Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once

Special Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once
Noor Jahan Ansari, 15, at her home in Vijay Nagla village, Badaun district, northern India, on Oct. 30, 2022, with her 15 portraits of Indian anticolonial leaders drawn at once. (AN Photo/Noor Jahan Ansari)
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Updated 07 November 2022

Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once

Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once
  • Video showing Noor Jahan Ansari, 15, at work made rounds on social media last week 
  • Portraits include Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Lakshmi Bai and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

NEW DELHI: When she started preparing to draw at once 15 portraits of India’s most important anti-colonial leaders, Noor Jahan Ansari knew she was up to something big, but the social fame she has since received was not expected.

Last week, the 15-year-old artist from Vijay Nagla village of Badaun district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, released a short clip showing her cast a 15-window wooden frame with 15 pencils onto a big canvas.

As seconds passed in the timelapse video, 15 faces emerged, including the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India, Mahatma Gandhi; Queen Lakshmi Bai, who led India’s first war of independence; Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who led the drafting of the Constitution of India; and the nationalist revolutionary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Tens of millions of people have watched the clip as it made the rounds on social media. Prominent industrialist and car manufacturer Anand Mahindra shared the two-minute video on Twitter saying it was a “miracle.”

But the young artist does not see it this way.

“It’s not a miracle but lots of hard work,” she told Arab News.

“There has been constant attention on me from the media and public in general ever since people saw the video on social media.”

Some questioned the credibility of Ansari’s achievement as they doubted the possibility of painting 15 portraits simultaneously in such a short time.

Yet the time was not short. The process shown in the girl’s two-minute video, in reality, took her months.

“The social media video shows me finishing the project in two minutes, but the fact is that I have been practicing it for the last year, and it took me over two months to finish the simultaneous portraits of 15 people,” she said.

“Through practice and effort, I managed to achieve the feat…I want to make India proud through my artwork.”

Known as Noor Jahan Artist in her village, she has been supported by her parents who run a tailoring shop in Vijay Nagla and encourage her to pursue her passion.

The inspiration to create simultaneous portraits came from a video she saw on the internet in which a painter drew five portraits at the same time.

The viral 15 portraits were not her first entry into the art scene, and her skills had already been noticed earlier this year by the India Art Federation, an online organization that gives a platform to budding artists.

“In January this year, I participated in a competition organized by the India Art Federation, which connected me with this platform. Since then, it has been a good journey,” Ansari said.

“The online platform commissions me to do some paintings and I get money for doing that, which helps me support the family and supplements my father’s income.”

Demand for Ansari’s work has jumped since last month.

Jyoti Rawal, co-founder of the India Art Federation, told Arab News the platform has been receiving calls from India and abroad with queries about the price of the 15 simultaneous portraits.

“We are holding back the decision to sell those portraits,” she said, adding that Ansari has broken all records with her video receiving over 38 million views.  

“Noor Jahan has got a path now to follow, and she can choose her way. It’s up to her to grow now. She has a platform where she can shine and excel.”