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Monday, July 23, 2001

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Lines that speak

"PONNIYIN SELVAN'', Kalki's legendary novel does not require illustrations. As you read the story, Kalki simply transports you to the Chola period of over a thousand years ago purely through his descriptions," declares A. V. Ilango. He had read it years ago and re-read it several times before commencing the job of illustrating the classic.

'Line for a Legend', an exhibition of original drawings and paintings based on the illustrations for Kalki's "Ponniyin Selvan'' by Ilango will be held at the Russian Cultural Centre on July 23 and 24 from 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. On the second day, there will be a slide show and a lecture between 11.00 a.m. and 12.00 noon. From July 25 to August 10, the show will move to The Forum, Plaza Centre (129, G.N.Chetty Road, Chennai-600006) from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

According to Shalini Biswajit, who is organising the show at The Forum, the paintings based on Ilango's sketches bring out the artist's individuality and sensibility, the expressions are wholesome and give a feeling of artistic fulfilment.

The colours are vibrant and the lines, both in the drawings and the paintings, portray the animations, be it a scene of quite conversation, fighting between two warriors or a folk dance.

"Ponniyin Selvan" which was first serialised in Kalki several decades ago, still draws readers whenever published (once in few years) in the magazine. Its historical backdrop, interesting characters and political intrigues continue to fascinate readers. When first published in Kalki, the story was illustrated by Manian, who had his own fan following. But when it was translated into English a few years back and published by MacMillan, Ilango was asked to do the illustrations. A self-taught artist, who also teaches mathematics at the Madras Medical College, Ilango considers himself very fortunate to have illustrated a great novelist's work. "I became a part of the story while drawing the characters and scenes".

Ilango has also done the illustrations for the English version of 'Silappadikaram-Manimekalai', which contained several colour paintings. For this book the choice of illustrations was left to him, while for "Ponniyin Selvan" there were suggestions from the publisher and the translator, Mr. Karthik Narayan.

Usually Ilango's lines are somewhat rugged; but he had to make some compromises to bring about the various characters of the story and use slightly smoother, minimised lines. All the 135 drawings in Kalki's story were done in black ink using a broomstick instead of a brush. This has given the lines a special character and enabled the artist to depict various emotions aptly.

Did Manian's illustrations have any impact on his work? "Not really," says Ilango. "I did adopt some ideas like the headgears of the male characters like Pazhuvettariar and I also referred to the photos taken by V.K.Rajamani of the Chola paintings at the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur".

Ilango, who draws inspiration from folk arts and rural life, does not draw the eyeball for any character but the outline itself brings out the emotions effectively; he has used the diamond-like shape of a 'Kannadakkam', the silver piece used on the eyes of goddesses in Tamil Nadu temples.

How does he like illustrating stories? "I do enjoy it; but it has its limitations. Still I plan to do similar work later on for Tamil poetry and literature," says Ilango.


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