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Strokes on silk

Though his art on silk helps designers win laurels in the country and abroad, Shyam Thambi Dorai remains the unsung `faceless' artisan. A dekko at his priceless work.

ELEGANT DUPATTA: Walk like an Egyptian.

PERHAPS, A sobriquet like `dyed-in-the-silk' would suit Shyam Thambi Dorai (Telephone Nos: 27541358, 98494-02714) better. He has painted over 35,000 metres in silk in the past 12 years, which in itself is a record of sorts, and breathes, sleeps, dreams and paints `only silk'.

Shyam's obsession with the uncommon art form — silk paintings — has quite deservingly earned him a coveted clientele: Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol, Rishi Kapoor and the Big B himself, to name a few. Down South, megastar Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Balakrishna and Uday Kiran, among others, have been regularly sporting silk shirts painted by Shyam in most movies. The list of women, who have draped themselves in those vibrant `nine-yard wonders' or salwar kameez created by the painter, exceeds all lengths.

Equally exhaustive is the register of the names of designers (which he meticulously maintains) for whom Shyam has painted silk fabrics. Among them are Rohit Khosla, Tarun Tahiliani, Sumit Verma, Bobby and Manju Grover, J.J. Vallaya and Maya Anavarathan.

REMOVER OF OBSTACLES: Get some good karma with this dupatta.

One would ponder why Shyam is not even half as renowned as the names that he drops. "I represent a community called `artisan'," he says matter-of-factly. "Designers procure their dress material from artisans who laboriously toil to produce the best weaves and patterns possible. Once the outfits are done, everyone conveniently forgets the `faceless' artisans who produced the material and very rarely do designers give credit to them," the artist rues, even as he adds almost immediately, "But all these do not matter to me. The fact that they come to me for their designs and patterns is satisfying enough."

Shyam who represents a dying race of silk-painters in the country is hopelessly disgusted that most of his contemporaries have succumbed to the lure of technology and fast money, by resorting to screen-printing. "Fabrics can be produced in bulk if one uses the computer to print designs but that is unauthentic, and people should be doubly careful of these counterfeits," the artist adds.

Elaborating on the complexities involved in hand-painting on silk, Shyam says, "Hand-painting on textiles, particularly in silk, is as old as the art of hand-embroidery and other textile-oriented crafts. It lends the artist a greater freedom of work and expression than Batik, Ikkat or other crafts. But it is excruciatingly tedious. It demands special skills from a painter since blotting of colours is at its maximum on fabric. Unlike acrylic colours, the tints here are applied first and then followed by shades."

VIBRANT VIOLET: Hit the night spots.

"The artist has to be careful as there is no scope for correcting or expunging the drawing. The drawing and painting is done on a frame with no hard surface and once the painting begins, it has to complete, since the moisture of the dyes needs to be preserved," he adds. It is, indeed, demoralising that people are nowadays going in for the screen-printed variety, which in no way can be compared to the finery, intricacy or the beauty a genuine hand-painted silk fabric represents.

"I can never reproduce the same design. The beauty lies in the difference. Art manifests its beauty in the dynamism of the artist," remarks the die-hard artist, a postgraduate from Abhina Kala Niketan, Pune.


How does it feel for a person so soaked in silk and painting that although his children admire his artistic talent, they do not want to carry forward the legacy? "It pains," he says "that youngsters are less interested on hand-made silk paintings these days. They should take care to see that the art does not die."

Even as Shyam Thambi Dorai plans for an exhibition of his collection towards the month-end to educate youngsters and general public on the nuances of art on silk, those interested can sample his works, on display at major outlets in the city: Encore (Somajiguda), Studio Hasthkala (Panjagutta), Meena Bazaar Ext., Obsession, Attires and XLNC (Banjara Hills). A dekko will reveal that not all good things in life come with a price. Some are priced less and some are priceless!


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