Sunil Janah’s images of the Bengal Famine of 1943 gave the world the first look at the man-made catastrophe which the British overlords of India had tried so hard to hide. The lines of emaciated people waiting for food, groups of skeletons, hungry dogs gnawing at human bones, images were made into postcards and sent around the world to raise funds.
Janah was a faithful Communist Party member who used his camera to reflect the truth of the people, the truth of an India in the throes of development. Expelled from the Communist Party of India in 1947, Janah opened a studio. In 1949, he founded the Calcutta Film Society with, among others, the filmmaker Satyajit Ray, who designed Janah’s first book of photographs, ‘The Second Creature’.
At Kolkata’s Experimenter Gallery, the black and white images reflect the reconstruction of India, of the creation and architecture of a modern industrial state, secure in the truth of its basic self-sufficiency, as it speaks about the fundamentals of a collective energy in the building of modern India. The dramatic vitality of image and at the same time poignant fragility of light and shade, makes every picture a masterpiece that reflects a recent memory in world history, one where a subjugated state liberated itself to become free from bondage, and then struggled to build an economic structure that lived up to its young idealism.