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Hues of a blossom

P.K. AJITHKUMAR

Milestone An exhibition of paintings in Kozhikode pays tribute to Kumaran Asan’s ‘Veenapoovu,’ which is celebrating its centenary.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Lyrical colours: Francis Kodenkandath has made a series of paintings based on the 41 stanzas of ‘Veenapoovu.’

A hundred years have passed since C.S. Subrahmanian Potti, poet and translator, wrote thus of a poem by a dear friend of his: “One will never get tired of reading this poem over and over and it will never lose its freshness.”

His words proved to be prophetic. Kumaran Asan’s ‘Veenapoovu’ continues to fascinate the Malayali reader even today, a century after it was first published in ‘Mithavadi.’

The poem, which runs into 41 stanzas of four lines each, also continues to inspire artists like Francis Kodenkandath who has made a series of paintings based on it. The exhibition of the 41 paintings – on each of the 41 stanzas of ‘Veenapoovu’ – is on at Shrishti Art Gallery in Kozhikode.

Along with the paintings, each stanza of ‘Veenapoovu’ and its translation by K. Jayakumar are also displayed, making the exhibition a treat for the eyes and the mind.

When noted critic M.M. Basheer asked Francis to make these paintings, Basheer was planning to write a book to celebrate the centenary of ‘Veenapoovu.’ He had decided to use the translation by Kainikkara M. Kumara Pillai. Says Basheer: “When I spoke about this to Jayakumar, he requested me if he could attempt a translation of his own. I thought it was a good idea, as it would give a fresh outlook to the poem.”

Jayakumar says: “Asan is one poet I have always gone back to several times. I was so impressed by his poetry that I had written a book on some of the female characters in his works while I was a student. At that time I thought ‘Veenapoovu’ was too heavy a work for me; later on, of course, I could appreciate and understand its depth.”

Francis too had read the poem in his student days. “But it was Dr. Basheer and M.G.S. Narayanan who explained the meanings of each stanza,” he says. All the paintings are in watercolour.

“It is the first time I have used watercolour for so many paintings, and it wasn’t easy as the margin of error was minimal. I chose watercolours because I wanted to make these paintings primarily for a child,” says Francis.

A challenge

Since ‘Veenapoovu’ has only two characters (the flower and the beetle), it was, understandably, a challenge for the artist to come up with so many paintings. Any other work by Asan – who has written many poems that are more narrative in nature – would have been less demanding on an artist, perhaps.

Francis has tried to capture the flower’s love for the beetle and the latter’s betrayal with his simple, unpretentious strokes. Not surprisingly, green and yellow are the colours predominantly used; there is a clever usage of violet too. The light shades indeed suit the poem, and the few paintings that sport too much of dark shades are not as easy on the eye as the others.

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