Meet the 93-year old man behind India's Statue of Unity!Nov 02, 2018
Ram Sutar, 93, is the sculptor behind the magnificent 522ft Statue of Unity of Sardar Patel and also the 400ft Chhatrapati statue in Mumbai.
As a young-adult, Ram Sutar had been fixated by the Statue of Liberty in USA, not just by what it meant, but also by how tall it stood on the Liberty Island. Since then, the sculptor had known that he wanted to dwarf Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s Liberty statue, which stands at 305ft.
Now at 93, his lifelong ambition has been fulfilled this week, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Sardar Patel’s ‘Statue of Unity’ on an island near Sardar Sarovar Dam. For Mr Sutar, it is a proud moment, as he says ‘It is almost double the size of the Liberty Statue in Liberty Island, USA’ while sitting in his Noida studio which he fondly calls a ‘statue factory’. This is because people can see gigantic fiberglass statue models popping out the busy studio.
Sutar was already known as India’s tallest sculptor for his work on Chhatrapati statue in Mumbai, even before he was commissioned for Sardar Patel statue back in 2014. To his credit, the sculptor has over 800 statues created, primarily in bronze over a seven-decade career. Melia Belli Bose, who works as an assistant professor of Asian art history at the University of Texas at Arlington, commented about Sutar in her interview to the New York Times, as: “It is impossible to know if he’s the most prolific monumental sculptor in human history, but if he’s not, he must to be pretty close. He’s certainly the most prolific of the last century [that we know of],”
Sutar admits that not all achievements have come easy. He notes that the Statue of Unity is by far the toughest project he has undertaken. To his collection, his tallest statue was a 45 feet ‘Goddess Chambal’ in Madhya Pradesh back in 1959. “Getting the personality, the pose, the facial expressions, drapery right is a formidable challenge when you design a 522 feet statue,” he said. “Every muscle has to be sculpted finely with the right texture,” he added noting that it took a year to create the final model of the late leader’s statue.
Anil Sutar, 61, son of Ram Sutar, also a sculptor and an architect, said that the statue started as a 3 feet model at his father’s studio, which was enlarged to an 18 feet clay model, later to a 30 feet clay model. All this was enlarged to a thermocol model using the help of 3D imaging.
While the sculptor designed in his Noida studio, it was sent to a foundry in China to cast it in bronze. “About 177 tonnes of bronze was used in casting the statue,” notes Anil Sutar. The father and son duo has made numerous trips to China in the last three years to supervise the making of the final model and the casting in bronze. This was later shipped to Gujarat at the site and assembled.
Anil replies to critics questioning the need to make the casting in China that though his foundry in Sahibabad can handle nearly 10 tonnes of casting in bronze, no foundry in the country has the capacity to cast a statue of this scale. “In China, they have the tradition of casting 400 feet Buddha statues, and have big foundries,” which was much needed to cast a statue of this mammoth size in such a short time.
Despite the statue’s immense news coverage, Sutar is familiar that not all coverage surrounding the statue to be positive. But he confesses that he hopes that the Statue of Unity, would one day unify his compatriots in glorifying the late leader who was formative in the country’s unification post-independence. When questioned about the astronomical cost that this project had incurred in a country of large pockets of poor people, he quips, Taj Mahal wouldn’t have been a possibility if the makers worried about costs. Whether critics and people would agree with Sutar – this is a herculean task, one only time and his sculptor would be part of.