CHENNAI: In May 23, the internet went abuzz with a video of a speeddrawing of Anand Mahindra, created completely using 741 characters in ancient Tamil. Sharing the video with his nine million-plus followers, the businessman and philanthropist appreciated the effort and expressed his interest in displaying the artwork in his house to the artist. Way down south in the city of Kanchipuram, the artist, S Ganesh, found himself at a loss of words with this response.
“I really didn’t think he would respond. Only a like or comment would have been enough. But he retweeted it — that too, in Tamil! — and even expressed interest in not just buying it but also keeping it within his house,” he shares. The artist was inspired to create the portrait of Mahindra when he saw the news of the latter gifting a new house to Tamil Nadu’s 85-year-old ‘Idli Amma’. But this is not the first time Ganesh’s work has made it to the Twitter feed of hundreds.
Ambitions and novelty
Ganesh has been as artist since a very young age. Back then, he would create pencil drawings and images with scrap items. “I wanted to do something different that would get appreciated. I continued to do art during college and even then, I would do extremely well in my crafts subject because I was more interested in it. But I realised that nearly everyone is an artist and that I had to try something different to turn heads towards my work,” Ganesh explains. After college, he began sketching with charcoal for friends and family, initially for free. It was only when friends encouraged him to sell his works as gift options did he create a small business of them. But this still was not enough, income or recognition-wise.
A dreamer, Ganesh began experimenting with different mediums to stand out from the rest of the competition. It was then that he came across videos of artists carving Tamil letters into pencils. “I wanted to try something new. So, I Googled about ancient Tamil characters — there are 741 of them — and began using those in my artwork. I created an image of Thiruvalluvar and wanted to submit it to India Book of Records but did not know there was a fee to apply. Thus, I decided to rather gift it to someone and since the chief minister is so fond of his mother tongue, I thought he would be the right person to receive this,” Ganesh explains.
Grabbing eyes, turning heads
With this goal in mind, Ganesh posted the work on Twitter, tagging the chief minister. He had no expectations of recognition but why not give it a try? People laughed when he told them of his plans but all doubts came to rest when the chief minister not only saw the tweet but also reposted it. “I had just finished a shift, come home and fallen asleep. I didn’t even know he had responded. When I woke up at 4 am, I saw it along with several calls and messages from my friends and media.
I didn’t know what to even write as a reply. My hands were shaking and my eyes were filled with tears; I cried that for all that I had done, I finally got recognition,” Ganesh shares. Six days after this exchange, he, along with his father and mother, found himself meeting chief minister MK Stalin to present the artwork.
Soon after this exchange, Ganesh also received his entry in the India Book of Records, thanks to TN Anbarasan’s friend’s help. Ever since, the artist has created artworks for various people, including MLAs, ministers and just regular customers.
Waiting to kickstart
However, despite being showered with love and recognition, business has been slow-moving for Ganesh. Every month only brings in two or three drawing commissions and he is largely reliant on his full-time job to pay the bills. But his dream is to find an artistic career where he can use these skills. “When you like the job that you are doing, you work harder at it. Currently, I am only doing this as a passion, a hobby but I really want a job in arts,” he says.
Even with few commissions in hand, Ganesh is still diligent when it comes to art, even skipping sleep in the process. “I do my art in my free time. After the eight hours I spend at the company — that pays the bills — I try to find something to draw. I won’t sleep much. Sometimes, I will get an order the night before the day they need it. In that case, I stay up all night to finish it, deliver it and then make my way to work,” he explains.
While he awaits an opportunity in arts, Ganesh is thinking of his next great step. He has managed to make his space and find recognition within India and now, it’s time for him to take on the world.