Parameshwar Raju infuses his interpretation of Ramayana with lyrical charm

Five thick strokes form the base and a thin curved line completes the structure of the boat. The boat is inhabited by Rama, Sita and Lakshmana who are being ferried by King Guha across river Sarayu. Rama and Lakshmana, each represented by two angular strokes hold a bow each and Sita, seated between them, is characterised by her hair knotted up in a tiny bun. This calligraphic representation is part of 37 drawings that are part of ‘Ramayanam – lore of belief’ by Poosapati Parameshwar Raju.

A visual interpretation of the epic is no mean task and the artist has chosen significant story points for his calligraphy. Using vermillion red and a variety of nibs, he lends individuality to each of the characters. The artist states his preference to paint the Devanagiri stroke with an English poster nib in-built with a right slant.

The boat episode was the first sketch done by the artist in this series. The 37 visuals were done between 2010 and 2012, as and when he could visualise each episode. The first sketch of the boat, says the artist, was more decorative and shaped like a swan. To keep with the simplicity of the format, he converted it into a simple boat.

The calligraphic strokes have been used skilfully to help the viewer/reader relate to the emotions. Parameshwar Raju uses a set of wavy, lengthy and curved strokes to show Vishnu’s ‘sesha sayanam’. Small wavy strokes juxtaposed against each other represent flames in the scene recreating Hanuman burning Lanka. Thick and obliquely positioned strokes constitute Hanuman’s wound up tail that helps him sit tall in Ravana’s court.

A few images use a cluster of strokes to draw attention to detail. The Vanara Sena constructing the Rama Sethu bridge is an example. This is the only image where the artist uses the written word ‘Rama’ in Devanagiri and places them across the image to denote construction of the bridge.

In contrast, Parameshwar Raju uses two simple strokes on an empty canvas while introducing Hanuman. In fact, white space is used significantly to give a new dimension to story telling. The positioning of people playing drums around Kumbakarna to wake him from his slumber conveys a sense of playfulness. The depiction of war scenes is noteworthy in its use of calligraphy to convey brooding, urgency and swift flying movements of the weapons.

The drawing of Mantra’s advice to Kaikeyi, explains Parameshwar Raju, was a tricky one. He had to try several strokes before he got Manthara’s hunch right.

To a layman, the strokes appear simple but the artist likens these thin-thick-thin lines to the beginning, continuance and end of life.

(The book is available at Saptaparni, Road no.8, Banjara Hill and at Parameshwar Raju’s studio. The artist can be reached at parameshwarraju@gmail.com Saptaparni also has an exhibition of these paintings at its gallery all this month.)