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Malayalam Actresses & Raja Ravi Varma's Paintings

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South actresses recreating iconic Raja Ravi Varma paintings for 2020 Calendar by G.Venket Ram

In a befitting tribute to one of India’s greatest painters, Raja Ravi Varma, a Chennai-based photographer G. Venket Ram has recreated 12 of Varma’s iconic paintings into photographs, in line with the theme of ‘celebrating the spirit of Indian Womanhood’.

The project was taken up under the NAAM Charitable Trust, founded by actor-filmmaker Suhasini Maniratnam, that aims to empower underprivileged single women by guiding them into suitable professions and providing them educational aid and requisite skills.

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RAJA RAVI VARMA

Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was a prolific Indian artist who is recognized for his resorting to the academic realistic style of painting. His portraits of English and Indian royalty and aristocracy were well received. His paintings on Hindu religious and mythological subjects and paintings from classical and literary sources were highly sought after even during his lifetime. He painted several copies of his works and this demand led to the suggestion to have his paintings printed in the form of oleographs. The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press was established in Bombay (now Mumbai) and commenced operations in 1894. Many of Ravi Varma's paintings were printed as chromolithographs at this Press. These chromolithographs would have a tremendous impact on religion, society and aesthetics. They went on to democratize art leading to immortalize Ravi Varma in the minds of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

All 12 photographs along with a picture of the actual paintings have been compiled into a limited-edition calendar launched in Chennai, earlier this month. The photographs base themselves on the paintings created by Raja Ravi Varma in the 19th century. Hailed as the Raphael of the east, Raja Ravi Varma was closely related to the royal family of Travancore in Kerala and is known to portray women using European techniques of paintings like impressionism and symbolism. He drew heavily upon the characteristic of Sanskrit myth and drama like Shakuntala and Dushyant, Nala Damayanti, Sita and Draupadi.

The recreation of some his paintings into the calendar features 12 personalities – actors Khushboo, Shruti Haasan, Ramya Krishnan, Aishwarya Rajesh, Samantha Akkineni, Nadhiya and Lissy; dancers Shobhana and Priyadarshini Govind, and Chamundeshwari, a NAAM Charitable Trust beneficiary who portrays Rani Laxmi Bayi of the Tanjore and Travancore palaces.

SAMANTHA AKKINENI in LADY WITH A FRUIT

This painting of a lady, holding an orange in her hand, is one of Raja Ravi Varma's most popular works. It is believed to have been created at the time Raja Ravi Varma was living and working in and around Maharashtra and Gujarat. There is another version of the painting, done by Raja Ravi Varma in similar manner, titled 'The Coquette'.

I believe that what stood out and connected to a large audience is the emotions that were brought out. Having used award-winning film personalities and dancers as models, they bring to the table an experience in communicating through expressions, rendering emotions which add life to the whole photograph. In Samantha Akkineni’s photograph which shows an expectant mother holding a fruit, the emotions in her eyes represent a feeling beyond words.

Recreating women empowerment, An interview with G.Venket Ram, Culture Interview, February 19, 2020 By Vipasha Kaushal

AISHWARYA RAJESH in HH SRI JANAKI SUBBAMMA BAI SAHIB, RANI OF PUDUKKOTTAI

Janaki Subbamma Bai Sahib, wife of HH Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman, was an intelligent and 'intriguing' woman, according to the British station-in-charge of Pudukkottai. After the Maharajah passed away, Janaki Subbamma was constantly at odds with the Dewan-Regent Seshaiah Sastri. The queen, was, however, a capable and resourceful woman who realised that in matters of governance the latter called the shots leaving her to protect her turf.

RAMYA KRISHNAN in DAMAYANTI AND HAMSAM

The Nala-Damayanti series was one of the many jewels in Ravi Varma's crown. Damayanti was a subject that he repeated, tracing the path of her life from a young girl to a married woman. He has portrayed Damayanti in various moods: happy, sad, and in absolute distress. Ravi Varma painted this in 1899, and it hangs in the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram. Seven years later, Ravi Varma painted The Swan Messenger specifically for the Mysore Palace collection. It hangs in the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery Trust, Mysore.

KHUSHUBU in MADRI OR THE MAHARASHTRIAN LADY WITH FRUIT

This painting by Raja Ravi Varma of a lady in a red saree carrying a tray of fruit formed the exemplar for printing a chromolithograph titled 'Madri' from the Ravi Varma Press. In Chapter 13 of the Adi-Parva of the Mahabharata, Madri is described as a very beautiful woman of dark form and draped in crimson silk.

