THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On the trail of Ravi Varma paintings, Parsram Mangharam travelled the length and breadth of the country at the age of 63. Through the three-year-long journey in a Maruthi 800 car, never once was his spirit thwarted as so dedicated he was on the mission. At the end of the journey, he brought out a volume on a collection of paintings titled ‘Raja Ravi Varma- The Painter Prince’ having the photographs of 206 works of Ravi Varma in 2002. While talking about the great expedition, he recalls, “It was of course a great challenge as nobody exactly knew where many of his paintings were. I was accompanied by two photographers and a driver. We visited palaces, galleries and met people and travelled to wherever a painting of Ravi Varma was rumoured to be there.” Mangharam was recently in the city to inaugurate a photo exhibition organised in connection with the 90th birthday of the titular head of Travancore royal family Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma.
Though Mangharam was so passionate about the works of Ravi Varma, it was Marthanda Varma, who prompted him to release the collection as a book. “It was only due to his motivation that I thought of releasing the book. A part of the profit gained by selling the copies was spent to restore the murals at the Padmanabha Swamy Temple here,” he says.
Mangharam used to hear about Raja Ravi Varma from people at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad where he was one of the trustees about 15 years ago. Later, he came to Thiruvananthapuram where he got to see the paintings of Ravi Varma in the Sri Chitra Art Gallery. After publishing the collection, he did another work ‘Raja Ravi Varma- The Most Celebrated Painter’ containing illustrations and narrations of Ravi Varma paintings.
“Raja Ravi Varma is a man to be remembered forever. Such a pious and dedicated artist he was. He even completed a full scale painting in three days,” Mangharam says. According to his statistics, Ravi Varma has done more than 7000 works altogether, that comprises paintings, sketches and the like.
“He is the man who familiarised us with the images of goddesses like Lakshmi and Saraswathy that became models for all such paintings. In my second work I have narrated the story behind them,” he adds.
Mangharam found a majority of the paintings from the Baroda Palace (36), Kowdiar Palace (20) and from the personal collection of A C Muthiah in Chennai (23). Son of Mangharam Jivandas, who established the biscuit manufacturing company J B Mangharam and company, the septuagenarian also looks after the family business.