The Singhi Park Durga Puja in South Kolkata is one of the most popular puja pandals in the city. Every year, it draws huge crowds and is a must-see on people’s pandal itineraries. This year, however, the crowd is even bigger. And what draws them in is the theme of the pandal puja, the creations of iconic Bengali artist and writer, Narayan Debnath.
Bengalis have grown up reading comics about the antics of Nontey-Phontey, Handa-Bhonda and Batul The Great. This year, the famous and timeless characters, created by the award-winning artist, are highlighted in the pandal. And people just can’t get enough of it.
In the pandal, you can see the mischievous Handa taking a quickie on Bhonda, the broad-chested but clumsy Bantul the Great (who was inspired by bodybuilder Manohar Aich), and the antics of Nonte Phontey whose stories were set in a boarding school. . You can see a bull chasing Nontey and (just like in the comics) she’s climbed up a utility pole, holding on for dear life. People stop to take selfies with this 3D model figure. Another popular model is Batul the Great taking a selfie. Even Durga’s idol has a portion of Debnath’s works on it. Shaach (ornamentations). The entry points to the pandal look like an open comic, to give the feeling that one is entering Debnath’s study.
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“We brought his most famous characters to the pandal in 3D and 2D models. Artist Mithun Dutta has worked on these life-size models, recreating the characters exactly the way Debnath used to draw them,” says Avijit Majumder, Secretary General of Singhi Park bids. In those days, artists used India ink and a pen that drew thick and thin lines. We have tried to recreate that effect.
Majumder says that the aim of the pandal theme was to reflect the spirit of Debnath’s works. “He always wanted to make people laugh with his stories, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. He always wanted to make people laugh with his stories, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.” Lokera dekhchhi khoob anondo pachhey (We can see that people are having a lot of fun),” he says. “Kids, teens, and seniors (who still have a child inside of them) — they all love the theme.”
The pandal has even used special lighting arrangements from Chandannagar to recreate popular Western cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse.
Debnath, who passed away in January 2022, received the Padma Shri, the Sahitya Akademi award, and was also awarded an honorary DPhil. An integral part of Bengali childhood for decades, his lovable comic strip characters include the duo Handa and Bhonda, Bantul the Great and Nonte-Phontey.
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“At the time, when his cartoons first debuted, the cartoons available to us were from abroad (mostly from the West),” says Majumder. “The local cartoon scene was absent. He created the comic strip characters of himself watching the neighborhood kids.” Thus was born Nontey-Phontey, Handa-Bhonda and his antics.
How to get there: Singhi Park is located on Dover Lane, near the Gariahat Police Station in South Kolkata. The area has many cafes and restaurants where you can stop by for some snacks and drinks.