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An oil painting done by an unsung artist who only did 12 paitings in his lifetime.. do read write up on him and screenshot of a paper cutting too
Not far from the Fort is Sreevaraham, where artist V. Madhavan Pillai, a.k.a. ‘V.M. Pillai’ (1902-1999), was born in the ancient Kadavilakam family as the son of Nâni Kochamma and Velayudhan Pillai. Madhavan lost his mother at a tender age and was put under the care of his maternal aunts. His aunts recognised young the youngster’s artistic talent and encouraged him to paint from a young age.
Apart from painting, young Madhavan was a avid reader. Born in Sreevaraham, a region closely associated with the Fort, it was not surprising that the many colourful tales associated with Marthanda Varma and the Ettuvettil Pillai created ripples in the mind of the budding artist.
Madhavan’s aunts, who were employed in the Valiya Kottaram was another repository of many local fables. It was through his family’s association with the palace that Madhavan was admitted to the Ravi Varma School of Arts, where he learned fine arts under the supervision of Kizhakkaemadhom Padmanabhan Thampi, the durbar artist. Madhavan Pillai graduated from the school in 1926 and in 1937, he left for Madras [Chennai], then, a haven for budding artists.
In Madras, Madhavan Pillai was initially employed in the Rajamanickam Theatre Company. The travelling theatre companies of those days employed artists, who in turn designed sets and painted the backdrops for the plays. The Santhi Studio established by Madhavan Pillai in Royapettah was famed amongst the artists of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Madhavan Pillai, though he was rooted in Madras, valued his link with Thiruvananthapuram. He married Kamakshi Amma from Menathi Veedu, Sreevaraham.
Madhavan Pillai’s talent was recognised by Kalanilayam Krishnan Nair and thus started the alliance of the artist and the writer that lasted until the death of Krishnan Nair. Madhavan Pillai made regular visits to Thiruvananthapuram to paint backdrops for Kalanilayam. Pillai’s grandchildren still relish fond memories of their visits to the Putharikandam Maidanam to see plays like Sri Guruvayoorappan and Kadamattathu Kathanar; rather than enjoying the drama, as children, they were more interested in the wonderful backdrops painted by their grandfather. In spite of his recognition as a successful cine and commercial artist, Pillai also excelled in genres such as landscapes, sceneries, and portraits.
While in Madras, the stories he heard as a small boy and the commanding characters of C.V. Raman Pillai’s novels lay dormant in Madhavan’s mind for long. It was a long cherished dream of the artist to recreate the life and times of Marthanda Varma, through a series of paintings. However, his dream to work on the project was delayed due to his involvement with other artistic commissions.
In 1988, Madhavan Pillai and his wife bid adieu to the busy artistic domain of Madras and settled down in Thiruvananthapuram with their children and grandchildren. It was in 1997 that Pillai found time to paint a series based on C.V. Raman Pillai’s epic novel Marthanda Varma. The nonagenarian artist had all the scenes etched in his mind. The veteran artist managed to complete a series of 12 paintings. Although Pillai was unknown to the artistic realm of Kerala, in 1978 the Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Madras, acknowledged him with the ‘Kalaimamani’ title.
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