Trotsky Marudu, a pioneer in line drawing, animation and computer graphics, shares his experiences and interests

Trotsky Marudu thinks ahead. More than 25 years ago, he explored his artistic potential on the computer. “I did traditional animation work before 1987,” says Marudu. “As I was interested in animation and computer graphics, I started collecting magazines that carried articles on that subject. In one such magazine I read the article ‘Computer and artist friend’, which opened new horizons.”

After a three-month struggle he came to terms with the tools and did an animation job. “I used that money to buy computer. At that time its cost was around Rs.27 lakhs,” he says. During the early 1990s he started using vacuum tablets for his graphics work.

Marudu has written many articles on his relationship with the new technology and he has excelled in the field of animation and computer graphics, but he is better known for his line drawings and contemporary art. “Line drawing is the skeleton of a painting,” he says. “It is the basis. We have a great tradition in line drawing. In our Indian art scenario, Ajantha, Chithanna Vaasal and Chola murals are all expression art. Luckily, for animation you need a strong line. To become an animator you have to be a good student to study the movement of animals and objects like how a paper flies in air or how a bird flies. You should know about their locomotion. It will help you to express in line. Once you do that it is the biggest strength. Even an abstract painting has a strong line drawing underneath it,” he says.

His father’s influence

He attributes his success as an artist to his father, M.R. Maruthappan, a Trotskyist. “Since my father was the only child, he had a lot of liberty to do whatever he liked. Our house is full of hand-drawn portraits of legends like Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. He was also a voracious reader and had very good collection of books. He was the one who encouraged me to read. He introduced me to Salvador Dali and Picasso when I was in seventh standard,” he says.

His father introduced him to books on illustration. “At that time, I used to draw my mother working in the kitchen. Even the cow in the shed and dogs were my subjects.” Roaming the streets of Madurai as a child, he developed a keen interest in observing the finer details of his surroundings. “Madurai has a great folk tradition,” he says. “Vignettes of the colourful Chithirai festival, Meenakshi Amman Temple, Karuppana Swamy Koil, Kattabomman Koothu, Mariamman Temple mulaipari festival, life around Tamukkam grounds and Alagarkoil are green in my mind. These places bring back memories of the glorious past when life was full of colours. I identify myself with the folk culture. The culturally and politically active city influenced me to a great extent,” he recounts.

His mentor

His drawing masters Augustine and Jeyaraj nurtured his talent and helped him win prizes in district-level competitions. He joined the Madras College of Arts and Crafts. He was introduced to sculptor Dhanapal, who was then the Principal of Kumbakonam College of Arts and Crafts and who later became his mentor.

“The exposure at college took me to another level of understanding,” he says. Constantly exploring new possibilities, he along with Athimoolam, his senior at college, introduced contemporary art in popular magazines. During the 1980s Trotsky Marudu worked as textile designer at the Weavers Service Centre in Chennai. In the evenings, he contributed drawings to magazines. “We broke all the conservative techniques.”

It was his mother, Rukmini Maruthappan, who was behind his attraction to films. His mother’s uncle is M.S. Solaimalai, who wrote story and dialogues for most of the movies directed by Bhimsingh, including Bhagapirivinai, Paava Mannippu and Pathibhakthi.

Marudu was fascinated by the trick shots, stop motion animation and special effects in films. He has worked as special effects and computer graphics coordinator in more than 30 films in both Tamil and Telugu. Some of his popular special effects ventures are Rajakaliamman, Palayathamman and Naina. “I use promising junior artists for my film projects,” he says. “The one who did special effects for the film Enthiran is one of my students.”

He worked as an art director in Mr. Prasad and Devathai. He has also done more than 80 ad films and the storyboards for many films. His illustrated children’s book Line and Circle is translated and published in 27 languages globally. His other books are Look, the Moon! and Kodugalum Vaarthaigalum.

His Vaalor Aadum Amalai is a collection of paintings of and information about Tamil kings. “The costumes of our kings as portrayed in Tamil films are derived from Marathi cinema,” says Trotsky Marudu. “It has nothing to do with the Tamil culture. I try to break this myth in this book.”

At present he is working on an illustrated book about the recent history of Tamil Nadu with specific references about history around Madurai. “I am planning to release it in two months’ time,” says Trotsky Marudu. “My desire now is to make a good period film that portrays Tamil history in right perspective.”