J.J. School of Arts

From PhalkeFactory

The Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art]] --> a young man before an imposing colonial art school

Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art is an Indian applied art institution. Based in Mumbai, this state government run college is the sister institute of the Sir J. J. School of Art. The "J. J." in the name stands for Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the benevolent Parsee philanthropist whose name is linked to numerous historical institutions of Mumbai, such as the Sir J. J. Hospital.


The Sir JJ School of Art has existed since 1857, originally started from the donation of Sir Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy. It has been responsible for imparting quality education of fine arts in India for over one and a half century. But this school faced a life-threatening situation around the beginning of the second world war. As this was a school run by the British Bombay government, its funding came directly from the government. So when the British government was galvanizing its resources for the war that loomed on the horizon, many committees were set up to review excess or useless government expenditure, and divert money instead to the war process. The close scrutiny of one such "Thomas Committee" fell on the Sir JJ School of Art. To the alarm of the school's staff and students, this committee recommended that the school of art be shut down, as it was only contributing to furthering personal talents of artists, and as such was of no use to society in general, especially in those hard times.

That's when the director of the JJ School of Art set out to rectify the situation. The year was 1935, and the JJ School of Art started a new department, called the Commercial Art Section, or the CAS. The objective of this division was to impart all of the necessary training in art to its students, but with an eye on students being able to exploit this training for commercial purposes. A direct contribution of this section was to aid the war-process for the government by designing its propaganda and public awareness posters. This exercise was a huge success. And in the time that followed, the government finally decided to scrap its idea of shutting down the Sir JJ School of Art. The birth and following success of the CAS had indeed saved its mother institute. The students trained at the CAS soon found that they had a considerable demand from the commercial industries of Mumbai (then Bombay), to design publicity material for selling their products and services. Also, the fledging advertising industry lapped up talent from the CAS, creating a set of people who would end up being counted amongst the fathers of Indian advertising.

Soon, the CAS became immensely popular amongst applicants to the Sir JJ School of Art, as it offered a direct means of earning a livelihood to skilled artists who had completed the course. This resulted in an ironic situation, where this small section of the school of art actually started getting more student applications than for the main course of the institute. By this time, India had gained independence. The government which still ran the Sir JJ School of Art, took a decision of far reaching consequences and separated the CAS, creating the independent Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, headed by its first principal (later to be its first dean) Prof. VN Adarkar. Based on the same campus shared with the JJ School of Art, the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art grew on to become Asia's premier Applied Art institute in the decades to follow.


The alumni of the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art read like a who's-who of India's advertising history. The likes of RK Joshi, YT Choudhary, Dr. GM Rege, Bhai Patki, RR Kulkarni, Ramesh Sanzgiri, Arun Kale, Avinash Godbole, Gopi Kukde, Vikas Gaitonde, Sunil Mahadik, Achyut Palav and S.K. Mohanty are all "JJiets", as the students of this institute are called. Right from the legendary VN Adarkar, the institute has been headed over time by various deans. Notable amongst them in recent years being HG Hanmante and MG Rajadhyaksha. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the JJ Institute losing its edge to newer autonomous institutes such as the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. But the fact remains that even today, the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art provides to more than half of the Indian advertising industry's top art talent. There is a widely held belief amongst past professors of the institute, as well as art educationists, that it would be best for the future health of JJ if the state government grants autonomy to the institute. This would clear the way to a much-needed revamp of the quality of teaching and infrastructure, which seem to be currently caught up in a government-run system that is too huge to have a precise focus on the modern day requirements of this legendary institute.


The current course leads on to successful students receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Applied Art degree from the Mumbai University. The total duration of this course is spread out over four years, with the first year referred to as "Foundation", and the later three being referred to as "Specialisation". A student chooses his or her area of major specialization from amongst areas such as Illustration, Photography, Typography, Exhibition Display or Visualization. Over the years, Sir JJ Institute of Applied art has been involved with several important projects of social awareness that include "Know the Five-Year Plan "in the 1950s, "Our Himalayas" during the 1963 Chinese aggression, and the "International Tourist Fair — Bombay" in 1965.

The Kipling connection

The sprawling south-Mumbai campus (opposite VT station) that houses Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, along with the Sir JJ School of Art, Sir JJ College of Architecture and the Government Institute of Printing Technology, is one of the most beautiful areas of Mumbai. Lush with more than a century old trees, it houses numerous heritage buildings. The best of which is the century-and-half-old wood and stone bungalow that is Rudyard Kipling's birthplace. An ornate metal plaque at the entrance of this house proclaims "Rudyard Kipling, son of Lockwood Kipling, first principal of Sir JJ School of Art, was born here on 30.12.1865." Traditionally the home of the deans for both the Sir JJ School of Art and Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, this identically-split-bungalow attracts numerous Kipling-entusiasts from all over the world. For decades now, the Kipling side of the bungalow has been the official Dean's Residence of the dean of Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art. During the tenure of the last residing dean, Prof. MG Rajadhyaksha, a bust of Rudyard Kipling was also unveiled at the entrance to this bungalow as homage to the legendary writer/poet of works such as The Jungle Book and If. As one walks through the lovely little wooded lanes of the campus, it's very easy to visualize what must have inspired young Rudyard to fall in love with the India he grew up seeing here.