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Ravi Varmas come alive

The song, `Pinakkamano..' showcases the grandeur of Ravi Varma paintings in cinematic style. Prema Manmadhan speaks to the crew which created it



HISTORY VERSUS THE PRESENT The three Ravi Varma paintings juxtaposed with the poses that Kavya Madhavan strikes in the song, `Pinakkamano..' in the movie, `Ananthabhadram' PHOTOS OF KAVYA: HARI THIRUMALA

Raja Ravi Varma was once dubbed the creator of `calendar art' and `kitsch'. Detractors took a back seat before long and the royal artist's works are today one of the most sought after in the international art world. That he made art accessible to people through reprints in those days is what puts him above most others. All the gods and goddesses who adorned pooja rooms in Kerala in the latter part of the last century were certainly Ravi Varma reprints.


The song, `Pinakkamano... ' composed by M.G. Radhakrishnan in `Ananthabhadram,' is a celebration of Ravi Varma works, a tribute to the Raja, as Santosh Sivan, director and cinematographer, puts it. The song, sung by M.G. Sreekumar and Manjari, with orchestration by Kannan, appeals for a specific reason.

What is it that charms the viewers that they never tire of watching it, again and again?


The amalgamation of so many things Keralite and the reinventing of Raja Ravi Varma's lovely women on celluloid. The song sequences, in turn, take off from a Ravi Varma frame, the character coming to life, stepping on to imagination mode and then making place for yet another frame to unfold. Six paintings stream by, supported by romance and make-belief, soaked in nostalgia and history. And the Malayali relives a bygone golden era in his subconscious mind.

The idea came to Santosh Sivan, director and cinematographer, when he was planning the movie.

"Yes, it is a tribute to Raja Ravi Varma, who is so intrinsically etched in every Malayali's mind. Kavya Madhavan fitted to a T the women in the paintings, with her large expressive eyes, innocence and pure Malayali looks. Prithviraj, I thought, would be the ideal guy, handsome and educated," he said.

The picturisation of the song sequence, as also the film, was a perfect piece of teamwork; Pattanam Rasheed's make-up, Satheesh' costumes, Saroja's hairdos, Sunil's art direction, a sensuous romantic pair and Santosh Sivan's camerawork, exploring the magic of light and shade. It was not so much money as talent and perseverance that made the enchanting song possible. The paintings were closely studied and the team set to work.


Says Rasheed, about the make-up, "The skin tone I gave the characters is akin to an oil painting, orange-yellow shades, which give a painting-like look. That is why you feel that a painting is coming to life in some shots. The eye and eye brow make-up is also different, according to the old styles in the paintings."

The paintings have not been represented, as they are 100 per cent, as a few scenes show.

Attention to detail

Hairstylist Saroja did Kavya's hair after taking a long deep look at the paintings.

"After 27 years in the field, I know exactly how a hairdo is done when I see it, even if it's a picture," she says confidently.

Costumer Satheesh had quite a job, buying, dying and stringing together jewellery as also putting together the costumes a la Ravi Varma era.

"As I got ample time, I could do it as well as possible. Usually we are not given enough time to fix the costumes. This time I knew two months before the shooting date what was needed and the director did not rush things. Not one of the saris that Kavya wears is complete in itself. To get the colours of the body and border of the sari as close as possible to the ones in the paintings, I shopped in Chennai, Bangalore and Kochi. I had to attach the borders to some of the saris and dyed some to get the right shade."


Also the jewels are all reassembled ones.

"The cost is minimal but I had to rework all the jewels, with a few stones from one chain added to another. We kept the prints of the painting as a reference point. We did not spent much actually, it is the lighting which contributed to the rich look," Satheesh explained.

Sunil, art director, agreed that despite the theme of the song being historical, expenses were kept to the minimum. In the Damayanthi painting, the swan is missing.


"It's somewhere in the background, if you have noticed, laughs Santhosh.

Imbibing the spirit of the paintings was the idea and building up imagination to cater to the surreal ambience of the story that the movie unfolds. The magic of `Pinakkamano..' draws people again and again before the TV screens.

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