Thrissur: It’s been a month since Onam and it’s gonna be white weeks ahead for meyyezhuthu artist K.K. Raveendran, who has had a busy schedule this festival season.
But when Raveendran, who has been a pulikali makeup artist for the past 55 years, talks about the glorious times of the rural folk art, his words resonate with the carnival-like merriment associated with the tiger dance.
Raveendran credits his painting skills to his father Kanattukara Kanoor Krishnankutty, a noted meyyezhuthu artist of yore. A boy who regularly accompanied his father to poorams and festivals, Raveendran was all of 15 when he first drew tigers on the bouncy paunches and faces of a pulikali team from Kannattukara. Since then, there has been no looking back for him.
His illustrious career saw hundreds of orange-red pot bellies sweeping past his fingertips. “There was a time when I used to paint 19 pulikali artists a day,” he reminiscences.
An alumnus of College of Fine Arts here, Raveendran has always been a Kanattukara loyalist although he has worked with a few other local teams, including Poonkunnam, Chakkamukku, Kuttankulangara, Padinjarekotta, Shankarayya Road and Kuttipuzha Nagara.
Apparently, Raveendran takes a contract from other teams only when Kannattukara is not participating. This time around, he was part of the Viyoor team, which has been featured in documentary film director Manilal’s new movie.
But even though he is a much sought-after artist, Raveendran's scheme of things does not include a hefty remuneration. The painter also abhors the contract business that has crept into the historic art form.
“These days, everything is based on contract. Even pulikali and meyyezhuthu artists participate in an event as contract workers,” he says.
If painting tigers is his first love, photography gets a close second. The artist has worked as a photographer for newspapers such as Punyabhoomi, Deepika, and local daily Express.