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From Jantar Mantar’s myriad moods to mysterious structures, Mala Mukerjee clicks them all with elan

The grim reminder of the two waves of Covid-19 which left humankind helpless (All pictures courtesy Mala Mukerjee)

Apart from the details, it is the aesthetic nuances of the 44 photographs by Kolkata-based veteran photographer Mala Mukerjee that catch one’s attention in the ongoing virtual exhibition “Fleeting Footprints of Light” on India International Centre’s website.

Usually watching too many images becomes tedious but not so here as every frame has elements that make one watch them intently while setting you pondering! For instance, the first image online “2020” – showing several feet all lying close to each other — is absolutely arresting.

The inert feet are a stark reminder of those who died in the last one and a half years due to Covid-19 pandemic making humankind feel helpless. Agreeing with this view, Mukerjee talking to India Narrative observed: “It is a sincere attempt to capture my pain and anguish at what has been happening to our lives during the last 15 months. The image denotes sheer helplessness!”

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Mukerjee clicked this image laced with deep meanings six years ago at an annual art event at Kala Bhavana, Vishwabharati , Shantiniketan. “One of the exhibits was a sculpture of terracotta bodies covered with a cloth and kept on a cycle van, with only the feet of the bodies visible and sticking out. The artwork moved me and I shot it with the light to cast shadows on it to heighten the effect.”  Her efforts to trace the student who created this work did not yield results.

"Mind Your Head"

As evident from the show, Mukerjee is enamoured by monuments, especially Jantar Mantar. While “Mind Your Head” literally makes you duck your head to avoid hitting a dangling object while taking the stairs, “Different Shades” depicts the monument’s contrasting hues. “Through The Arch” tempts one to peep to catch a glimpse of what is happening on the other side, “Hide And Seek” shows the nooks and corners of this grand structure. Her “Multiple Dimensions” gives us the view of varied contours of this legendary monument.

"Different Shades"

Sharing that she has clicked Jantar Mantar thousands of times, Mukerjee told India Narrative: “The scenes there look different every hour, every month and every season, all depending on how the light illuminates these wonderful structures at different times. Every visit, I get different forms in different colours and shades. At times it is freshly painted and sometimes it is faded and at times repair and restoration is going on.”

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Mukerjee was awed by Jantar Mantar early in life. “It made a deep impression on me right from the first time I saw it as a kid. I started taking photographs of the place seriously from 1990. It started haunting me. I would be drawn to it every time I was in Delhi or Jaipur and take hundreds of photographs over several hours.”

She has held exhibitions on Jantar Mantar in London in 1992 and in major Indian cities in the late 1990s. One of them adorns the London Guildhall University from where she graduated in Applied Art and Design Studies in Photography.


Besides monuments and symbolism, the mundane and ordinary too catch Mukerjee’s eyes which she presents with a new meaning through her pictures. “Cityscape” gives a three-dimensional image that lays bare the urban sprawl of shanties and houses – the ubiquitous landmark of all metros. Juxtapose this with “Nursery” capturing the greenery around a window, while the glass pane reflects what is in front of the window.


Her penchant for perceiving the normal in a different light is evident in “Nostalgia” and “Fine Balance”. The former shows an old building with remnants of a grand and wide staircase, a balcony with fine artwork which has faded. A place that reverberated with life and laughter lies forlorn. Likewise, “Fine Balance” captures three wooden doors which are shut and walls with peeling plaster, and a huge piece of concrete hanging precariously. A place that had seen better days but now is inching towards its end!

“Nostalgia” is a place bought by an industrialist for making a heritage hotel, informed Mukerjee. “The place had been let out to a film company for shooting and they allowed me to go inside and take a few snaps. When I revisited during the pandemic, the chowkidar refused to let me in,” she revealed to India Narrative.

"No Entry"

Adding an air of mystery to the exhibition are the images “No Entry”, “Collectors’ Piece”, “Secret Mission” and “The Big Picture”. The first shows a rusted door fastened with an equally rusted lock, reinforced with a chord around it while the next one too is in the same league as it portrays two tin doors with chains secured with padlocks. The third image with a bike parked in front of a mysterious looking and run-down structure, lends it a tinge of suspense. According to Mukerjee, all the three are common urban street side scenes and it is the magic of light which transforms them into artistic.

"The Big Picture"

The last image is spell bounding as it shows a high wall with a face painted on it. This face turns captivating as the openings in the wall — gates and windows – let in light. It is an exhibition hall, clicked by the photographer many months after an event had ended there.

"Twinkle Toes"

Mukerjee’s clicking of pictures is an intuitive reaction. “I adore the beauty of form, colour, texture and mystery. When I see these elements, I click,” is how she described the process of capturing such images. Pictures captioned “Twinkle Toes”, “Trapped”, “Distant Thunder” and “Caught In The Net” are fine examples of her intuitive reaction. 

Mala Mukerjee

(The exhibition can be visited on https://iicdelhi.in/online-gallery/fleeting-footprints-light till August 8)