Sinister turns sublime, deceit, innocent. The victims themselves are charmed by the perpetrators. Standing on its tail, its forked tongue flicking, the post-truth poem would hiss sweet nothings into thin air. Durga Prasad Panda, 2021 Living in an era of speed in the digital age, sculptor Debanjan Roy’s work assumes significance and demands close examination. Roy completed his Master’s degree in Visual Arts from Rabindra Bharati University in 2000. His sculptures are based on his thought processes and, quite often, they are created from mundane images of everyday life. He wants his sculptures to talk to spectators as if they are real characters from our society, sometimes mimicking, at other times mocking. Roy likes reading Rabindranath Tagore and especially admires the depiction of social and environmental consciousness in his short stories, themes on which he was far ahead of his time. Before a discussion on Debanjan’s artworks, it is important to know him in his avatar of a toy collector who has more than 600 unique pieces from all over the world. His fascination for collecting objects could be seen in his works such as Toilet Brush, Shampoo Bottle, Toy Car, Mobile Cover, Laptop, Clock etc. These artworks have been made from discarded and distorted materials from everyday life coated with 24-karat gold leaves. He believes that these discarded objects need to be kept like museum objects; they are an institution unto themselves. However, we are running too fast and have become so used to the use and throw culture that we reject things without realising what are we losing. Interestingly, one of his series of sculptures – India Shining – is on the vital subject of Gandhi. When we observe the series closely, we can see that he is making the viewer come face to face with the superficial reality of the country through his sculptures. Each of the sculptures in the series are in glossy blood red colour – such as Gandhi taking a walk with his dog while his entire attention is on his iPhone; Gandhi sitting on a velvety bed with his laptop; Gandhi with his iPod; and Gandhi flanked by two armed men etc. On the rationale for choosing the colour red for these depictions, the artist says, that “it denotes danger and comes across as being so bold, and yet it is also a sign of Goddess Shakti and points towards the labourers of our country.” If we look at Gandhi through the artist’s perspective, we can see that he is trying to unravel him in the post-truth era. This leads his viewers to see why, in every sculpture, Gandhi has a big smile on his face. It seems as if he is mocking the half-cooked realities and lies that parade as the love songs of our times. For instance, in one of the sculptures from this series, Gandhi is standing flanked by two armed men. It is almost dystopian to see Gandhi in such a context, considering that he had stood against the British Empire with non-violence as his weapon of choice and peace and harmony as his war cry. For Gandhi, the process of change was the adoption of non-violent Satyagraha, Swadeshi and democratic rights to all minorities. Through these sculptures, the artist questions today’s reality by making us visualise that an old man had fought for the nation without any bodyguard or security. However, if we see today’s political leaders, it becomes almost impossible to imagine them without high security. It is as if Roy is mockingly asking, “Whom are you scared of? Your own people? The same people who have elected and voted you into power?” Roy says that he has represented Gandhi as a helpless common man from our society who cannot do anything about the nation but helplessly smile. Like a toy that can fulfil any agenda we ascribe on to it. The “India Shining” campaign is in our recent memory but it becomes a questionable advertisement when we observe that the majority of the population can still not afford to have three square meals a day. Therefore, it remains to be asked as to who or what is shining? On the other side, he is also trying to depict the vulgar reality of our time. He is trying to mock capitalism in a highly consumerist world. He says that “big companies are taking us down a dangerous path where we are hungry but we feel compelled to buy material things instead of focusing on nutrition.” Through this he is trying to show not just the reality of our nation but partying Global culture from a distance. His works communicate like pop art or popular culture, making us see and experience what is around us. He is among the few artists from India who are trying to expose the consumerist greed and obsession of contemporary society. However, the artist’s fascination for his subject of interest can be seen in one of the series of toys on Gandhi. In these artworks he has amalgamated sculpture and the simple folk art dolls making in India. For example, the artwork titled Toy Gandhi 6 (Bobble Head) reminds one of Thanjavur Dancing Dolls which have a movement that looks as if they are welcoming everyone by shaking their head. On a parting note, it is noteworthy that, in the artist’s opinion, “Gandhi is a toy for the left, right as well as the centre in Indian polity.” Writer’s Bio Shaista Anwar has been teaching Art, Aesthetic and Design at the National Institute of Fashion and Technology, New Delhi since 2018. She is an independent researcher on Islamic art & architecture.