The ‘fanush manush’ of Kolkata, Sachin Kumar Mukherjee has earned his moniker thanks to his passion for making hot air balloons made out of paper. These balloons, called fanush / phanush were once made in every house and happened to be an intrinsic part of the north Kolkata society. The art form may no longer be as popular, nor do families sit together to make these balloons, but that doesn’t mean the art is dead. Though the craze may not be as much as it used to be, the appearance of 76-year-old Sachin Kumar Mukherjee’s balloons always create a furor.
Retired form West Bengal Health Service, Mukherjee lives in Belgachia where the embers of the art form still linger. Talking to indiatimes.com, Mukherjee spoke about how he was inspired by Gouri Shankar Dey, a resident of Darjipara, north Kolkata whose balloons were unmatched in City of Joy. The bug to learn bit him quite early, and by age 13 he had already begun learning.
Differently-shaped with colourful patterns or motifs, the fanush is an integral part of festivals in this part of the city. Made with paper, bamboo sticks and wheat flour paste as glue, the balloon is lit up with the help of a rag dunked in spirit, which is at the base of the balloon.
“People are addicted to smoking or drinking..making fanush is my addiction”, says Mukherjee. While discussing the future of the art form he said, “making fanush takes a lot of time.. making in a hurry can destroy it. Everything is done with hands and there is no use of machine”.
Which is to say that the future looks a dim. Mukherjee rues that today’s generation lacks the patience to watch and learn, let alone sit and practice for hours like he did.
We do too, sir. We do too.