Sachin Mukherjee’s Fanush 2015 and a Fanush Makers get together
Sachin Mukherjee’s Fanush 2015
Fanush Makers get together
Also see: My compilation on Fanush
Twinkle twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
The Star (Nursery Rhymes) by Jane Taylor
On the late evening of 29 November, a bright star was seen in the late afternoon sky above Belgachia (Milk Colony), in North Kolkata.
With the winter setting in, the six pointed star reminded that Christmas was not far away but the multicolored star had no connection with the Star of Bethlehem nor was it a celestial body.
It was man-made and made by the master fanush maker Sachin Mukherjee, who has devoted his entire lifetime in perfecting the art of making and flying fanush.
The century old custom of fanush (ফানুস, also spelt as Phanush or Phanus) flying, paper made hot air balloons, is an integral part of North Kolkata babu culture.
Fanush was probably first introduced in Kolkata by Gouri Shankar De of Darjipara in 1912. The mathematics teacher of Scottish Church College perfected the art of fanush making.
His descendants followed in his footsteps, producing fanush of every possible shape and size. Led by Gouri Shankar De’s grandson Gobindo De, the fanush flying in Kolkata reached its golden age during the 1950 – 60s.
Held on the afternoon of Bhai Phota, it was one of the most sought after events of North Kolkata.
Soon other families in Darjipara and neighboring Shimla and Maniktala area took up the art of fanush making and during the afternoon of Kali Puja and Bhai Phota, the sky was dotted with these flying beauties.
The Fanush operates in the same principle of a hot air balloon. The air inside the Fanush is heated by a cloth rag ball (locally called Luti) soaked in spirit. The Luti is attached to the base of the Fanush.
Although it may sound simple, fanush making has never been an easy job and requires not only knowledge but also skills, which take years to perfect.
With the passage of time, many of the houses in North Kolkata stopped flying fanush and the Darjipara De’s probably stopped in 1990s, but there were a few exceptions.
The most well known of them was the Dutt family of Bholanath Dham, on Beadon Street.
Starting in 1924, the Dutts are still carrying on with their tradition of fanush making and flying .
Today, it is led by Ajoy Dutt and supported by his friend and neighbor P K Mullick. The Dutts release about a dozen fanush every year on the afternoon of Kali Puja and no wonder it is a grand spectacle.
In the last few years, this event has been the most sought after event of the photography community of Kolkata and hundreds of photographers come to Bholanath Dham to capture the vanishing legacy of fanush.
The Dutts of Bholanath Dham were not the only exception, the other one was Sachin Mukherjee.
Sachin Mukherjje passion for fanush started during his childhood days in Darjipara, North Calcutta (Kolkata). As a child, he was fascinated by the fanush of Gourishankar De family.
But fanush making is always considered a strictly guarded family secret for the De family of Darjipara. There fanush stencils (locally called chant) are still out of the reach of outsiders.
But this was not enough to dampen the spirits of the young Sachin Mukherjee. In 1953, at the age of 14, Sachin Mukherjee tried his first fanush, working total on the basis of trial and error. His football shaped fanush turned out to be a rugby ball but it did take the skies and ignited the passion of a lifetime.
Today nicknamed the “Fanush Manush” (Fanush Man), Sachin Mukherjee of Bhadreswar, is quiet a celebrity in his locality and has even displayed his art in Delhi and Mumbai.
At the end of November (or early December), the retired health service employee releases about a dozen of fanush, of every shape and size.
His location has changed over the years, from his residence in Bhadreswar to his brother’s house in Milk Colony and even to his staff quarters of NRS Hospital.
In 2015, the venue was his brother’s house in Belgachia, Milk Colony and the date was 29th Nov., but there was a difference.
The difference was that it was probably the first time an effort was made to bring all the fanush makers under the same roof. It was an initiative of his grandson Debashis Mukherjee.
Although several veteran fanush makers like Ajoy Dutt, P K Mullick and Gobindo De couldn’t make it to the show, there were several others who did.
It included veteran fanush makers like Dipen Bandyopadhyay and Deepak Dutta.
The greatest part of the show was the presence of young fanush makers like Rajat Mallick and Kawtuk Jaiswal but absent from the show were Biresh Majumdar and Anjan Patra.
Ever since I blogged about the fanush making process, I was flooded with enquiries about the details of the process. Having no practical knowledge of fanush making, I referred them to Ajoy Dutt.
The most enthusiastic of these would be fanush maker Rajat Mallick, who has developed a process of making paper fireproof. A mechanical engineer by profession, Rajat has used softwares like auto cad to develop his fanush.
In absence of a helping hand, Rajat has developed a device to release his fanush, all on his own. For details, do visit his wonderful blog on fanush.
The other young fanush maker was Kawtuk Jaiwal, an avid kite flyer, who has represented Bengal in the Ahmedabad Kite Festival.
It was at the kite festival in 2015, he released a self made fanush and impressed the organizers so much that they wanted to make it a regular feature in their famous kite festival.
Both the young fanush makers came with their self made fanush to be released with the masterpieces of Sachin Mukherjee. The 2015 event consisted of 15 fanush, consisting of one from Rajat and two from Kawtuk.
The show started with a ball shaped fanush by Sachin Mukherjee, with the thermocol cut out of the word WELCOME dangling below the fanush.
The football, consisting of 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons, was first introduced during the Mexico World Cup of 1970. A year later, Jadavlal Dutt (Ajoy Dutt’s father) transformed it into a fanush.
The football fanush has always been a favorite of Sachin Mukherjee and he has always added a splash of colours to it. He has also changed the conventional hexa – penta models to stars and other geometric figures.
Sachin Mukherjee’s another favorite, the radiant sun, is also a modification of the football, with the pentagon replaced with pentagonal pyramids.
The star, the lattu (top) and gada (club) were the star attraction of Sachin Mukherjee’s fanush show 2015.
The last fanush of the day was shaped like a vase and had the thermocol cut-out of the word ‘THE END’ dangling below the fanush.
But this is not the end,it is just the beginning. A beginning of creation of a platform for fanush makers and fanush lovers. The platform that will not only save the fanush from extinction but will take it to the next level by using scientific methods and computer technology.