Book Review: Amrita and Victor

Author: Ashwini Bhatnagar

In a single phrase, if I have to describe the book, it’s, ‘a sheer piece of literary brilliance!

The story is a biographical memoir of an artist par excellence, Amrita Sher-Gil. Most of her artwork is iconic and reeks of individualistic perception of the world around her especially India. Amrita loved color, and that’s evident in how the splashes on her canvas took their own form. Despite being unconventional in all her ways, Amrita soon emerged as the most celebrated painter of her time.

What attracts the reader further is the megalomaniac-like personality traits Amrita exhibits. She was a rebel with a larger-than-life personality. Not just with her art but also in her personal life. She didn’t believe in fidelity. Her colourful escapades with both men and experimentation with women have been interspersed throughout the story. Such was her persona that even the then-Indian Congress head Jawaharlal Nehru was left bedazzled.

She was in a relationship with her first cousin Victor and eventually married him despite parental and social opposition, given the blood relationship. Her death under mysterious circumstances remains unresolved to date. Whether it was a botched termination of pregnancy or whether she was intervened late because of Victor, a doctor himself, who dragged his heels instead of seeking another opinion before it was too late, the mystery remains…

The obituary given by Nehru and Sarojini Naidu upon her passing throws light on the kind of impact Amrita had on everyone around her. Her flamboyance was addictive, be it art or person. Her careless approach to pertinent aspects of life may be attributed to her conflicted upbringing in a mixed-racial household. Nonetheless, she was a beauty who stuck to her convictions till her last breath.

The author has brought together an amalgamation of well-researched viewpoints from those close to Amrita. His language is par excellence and as a reader, I am still reeling in the paroxysms of literary delight hours after finishing the book!


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