The literary contributions of MT and the fine art of Nampoothiri have been etched in the minds of Keralites as baselines of literature and art.
The manner in which Nampoothiri has tied his hair into a knot would remind you of an artist's brush; as if to restate the fact that the brush is an extended organ of the artist's body.
Over the years, he has nurtured a style that is unique and quite different from other artists. That style started with him and would possibly end with him. However, the creator of that style, which might not have a continuation in another artist, continues to draw as he is entering his nineties. Excerpts from an interview with the artist, who turns 90 today.
Your 'Nampoothiri's women' are famous. Which woman writer would you prefer to draw?
When a book that included my women characters was published with more pictures, it was named 'Nampoothiri's women,' that’s all. I have not drawn many women writers. I remember to have come close to drawing Madhavikutty, while drawing for some her works. I believe that happened when I drew for one or two works of her’s, which has Guruvayoor mentioned in it. Even in those pictures, I did not deliberately try to draw her. We can empathise with her but it is not easy to draw her because her face is special.
You also seem to enjoy drawing MT
Perhaps it is the closeness that exists between us. However, it is not easy to draw him. I only make an effort to draw his face, because his face is not suited for drawing. He wears a peculiar expression on his face and I try to bring that out in my drawings. Some people have peculiarities in their face. For example, M Govindan's balding head. It is easy to draw Aravindan because of his beard and nose. People would easily identify him when drawn.
Your characters seem to be tall. Would that apply even to short people such as Kunjunni Master when you draw them?
I do not remember to have drawn him. A typical body has a definite proportion. Only those who do not know it would tell that the pictures are tall. Drawings may be exaggerated a bit, but others feel it is tall because of their perception.
In art schools, there are models who are used to study the body. As in medical colleges, the body is studied fully and closely. There are also outdoor studies to learn about trees. However, we should not draw as per any model as much as your language is quite different from the books that you have learned.
Your art is unique. How did you develop this style?
Languages of MT and VKN are their own. Similarly, your work must reflect your personality. Chembai has a style and his rendering of a raaga is different from others. The style that Akhitham uses is different from Edassery. Similarly, the creations of Nampoothiri are his and that is the need of an artist. That is required in literature, music or Kathakali.
Do you observe modern illustrations?
Some illustrations betray the lack of knowledge of the artist. You need to learn anything before forgetting it. You can’t forget before learning something. After forgetting, you can bring in your own style. An artist has to learn and then forget and then bring his or her own style into individual works.
You drew cities including Kochi. Which village would you draw?
I am planning to draw all towns and villages along the banks of Bharathapuzha. The river starts as a small rivulet in Aanamala in Palakkad and ends at Ponnani. I would like to draw it from its origin to end. I would like to draw Thirunavaaya Navamukunda temple, Thiruvilluamala, Chembai village, Lakkidi, Thavannur and so on.
Artist Nampoothiri was born in Ponnani to Karuvaat Manakkal Parameshwaran Nampoothiri and Sridevi Antharjanam as K M Vasudevan Nampoothiri.