THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The portrait of artist Namboodiri - clad in ruffled kurta and mundu, greying hair and spectacles that fail to hide the glitter in his eyes - is something deep etched in every art-loving Malayali’s mind.
For someone who has gone through many enriching phases and witnessed the evolution of Malayalam literature and art, Namboodiri says that reading stories to illustrate characters was a tough task.
“True that there were stories I enjoyed reading. But, as a part of work many times it was a tough job. Drawing for novels was tougher,” says Namboodiri to whom the adjective artist is more like a synonym.
He was conversing with a packed audience at a function organised by H&C Readers Forum to honour the legendary artist who turns 90 in September, in Kochi the other day.
The artist who travelled along with the beginning and transition of many celebrated writers in Malayalam like M T Vasudevan Nair, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, P C Kuttikrishnan aka Uroob and VKN to name a few, says drawing for MT’s ‘Randamoozham’ was challenge for him.
“MT told me that the book is about a human being. But, I thought things would change if I portray historical characters like Bheeman or Sreeraman like human beings,”, says the artist recollecting his tenure in ‘Mathrubhumi’ during which he had to do illustrations for many literary works that appeared in the publication.
“Unlike in the start, I later began to avoid detailing, like when I drew a hand, I omitted unwanted ‘details’ like fingers,” he adds.
Namboodiri is a ‘drop out’ from the Thaikkattu Mooss family, traditionally engaged in Ayurveda practice where his father took him to learn Ayurveda.
“After a few classes there I realised that it was not my cup of tea and I left. The next available option at that time was to become a cook. But, acquaintance with Krishnan Namboodiri of Varikkassery Mana took me to Madras School of Arts under KCS Panicker. Krishnan Namboodiri had joined the school a year ago,” Namboodiri recollected. Namboodiri wrote the test for entrance and got double promotion. After completing a three-year course in Applied Art, Panicker asked Namboodiri to join for a six-year course in Fine Arts which he quit after a year. Then came writer N V Krishna Warrier’s invitation to join Mathrubhumi which Namboodiri accepted with apprehension.
“But artist M V Devan instilled courage in me and made me believe in myself,” Namboodiri says.
The painter and illustrator, whose aesthetic developed seeing sculptures in Sukapuram temple near his house at Ponnani, says that the best sculptures in the world are “our Daru sculptures and the greatest art form in the world is Carnatic music, I am a assertive on that”.
Namboodiri doesn’t have the common thought that he has ‘seen much’ but says instead that “I don’t feel that I am old. I remember of my age only when people ask me”.