Kamala Surayya, still fondly known as Madhavikutty, had a nonchalance about her when it came to dealing with touchy subjects revolving around female sexuality and patriarchal society. For the same reason, harsh criticism was a part of her literary career. Her life too was a bland mix of tedious loveless existence. Kamala Surayya, in the end, became a stoic image of herself, quite different from the vibrant character she portrays herself as in her novels.
The vibrancy of her characters, as portrayed in her novels Balyakala Smaranakal and Neermathalam Pootha Kaalam has been brought to life by artist C R Ravi.
Twenty-three paintings on Kamala Surayya, from her childhood, as written by her, till her transformation into a pious Muslim woman, have been etched on canvas by the artist. A few excerpts from her novels which have made lasting impressions on the minds of readers were picked up by the artist. “I was quite inspired by the part wherein she applies turmeric to lighten her skin tone. So I captured that and made it into a painting in which she is seen applying turmeric and her friend is helping her,” explains Ravi.
Ravi came up with the idea to portray Kamala Surayya, based on her novels three years ago. He then travelled to her native home Nalapat and made a sketch of it. Later, after her death, a young engineer approached Ravi for two portraits of Kamala Surayya and that was the boost he needed, after which he started creating these paintings one by one.
“Cherappan, the bangle seller, and her relationship with him and how she sits in awe at how little this man has changed when she went through a sea of changes is something that has touched me the most. Which is why I decided to give colour to this particular portion as well,” says Ravi, pointing at the painting.
The works were exhibited at Kozhikode recently, and the artist is now planning to take it to Kochi so that Kamala Surayya’s sister Sulochana Nalapat can also see the works.