CHENNAI : "Lettering isn't just about the shapes or designs. It's also about emotions. The art of lettering has the power to evoke these emotions," begins font engineer Tharique Azeez of Tamil Typography, as he discusses how he has been celebrating the richness of the Tamil script through custom lettering, calligraphy and type designs.
While his lettering journey started almost two decades ago, he traces his love for hand-drawn typography to his childhood. "The Tamizh book covers from the 60s, 70s and 80s had a certain charm.
There were different hand-drawn, handwritten typefaces or designs that were being used. But, with digitisation, the variations dwindled. Be it anthology, non-fiction or any other genre, the types used looked the same.
When I witnessed this typographic monotony in Tamizh books and also resources online, instead of complaining about it, I decided to create,” shares the artist behind the Pavanam, Kavivanar and Neythal types.
"Neythal, an authentic handwriting type which combines a mischievous spirit and cheerful style got me (the type) featured in the official video song of Shoot the Kuruvi from Jil Jung Juk (2016). The idea is to provide a richer and authentic showcase to Tamil typography by creating one letter at a time. Tamizh is beautiful and while preserving the traditionality of the script, we have to drive it into the perpetually expanding landscape, making it more amenable, expressive and decorative," explains Tharique, whose page on Instagram has over 24,000 followers.
Portrait to popularity
In 2019 and 2020, Tharique's Tamizh typography-based portrait works of music composer AR Rahman caught the attention of the maestro himself and was widely shared by his fans. "These were wonderful moments. In a larger context, it is a recognition not just for my works but for Tamizh itself. This draws a lot of attention to the fact that we need more expressive and diversified types - ones that will evoke sentiments," he says, adding that legibility too becomes a deciding factor of a good type.
"I enjoy exploring new styles and experimenting. For instance, I might integrate an Arabic style in the Tamizh forms. But, I ensure that the style doesn’t hinder the legibility of the lettering/word. So, though you break the rules, you just give it a sense of a new identity. When there is a new idea and identity, it gives scope for future generations to see different typefaces," he says, emphasising the importance of Indian types where regional needs too are addressed.
With more brands and businesses now focusing on integrating native languages to promote their ideas and products, Tharique predicts a golden future for regional typographers and the Indian type community.
"Language and scripts have become essential in reaching people. From content to logos, everything is slowly becoming local and native. Trilingual and bilingual logos, designs and typography are being preferred. In the future, I would like to see song lyrical videos integrating more Tamil letterforms, brands giving it its due and celebrating the language," he shares.
Wisdom in workshops
Tharique also conducts cohort-based online Tamizh lettering workshops called 'Varai Tamil'. "I believe in this Latin phrase: Docendo discimus' (by teaching, we learn). Through my workshops, I want to share my knowledge and inspire a generation to carry the art form forward. When you imitate, you learn and when you innovate, you earn. So my workshops explore the tenets of imitation, innovation and the most importantly - consistency," he adds.
Recently, the calligrapher began sharing video snippets of Tamizh homophones, explaining their sounds, different meanings and grammar. "Many of us may be native Tamizh speakers and yet not know the correct pronunciation or meanings. So through this initiative, I have embarked on a journey to explain the correct form of the words, educate, share the love for the language and celebrate it," he concludes.
To explore more about Tamizh types, visit Instagram page @Tamiltypography