female characters, but also pays tribute to all the unsung women artists across centuries who are often side-lined in a deeply gendered art history.

Sarmistha Banerjee has done her Masters and MPhil in Economics from Calcutta University and is currently pursuing her PhD from Jadavpur University. For her, painting is a hobby and most importantly an escape route from the maddening world of academia. Being part of a suburban household in kolkata where rituals play an important role in everyday life, her artworks are mostly influenced by Bengal’s folk tradition.

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