For Devdutt Pattanaik, art is a means of communication.

Who sees it all?

Varuna has but a thousand eyes,

Indra has a hundred,

And I only two……….”.

Writer and mythology writer Devdutt Pattanaik also has an artist’s soul with hands whose sweep and strokes create art and imagery related to the tales he tells. Tales rooted in our past and collective memory yet as contemporary as today in essence and exploration.

One magical evening in Chennai this past week, he created stunning visual allegories and images as he wielded the artist’s brush with the élan of a music conductor. And brought the walls of the Apparao Gallery alive with the depth of Hindu mythology’s morals, ethics and paradoxes.

This very first presentation of Pattanaik’s art unfolded wall art like no other as his brush-stroked dynamism created ancient stories and images. Village temples with intertwined serpents and Siva as an ascetic with his three-leaf trishul depicting the three realities, ‘Matsya Nyaya’ in which small fish are swallowed by big fish, Kamadeva sitting on a parrot, a resplendent Rajarajeshwari and Dattatreya. And above all, Saraswati and Durga, the LSD (Lakshmi-Saraswati-Durga) of happiness, the leitmotif of this artist’s tale .

Needless to say, the whole choreographed process of telling, performing and being, made for many fantasy moments. Did a whiff of fragrant frangipani really touch the air as the audience watched Lakshmi come to life in the curve of a lotus? Did Durga take tangible shape as slayer and nurturer or a did Saraswati gently strum an ektara? Or did Anita Ratnam’s dance with its fluidity and amazing grace give flesh and blood to Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga? So it appeared as the dancer became Lakshmi the auspicious one, Durga the slayer and the benign goddess, and Saraswati, the river, through movement and abhinaya.

Pattanaik, direct, innovative and humorous, made us relook at sacred symbols, ritual and stories.

On why he equates LSD with happiness.

Because Lakshya comes from Lakshmi and with it the desire for wealth and life itself. The necessary ingredients to keep alive like nourishment and nurturing, shelter and protection come from Durga. This need is amplified in man through imagination which is an attribute of Saraswati who is both the reason and solution to live. The three goddesses - LSD - spell happiness telescoping into each other as economic, emotional and intellectual welfare.

His definition of mythology…

Mythology is not about religion. It is secular. Mythology is subjective truth, it is my truth. It could be about and individual, city or culture.

A significant truth entrenched in mythology.

Generally speaking, there are rule breakers and followers. The law catches rule breakers not the follower whatever be the intention. Raavan was a rule breaker, Duryodhan followed rules assiduously and was never caught. This is why a thousand Draupadis are crying today.

The purpose of your art.

It’s to communicate. To draw attention to profound ideas which are also our inheritance passed down the generations, and I love doing it.

His favourite god is…

Jagannath Puri. He has no hands or feet and embodies human imperfection and he is black, nothing ‘fair and lovely’ about him!

(Devdutt Pattanaik’s 15 limited edition, site-specific drawings are translated digitally into adhesive coated vinyl which adheres to any surface. The exhibition is on till March 20 at Apparao Galleries, 7, Wallace Garden Road, 3rd Street, Chennai-6)

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