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Padma Bhushan Ram V Sutar’s striking sculptures of historical figures have graced the soil of many countries and now, he has designed the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue, set to be unveiled on October 31, 2018, by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
Travellers approaching the Sardar Vallabhai airport in Ahmedabad are greeted with a moment of solace upon seeing the Sardar Vallabhai bronze sculpture towering over them like an all-knowing protector. Patel, a popular leader of the Indian Freedom Movement and later the first deputy Prime Minister of independent India is lovingly called the Iron Man of India, for his staggering work of uniting India’s princely states. This awe-inspiring 5.5 meter statue at the Ahmedabad Airport was envisioned and created by Ram V. Sutar, a decorated sculptor whose pieces are installed all over the world, and whose most ambitious work, the 182 meter (597 feet) statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, aptly titled, Statue of Unity, will be unveiled by PM Narendra Modi on October 31, 2018 as the tallest sculpture in the world.
People have seen his masterpieces all over India as well as around the world in countries like the USA and Europe. Who is this man who can bring historical figures to life at such formidable scales?
To say that Sutar is blessed from birth would be an understatement. The 93-year-old artist has erected 200 sculptures to his name to this day, and counting! In addition to this prolificacy, he maintains a high quality of work, no matter what scale – a true testament to his time at J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, where he received his formal training. Through the past 60 years of his career, his hands have immortalized countless leaders and influential persons in sculpture ranging from the most recognised sculptures of Mahatma Gandhi, to Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Tagore, to even Jesus, Socrates, and Benjamin Franklin.
If you take a look at Ram V. Sutar’s work, which is inescapable, spread wide as it is to countries like Mauritius, Singapore, Colombia, France, and Germany, the sculptures that he constructs are stately and elegant. The formidable size mirrors the colossal influences of the subjects of his art. But remarkably, even at an impossibly large scale, the works capture the subtlest of expressions, as shown by the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in meditation which rests in several venerable locations across India, including a 5-meter statue standing at the Parliament House in New Delhi.
Sutar takes inspiration from these “great souls” in making their likenesses. His respect for these historical figures is palpable in the care he takes to create each bust or statue. Some of his works are publicly viewable in the Anand Van in Faridabad, near New Delhi, which is open to the public, but many of his works rest in places of education and law, the reminding and inspiring today’s thinkers of the thinkers of the past.
Bronze has been treasured throughout Indian history as the preferred medium for sculptures in India. This metal also seems to be the favourite of Ram V Sutar. However, bronze is not the only medium the Padma Bhushan recipient has experience in, he has also worked with other metals and stones. His early career was with Department of Government where he worked extensively at the Ajanta Ellora Caves for restoration. His first notable public work was the gigantic and gorgeous sculpture of Mother Chambal created in 1961. The 45ft high sculpture got instant recognition from then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. After this there was no looking back, and he would have cast tonnes of bronze over his entire life.
Ram V Sutar has been a recipient of multiple decorations. Prime among them are the Padma Bhushan in 2016 and Padma Shree in 1999 bestowed by the Government of India as a tribute to 6 decades of his illustrious career. Besides these prestigious titles, Ram V Sutar has several other awards to his name, including the Sahitya Kala Parishad New Delhi, prizes from Bombay Arts Society and an award from All India Fine Arts and Craft Society New Delhi.
After an illustrious career making his work known all over India and the world, in 2013, Ram V. Sutar was approached for an immense, life-changing project: creating the tallest statue in the world right here in India, on the banks of the Narmada river in Gujarat.
39 meters higher than the statue that previously held the record for world’s highest sculpture depicting the Vairocana Buddha in China, the Statue of Unity is an amalgamation of Ram V. Sutar’s artistic strengths, aesthetic vision, and strategic insight. Sutar and his sculptor and architect son, Anil Ram Sutar, worked tirelessly to create a fitting image of Sardar in the form of 182-meter high statue. They started the process by making smaller scaled models, the smallest of which was just 3 feet! The final design was a 30ft bronze replica, which was scanned and converted into 3D images, used by the Chinese firm to create bronze cast pieces of the 182m tall statue. The final structure is made using 25,000 tonnes of iron and 90,000 tonnes of cement; this gigantic structure is cladded by bronze pieces, made using the 3D scan from Sutar’s replica.
On October 31st, 2018, the occasion of the birthday of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the statue will be unveiled to the public by PM Narendra Modi. The statue is also said to create socio-economic growth for the surrounding regions, with a research centre, museum, and several other tourism initiatives to be launched as a part of project.
“There is something unique in this soil, which despite many obstacles has always remained the abode of great souls.” Sardar Vallabhai Patel
Sutar, by all means, is an artist par excellence and much more. In him, he carries the pride for the nation’s history and an honest respect for the leaders, whom he has carved into monuments. This probably is the reason, that in Sutar’s work you see the character of the leader even more than their personality. There is such a high degree of mastery he has achieved over his craft in all these years of continuous work. The Statue of Unity will be Sutar’s greatest legacy, unless the inexhaustible sculptor takes up something more impressive. Those who know him say, though 93, he is still unstoppable!
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