Cinema Motif by Nobo Kumar. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Art work

Nobo Kumar  took up painting banners for cinema halls with his father, in 1982. His neighbor Sitesh Sur, discovered that he has a natural sense of colors and persuaded him towards rickshaw painting. He is as Nobo calls him “ustad” or “mentor”. He started painting on different medium like rickshaw plates, frames, clay pots etc. 

He followed the cinema motif initially with scenes from the movie or actors and actresses in action but later on he used animal and bird figures with vibrate colors in order to amuse the viewers.

In 1999, director of Alliance Francaise de Dhaka. France Lasnier put a proposition in front of Nobo. He asked him to make a couple of pictures for him. Nobo then was offered a job a staff in Alliance Francaise de Dhaka. Nobo had to take care of his family of five; he did not hesitate and took the offer. France Lasnier before leaving Dhaka organized a rare exhibition of rickshaw paint with 83 rickshaw painters of the country. That was Nobo Kumar’s first exhibition of his life.

He did not continue much of his art for ten long years. He rather concentrated in his work that earned bread to the family, but soon he realized that his heart wanted to go back to painting and he started saving penny by penny.

In 2010, he proposed the then director of Alliance Francaise de Dhaka Jacque Bunu, an idea of his solo exhibition. The director not only approved the request but also supported him with brochures and banners. Like another feather on the hat, Nobo Kumar Bhadra had his first solo exhibition.

His enthusiasm reached sky high and he bought painting plates with his savings and prepared for his 2nd solo exhibition. In 2013 his solo exhibition took place in La Gallerie of Alliance Francaise de Dhaka. With much media coverage and reports, Nobo Kumar Bhadra was a name everyone could associate when it came to Rickshaw art. In May, 2016 he held his 3rd solo exhibition named “Summer Colours” in Alliance Francaise de Dhaka.He also took part in group exhibitions in the National Museum of Banglafesh and Shilpokala Academy.

 Colour Palate of Nobo Kumar. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Enamel paints used for Rickshaw paint. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Movie depiction "Bhoyongkor Raja". Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Newspaper article of Nobo Kumar. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

A corner of the room dedicated for his art. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Daily Star reports on Nobo Kumar.

New Age article on Nobo Kumar;s exhibition

Daily Janakantha on Nobo Kumar Bhadra. 


Nobo Kumar Bhadra’s regular artworks usually involve portrayal of commercial cinema culture of Bangladesh of a certain time period which took a shift towards drawing animals in 2013.He uses vibrant colors to attract attention, he even alters the original colors of his subjects, usually bright ones to make them stand out more and make people wonder.

Nobo Kumar's painting: Action hero Masud Rana in "SodorGhater Kuli", Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Bangla movie scene depiction. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Actors and actresses can be found in versatile actions in his artworks, influenced by his days of making banners for cinema. There are several distinctions of actions on the basis of gender in his cinema related artworks which are also common in other rickshaw artworks by other artists. The actors look either grumpy, violent, hit hard by their cinematic life of hardship or fueled up to take revenge on their enemies with weapons in his hand and his beloved by his side. Actresses are usually in their seductive attire and facial expressions with striking portrayal of their voluptuous figure consciously made by the artist, rightfully illustrating the usual body structures of popular Bangladesh cinema actresses of a definitive time period which has changed in present times. The skin tone of the actors and actresses are generally reddish which indicates extremeness. Patriarchal dominance and vulnerability of the females as a collective are common motifs in his and other’s rickshaw artworks.

Animals ponder in his fantasy world. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Comparatively, the artworks related to animals have a different coloring pattern and its subjects illustrate different actions. Birds, lions, tigers are the familiar subjects in this setting. Nobo Kumar gets colorful with the animals as the subjects are not as limited as the cinema related ones and the sceneries behind the animals facilitates the artist to make the art livelier. In terms of action, they lack intensity which the cinema ones had in abundance.

Animals in human form. Skecth by Nobo Kumar. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Nobo's Birds. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Lone Owl. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

The kingfisher. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Unfinished rickshaw plate. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith


Nobo Kumar’s philosophy of his art work is rather simple.  As he started his journey painting cinema banners, the same motif dominates in his rickshaw art as well. He specially like how children react to his art when he colors an elephant pink or a tiger blue. He also brings about local and fictional story to his art. 

Scooters in paint. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith
Other craft made to make a living. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Paint on Clay plate. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Rickshaw paint on fabric. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith

Future Plan 

Nobo Kumar has worked on rickshaw plates, clay plates and pots, now he wants to show his art skill in different canvases such as sharees, dresses and other traditional cloths of Bangladesh.He wants to arrange an exhibition in every year. He also wishes to work outside the country to represent the traditional art of Bangladesh to the world. He regrets that although there were many rickshaw artists with whom he started, digital art has taken the spot and the artists are also decreasing in number. If the trend continues then soon rickshaw painting will be a lost art. Nobo Kumar Bhadra wants to bring this tradition back. He continues to paint beside his job.

Tireless hands of Nobo Kumar. Photograph: Farhan Tanvir Rafith