KOCHI: Artist Ashanthan (Mahesh V K) passed away at a private hospital here early on Wednesday morning, aged 50. He was rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack. The cremation was held at Edappally crematorium in the evening. Asanthan is survived by wife Molly.Hailing from Ponekkara here, Ashanthan had won several accolades including the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Award. A long line of mourners from all walks of life paid homage to the deceased at the Durbar Hall Art Centre where his body was kept for the public to pay their last respects. Later, the condolence meeting held at the centre was attended by Kerala Lalithakala Akademi secretary Ponniam Chandran; art critic M L Johny; artist Kaladharan and CPM District Secretary P Rajeev among others.
Art aficionados said Ashanthan’s works communicated with the audience easily. He was very much engaged in painting even a day before his sudden death. Though he was born into an indigent family, his inborn talent helped him to pursue a career in painting. After completing matriculation from Kunnumpuram School, he joined Bharatmatha College. However, he was not able to complete his studies due to financial constraints. Later, realising painting is his calling Ashanthan joined Nandan master’s ‘Chithrashailam’.
After studying painting for four years at ‘Chithrashailam’, Ashanthan joined the same institution as a teacher. He worked there for nearly 10 years. Later, he devoted his entire time to painting. He staged various painting exhibitions within and outside the state. However, Ashanthan never wanted to use his talent to make money. His friends said since he never went in pursuit of money, he always suffered from financial constraints. Literature also interested him and he had even worked as a librarian at Friends’ Library.
Protest from temple authorities
Akademi secretary Ponniam Chandran said the Temple Committee members of the Shiva Temple near the Durbar Hall Art gallery had protested against the Akademi’s move to keep Ashantan’s body at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery.
“A group of Temple Committee members told us they will not allow the body to be kept at the gallery which is located on the eastern side of the temple. They said the temple is being closed after the festivities and the body cannot be kept on the eastern side. They even tore down the flex hoardings of Ashanthan. The councillor of Ernakulam South Division was also with them. Later, the police came and we were asked to take the body through the northern gate,” said Chandran.
Meanwhile, K V P Krishnakumar, the division councillor, said the situation was handled smoothly by the police. “Since it is a sensitive and emotional issue involving the believers devotees, we needed to tackle it without hurting anyone’s sentiments. The devotees voiced their apprehensions and the Akademi members defended their stance. As a division councillor, I tried to solve the issue amicably,” he said.