The 10th Osian'sCinefan Festival of Films at New Delhi hosted a talk on ?grandfather of Indian cinema? conferred upon Raja Ravi Verma whose legacy set the Indian cinema throbbing amongst the hoi polloi. The panelists all had a long affair dabbling with Ravi Verma'sgenre of fusion art imbued with realism. Ketan Mehta, Rupika Chawla, Geeta Kapur, Suresh Chabria and G. Arunima achieved dovetailing jigsaw puzzle right. Jyotindra Jain an authority on Ravi paintings buffered the impassioned deliberations.
The session was heralded with a short clip from Rang Rasia, noted filmmaker Ketan Mehta'sbiopic of the astounding painter. The film, still in the making, brought out the ace painter'srelentless tenacity and life'supheavals that brought out the rebel in him to flutter his true ingenuity. Ravi Verma'sart encompassed all the three genres of theatre, painting and music. His aesthetics set off trajectories then unheard of, and brought about seminal transformations. Ravi Verma'spaintings ushered in a momentous turn in the art of India and inexorably influenced future generations of artists from different streams including cinematic iconography of mythological characters and ideal stereotypes as well as architectural settings. From matchbox labels and calendars to popular book illustrations and popular theatricals, all bear the hallmark of his insignia.
His oleographs cast the Indian Gods and mythological figures in mundane surroundings using a European realism, a m?lange adopted that pervaded not just Indian calendar?art spawning ubiquitous images of Gods and Goddesses but took on literature and subsequently Indian film industry as well affecting their dress and form. His scintillating oil paintings upheld India'sglory to revel upon at a crucial juncture at the turn of the nineteenth century reaching out to the Indian populace boosting nationalism in an unprecedented scale. His paintings are a blend of the early Tanjore technique of painting nayikas evoking feminine emotions holding the centrestage and the graceful realism of European masters.
The moderator, Shri Jain laid down three developments in the realm of cinema on account of his paintings?visual unity to Hinduism, creator of proto Hinduism and rendering sensual nature to art activity. Ketan Mehta said: ?Raja Ravi Verma'sartwork was the beginning of the modernity of Indian art consciously merging the eastern and western schools of painting; he tried oil paintings for the first time.? Suresh Chabria called it, ?popular theatrical tableau done as illusionist'sart, Indian content done in western way who set in things from Parsi theatre as well.? In this regard ?Galaxy of musicians? is worth a mention. Notwithstanding criticism slurped by A.K. Coomaraswamy upon Ravi Verma for his pseudo-Indian and kitsch work, Suresh Chabria eulogised the painter and his ?na?ve splendour element? went on saying, ?Raja Ravi Verma has been considered a monolith and has been an inspiration to Dadasaheb Phalke. His ?icon-tableau-construction axis? has been borrowed down the line in face of criticism by Coomaraswamy and Wavell to pioneer in popular visuals in India. Almost all Indian cinemas even now bear a tinge of Raja Ravi Verma saga in some way or the other. He had been able to integrate various aspects in his paintings with a lot of ease which was depicted in his artwork wherein dance forms were expressed with ease.? G. Arunima supported it by saying ?Not only was Raja Ravi Verma influenced by dance for his paintings but he also knew how to work on it and capture it on the canvas; he himself being an accomplished dancer.? Rupika Chawla elaborated on this: ?Dance mudras played a determining factor in his paintings.
G, Arunima summed it up: ?The paintings bring out cinematic history.? The artists oeuvre and influence bears the stark testimony how his sensibilities have flowed seamlessly from high art through popular arts of the street and back into the silver screen in India.
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