Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings come to life

Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings come to life

In G Venket Ram and Naam Charitable Trust’s 2020 calendar, Shruti Haasan, Samantha Akkineni, Ramya Krishnan feature as women from the iconic artist’s works

While shooting his latest calendar, G Venket Ram had a peculiar problem. He had to find a dog. One that resembled the border collie in one of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings. Titled There Comes Papa, the 1893 painting portrays a woman carrying a toddler, with a faithful dog sitting at her feet. The calendar is part of Naam Charitable Trust’s fund-raiser and 10th anniversary celebrations. The trust, started by actor and director Suhasini Maniratnam, empowers single women from underserved segments of society.

The calendar features women and is inspired by Raja Ravi Varma’s works. “We were trying to replicate the works. I had to see how to match them with the paintings and managed to a certain extent,” says G Venket Ram, who is shooting a calendar after a break of six years.

Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings come to lifeThis one features 11 celebrities from Tamil and Telugu movies. There is Khushbu Sundar, Ramya Krishnan, Samantha Akkineni, Lissy Lakshmi, Nadiya Moidu, Lakshmi Manchu, Shruti Haasan, Aishwarya Rajessh, dancers Shobana and Priyadarshini Govind, and Chamundeshwari, one of the beneficiaries from Naam. “That was my condition, that one of them had to be from the foundation,” says Suhasini Maniratnam.

For Suhasini, Chamundeshwari is a winner. The 33-year-old single mother of two is single-handedly taking care of her family and herself with a zeal to live life to its fullest. In the calendar, Chamundeshwari dons the role of Rani Laxmi Bayi of the Tanjore and Travancore palaces.

All the jewellery had to be procured or specially created. Even the style in which the saris are draped by the women are different in each painting. So the styling and costume department had quite a task on their hands. One of the crochet chair covers had been created by the women from Naam and is exactly the same as the one in the painting. From accessories, furniture and props to even the bent of a hair strand, most of the elements have been kept intact.

One of the bigger challenges while shooting this project, was the lighting. “My inspiration for photography was painting. I used to study them to understand how the artist would analyse light. He is not photographing but he is taking an image in his mind and recreating on canvas. As an artist he improvises on it and can mix colours to get a certain shade,” explains Venket.

You can not match the painting in terms of colour and proportions. You can’t replicate the painting because artist improvisation is very different, he says pointing to a picture of Ramya Krishnan in a red sari, the colour of which is a little different from the original. “In terms of lighting he’s painted in ambient light. There is a verandah or outdoor setting and the artist has used natural light. To match it is tricky. Because I have shot everything using flash lights, diffusers and bouncers.”

There was a time constraint, considering Suhasini and Venket started work on this project in December last year. There was also a concern about the copyright issue. “We were wondering if it is ok to recreate an original work. Suhasini contacted the Ravi Varma Foundation in Bengaluru and they were cooperative. They helped by sending us the original painting and explaining what it was all about,” says Venket. The calendar is priced at ₹1,500 and can be booked by calling 011-91-9176307415.

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