|Work by Shaji Appukkuttan|
OV Vijayan himself was an artist; a cartoonist. His cartoons have gained a distinct position in the history of cartooning in India for their philosophical bend. Expressionist in nature, in these cartoons, Vijayan portrayed the political realities of his time, analysing and making dispassionate comments on them against the backdrop of India's philosophical tolerance inculcated and proliferated in the society via various religious renderings including epics, legends and folklore. While most of his contemporaries moved in the path of homocentricism, Vijayan was a loner in the seemingly isolated paths of cosmocentricism that include both biocentricism and eco-centricism. One of the well known critics in Malayalam Dr M Leelavathy was the first to articulate this view vis-a-vis the literary output of Vijayan.
In the first part of this series I have explained how Vijayan becomes a difficult subject to portray. In his cartoons he does not create a subjective witness or a surrogate character who could witness for the artist himself, the way other cartoonists generally do. Instead Vijayan creates 'characterless' 'non-typified' archetypal characters as hapless participants and witnesses. They are so fragile and subject to the historical dynamics that they could be dismembered and deconstructed all by the artist himself dispassionately. Interestingly, like Krishna, the divine character in Indian mythological as well as philosophical discourses, Vijayan too takes an impartial stance and witnesses the self-annihilation of the human beings by their own deeds.
No wonder, the Krishna imagery comes repeatedly in Vijayan's literary works as well as in the cartoons. So we have an enigmatic subject that needs elucidation via adequate visuals culled from his own dispersed self seen scattered within his works. This is the real challenge before a painter or a sculptor when he embarks upon a journey of visualising Vijayan and his works. Each of these dispersed selves of the legendary author seem to contain the totality of the authorial self but the moment the artist tries to grasp it in visual terms, he finds another 'atomised' self seen manifested in another character who looks more meaningful and pivotal. Vijayan seems to repeat the philosophical mantra 'net-netu' (Not this, Not this) for the artist. It is almost like a children's game, 'Catch me if you can'. And artists from Kerala just get involved in this game with the author of Khasakk. That's what we see in the works/ paintings created by fifteen artists who had been invested to interpret Vijayan's literary oeuvre visually in a week long artists camp held at Thassarack by the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi.
Recently when I was listening to one of the discourses by late Swami Nirmalananda Giri, I fondly nodded my head in agreement with him when he said that the claim of Hinduism having thirty three crore gods and goddesses was nothing by the inclusivity of the religion called Hinduism. According to Nirmalananda Giri thirty three crores of gods and goddess were not a conclusive and an overdetermined figure; on the contrary this figure could have been a pointing at the possible number of the people in the world at that time. According to Nirmalananda Giri, had that projection been done today it would have been many billion as per the Indian as well as world population. That means each person in this world has a personal god. In that sense each artist has a Vijayan for himself even if they pick up isolated particles of the scattered self of the author from his literary works.
|Work by Balamurali|
Balamurali approaches the 'Vijayan self' from another angle. Right in the middle of the materialistic din there is this pair of people, the guru and the disciple. Guru is in his benevolent self asking the guy who has submitted himself to the love and compassion of this towering man, to get up. This moment, apparently from Vijayan's 'Gurusagaram' is depicted here as the 'deliverance' of Vijayan himself from all his doubts. Since the writing of the novel after meeting his Guru, Vijayan had reconciled to all the conflicts and had stood for the cosmocentric world. The idea of 'waking up' as presented by Balamurali should be seen as the wake up call for one and all.
Thassarack / Khasakk is the setting of Vijayan's first novel ' Khasakkinthe Ithihaasam'. Though that is the case, Khasakk / Thassarack remains the intellectual / emotional setting of all his novels. Even if the story happens in a conflict ridden Delhi, ( Pravachakante Vazhi), the reader sees Kunjunni, the protagonist walking through the immense landscape of Thassarack / Khasakk where the souls fly around as dragon fires carrying the memories of dinosaurs. That is the reason why the artists cannot yet move away from Vijayan's landscape ; that too is the essence of his self and it becomes the self of the artists who attempt to portray Vijayan's literature in visual terms.
'Njattupura' the small house of a farmer which was rented out to Vijayan's sister is mid 1950s, as she had gone there as a teacher in the village school and from where Vijayan had confronted his ideological and existential issues, has now become a mythical house which has a real manifestation in Thassarack. Against the fields where tall palm trees stand like the castles of the mighty beings and the invisible harbingers of death and ill-omen, this clay house with tiled roof stands alluring the visitors back to those days when Vijayan himself had sat there looking into the space counting the starlets.
|Work by Sajeesh PK|
|Work by Sunil Vallarpadam|
|Work by Sunilal TR|
|Work by Maupassant Valath|
|Work by Thakbacker|
Venu KB extracts Maimuna from the narrative and makes her the witness of all what is going on around her. That space is not just occupied by Vijayan/ Ravi. In Venu's work, what we see is a sort of thwarting the authorial male and giving that space to the woman protagonist. It is not from the dream of Ravi/ Vijayan that she sees her dream, but Maimuna dreams and in it come up other characters including the author. In their own ways, two artists, namely Tajbacker and Maupassant Valath have attempted to bring out a feminine Khasakk. As we know that there was no woman artist in the camp, these feminine interpretations become all the more important and ironically would serve as a plank to start a counter debate by the feminist women artists of Kerala.
|Work by Venu KB|
|Work by Akhil Mohan|
|Work by Sajeesh K|
|Work by Pramod Kurumpala|
|Work by Prakasan KR|
|Work by Hareendran Chelad|
|Work by Sajith Puthukkalavattom|