THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At first, it sounded like an odd choice to depict Shyama Madhavam, the verse poem of Prabha Varma, as murals. It was considered odd due to the inherent limitations of mural art when it comes to capturing the expressions and complex situations that the poet used to portray Lord Krishna as humane and remorseful. However, the three artists — Baburaj Elankur, P V Narayanan Kutty Malappuram and Vinod Pookkolathur- were looking for a literary work to showcase their talent.
Murals are like the two-dimensional depiction of ‘daru shilpams’, or wooden sculpture found in temples. It has an inherent limitation in expressing emotions. In Shyama Madhavam, Krishna encounters various characters in Mahabharatham and goes through an introspection via the intensly emotional conversations with them. He meets Karna, Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Panchali, Radha and finally the hunter who mistakenly kills him. Apart from the emotional scenes, the colour combinations allowed in mural art presented a challenge for the artists. Only five basic colours - red ochre, yellow, green, blue and black are allowed in murals. “The paintings are the result of the effect Prabha Varma’s work had on us. We chose select scenes that suit our requirement from the poet’s work,” said Baburaj.
A large painting that depicts Radha’s devotion for Krishna shows the mastery of Baburaj in using the technique without compromising the core framework of the art. It shows Radha walking a ‘temporary bridge’ to reach Krishna while others slip from it. The scene has Lord playing his flute in the night. Unlike other murals, no moon has been painted to show the time. Artists have used light shades for the moonlight and painted the characters without jewellery.
“It is the most important scene of Shyama Madhavam. That is why we decided to use a larger canvas though it is difficult to transport and maintain,” said Baburaj.
The three artists exhibited 32 paintings from 13 chapters of the poet’s magnum opus at the art gallery in Vyloppilli Samskrithi Bhavan. These include Krishnayanam, Dwarakavartham, Karnathapam, Dharma Sangaranam, Mathruvakyam, Dharmadukham, Radhika Dandakam, Radha Madhavam, Aranya Krishnan, Jnana Krishnan, Chaya Krishnan, Ananda Krishnan and Shayama Madhavam.