Artist Deepak Patil captures the many moods of great musicians in his paintings

Ravi Shankar, D.K.Pattamal, Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi, Begum Akhtar. All, and more, under one roof. Artist Deepak Patil, all the way from a small village in Dhule, Maharashtra, recreated the music season in an art gallery. A twist to the season and its flavours.

As you walk in through the doors of Studio Palazzo, it's G.N.Balasubramaniam you see first — a rich, dark and sombre work of the legendary vocalist. Right beside him is a scholarly and stern Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in black-and-white. Hari Prasad Chaurasia peacefully places his lips to a flute. Ravi Shankar plucks the strings of his sitar with familiar joy, a remarkably life-like work in shades of charcoal and black.

Deepak wasn't aware of many of the musicians until he started the work on the paintings. “I began to look up their photographs, their music.” As he listened to them more and more, he realised the way he depicted them was also changing. “My first reaction when I saw a picture of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was that he looked like a wrestler!” he smiles. “And then I heard his music. So tender, full of feeling, delicate. That completely changed the way I was painting him.” That was also one of the works he spent much time on.

Strengths

It's the black-and-white and sepia-tinted works, clearly, which are Deepak's strengths. Bismillah Khan and his shehnai. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar in faintly smudging charcoal, arms thrown open in veneration of the gods.

“I painted day and night, the music playing all the while — pieces such as M.S.Subbulakshmi's Meera bhajan,” says Deepak.

There is Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi, in shades of bronze, his head resting lightly in his palm, eyes bottomless, tinged faintly with unfathomable sorrow. There is Pattamal, wreathed in a golden shawl, her brilliant red bindi illuminating her face. Begum Akhtar smiles gently alongside.

Kumar Gandharva has been caught mid-note, so the microphone is still, while the musician's face is reminiscent of movement, alive with music.

Deepak, who has been painting since he was a child, says his visit to Chennai also helped him root his work in the ancient musical traditions of the city.

There is Harihara Vinayakram, his ghatam glimmering with light. There is Qureshi Alla Rakha Khan in profile, his tablas resting against him. His son, Zakir Hussain, is there as well, light catching his curls.

M.S. Subbulakshmi in sepia, from a photograph from her youth, smiles gently, her nose ring gleaming, her sari creasing delicately at the shoulder. Shiv Kumar Sharma, face lifted to the skies, as he teases the santoor into a tune. A black-and-white work of Semmangudi, brow furrowed with force, in a scene from one of his performances.

To capture song, and more importantly, its soul, in art, can't be easy. Deepak has clearly laboured at it, with striking results. Stay long enough, and you expect the rumble of a tabla, or the strains of a flute to burst forth. Amidst musicians, their eyes calm in the knowledge of the power their voices and instruments wield, yet filled with humble subservience to their craft, aware that the shores of music are vast and wide.

The exhibition is on at Studio Palazzo, Alwarpet, till January 31. For details, call 4203 0546.

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