Forty-four years ago, exactly on May 15, a seed of something great was sown in Nagpur. A madmanlike gentleman with a terrific spark in eyes and soft but straight manner of speaking brought out in the open from under his dark countenance something very bright, very brilliant, very golden in every which the way. He had a clutch of eager children with gaping mouths around him. In their tiny hands, they held some sheets of drawing paper and pencils and brushes and water colours or even crayons. They were eager to launch into the creative activity of expressing what they felt in their innermost depths of young minds. The young man, a celebrated teacher of the arts, explained to the kids what he expected them to do: Do anything, he said. Draw anything, he added.
There are no rules, he insisted. Use any medium you wish, he informed them. And Basoli was born! In no time, before anyone could realise, Basoli became a movement. It became one of the most potent places of childhood creativity. The first clutch of a few kids became a sea of young humanity and out flowed from the activity hundreds of thousands of drawings and paintings in tremendously poetic expressions -- day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year... the flow still continues, the effervescence of childhood creativity still bubbles up. In time, all children grow up.
But the kids that passed under the portals of Basoli did not give up their childhood and kept it alive in some measure, thus keeping certain innocence, certain openness intact in the otherwise mundane world in which practicalism is treated as religion and emotionalism or idealism as madness. And as all this happened, the young man of 44 years ago -- Dr Chandrakant Channe -- continued to be as young today as he was then, reclining in his chair, his head resting in the clasp of his both hands held behind. He smiles one of the most benign communications of a joy ingrained in his persona -- from core to skin.
His smile is all he has -- to share with the world. For, in the process of earning that smile as his signature, Dr. Channe has smarted under the vagaries of life’s personal losses, including the passing away of his life-partner, but has never allowed life’s bad part to overtake him. He conveys certain strength -- which he has gained from the innocence the children showered upon him -- countless thousands of children who became integral to one of the world’s greatest art movements. Chandrakant Channe is a painter of merit, with acceptance of his classy paintings coming from across the globe.
Art collectors often throng around him to buy his works that fetch him reasonable money. But money is never his motivation; creative instinct is! Of course, Basoli’s early rush of activities has changed form. There is a certain slowness in the flow -- but never a sedateness, I must insist. Annual festivals have changed their format though the subjects still maintain their innocence as the core value as well as facade. This unquestionable, quintessential oneness of form and content is the the actual purpose of Basoli. One may never know what direction Basoli may take, but one knows one thing very certainly -- that Chandrakant Channe will defy ageing for the simple reason that the gods have condemned him to eternality of childhood steeped in innocence.
True, his own paintings have all adult nuances, but even from behind all those lurks certain innocence -- or its search -- that makes his works look bright even if he opts to use Black as his signature colouration. May Basoli live forever -- not just in hearts of several generations of children -- now also in complete adulthood -- but in practical terms as well. The speciality of Basoli is complex and paradoxical, so to say. On one hand, it is an institution which Channe created with care and caution. But it is also an institution that does not suffer from institutional trappings. The sense of liberation Basoli communicates to all is actually its core value -- immensely sublime, extremely creative, with an almost divine touch. For, anything that relates to child -- or childhood -- has a god’s touch!