SHRUTI HAASAN in RADHA IN THE MOONLIGHT

This painting of Radha is conceivably one of the most beautiful of Raja Ravi Varma’s uttama nayikas, the high minded women of many virtues and qualities that are intrinsic to goddesses and women in classical Indian literature. Radha radiates the soft beauty, intelligence and sensitivity of the uttama nayika, and being Radha of unparalleled beauty, Raja Ravi Varma has painted her with extra care and refinement. Aware of Krishna’s godly qualities Radha has the pooja thali, the platter of flowers and sweetmeats near her, the ritual of worship and adulation to be completed before the love play starts. Human and godly loves are combined in this relationship. She sits at ease on the rocks near the glimmering water and perhaps she has just espied him emerging through the trees.

SHRUTI HAASAN in RANI OF KURUPAM

This posthumous portrait of the Rani was commissioned by the Raja of Kurupam who took very keenly to heart, the death of his young wife.

SHOBANA CHANDRAKUMAR in THERE COMES PAPA’S 

There Comes Papa depicts an aristocratic lady from the Malabar gesturing to her son the arrival of his father. The excited pet dog also looks towards the arriving 'Papa'. This is one of the ten paintings sent by Raja Ravi Varma to the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. Interestingly, this painting continues to remain in its' original frame with the notation on the frame as it would have appeared at the Chicago exposition. This painting was painted using a photograph in which Raja Ravi Varma's eldest daughter Mahaprabha (1872-1919) posed as the mother carrying her son, Marthanda Varma.

One particular incident I wish to mention is from the ‘there comes papa’ painting which shows a portrait of Ravi Varma’s daughter Mahaprabha holding a child with a dog standing by. We shot the daughter and child separately since the dog, a Border Collie which is a Scottish breed was unavailable in India. After long we finally chose a dog that was most similar to the dog portrayed by Raja Ravi Varma and added it to the picture. At the day of the launch, Gopika Varma, one of our chief guests and member of the royal Travancore family shared that apparently, Raja Ravi Varma never painted the dog until he went to London for an exhibition and saw most European painters having portrayed their pets in their paintings. He caught fancy of a dog in London itself and painted it there and erased it when he came back to India, and then went on to add it again. So, in a way we have made our efforts to purely recreate the art.

Recreating women empowerment, An interview with G.Venket Ram, Culture Interview, February 19, 2020 By Vipasha Kaushal

NADIA in EXPECTATION

Expectation is one of the ten paintings sent by Raja Ravi Varma to the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. It is a young woman waiting for her lover. Interestingly, this painting continues to remain in its' original frame with the notation on the frame as it would have appeared at the Chicago exposition.

LISSY LAKSHMI in KERALA ROYAL LADY

Raja Ravi Varma was closely related to the royal family of Travancore of present day Kerala state in India. Later in his life, two of his granddaughters were adopted into that royal family, and their descendants comprise the totality of the present royal family of Travancore, including the latest three Maharajas (Balarama Varma III, Marthanda Varma III and Rama Varma VII).

LAKSHMI MANCHU in MAHARANI CHIMNABAI

Maharani Chimnabai, also known as Chimnabai II, was the second wife of Sayajirao Gaekwad and Maharani of Baroda.

A progressive woman, she worked toward education for girls, abolishing the purdah system and child marriage, and she also became the first president of the All India Women's Conference in 1927.

Born as Shrimant Gajrabai Devi, daughter of Shrimant Sardar Bajirao Amritrao Ghatge, Sarjerao, of Dewas senior. Her daughter Indira Devi become the consort of Maharaja Jitendra Narayan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar.

CHAMUNDESHWARI in MAHARANI LAKSHMI BAYI

Maharani Lakshmi Bayi (1848-1901) was the Senior Rani of Travancore from 1857 to 1901. She was adopted into the Travancore family and went on to become the Senior Rani. She was the sister of Raja Ravi Varma's wife. She married Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran who was also referred to as Kerala Kalidasa as he had translated several works of Kalidasa into Malayalam.

PRIYADARSHINI GOVIND in MUSIC HATH CHARMS (KADAMBARI)

This stunning painting of Kadambari is flush with foliage in the background. The artist's keen eye for detail is clear though the accurate manner in which he has painted flowers and plants on this canvas.

SOURCES

  • https://artsandculture.google.com/project/raja-ravi-varma
  • https://www.filmifeed.com/south-actresses-recreating-iconic-raja-ravi-varma-paintings-for-2020-celander-check-out-hd-pictures/
  • https://mediaindia.eu/culture/recreating-women-empowerment/
  • https://www.ritzmagazine.in/raja-ravi-varma-paintings-g-venket-ram/
  • https://www.telegraphindia.com/science-tech/google-arts-culture-now-allows-us-to-go-on-a-virtual-tour-of-raja-ravi-varmas-works/cid/1772977

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G.VENKET RAM

In a befitting tribute to one of India’s greatest painters, Raja Ravi Varma, a Chennai based photographer G. Venket Ram has recreated 12 of Varma’s iconic paintings into photographs.

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