With the advent of modern techniques, traditional art forms are slowly losing its sheen, one such art is Nirmal painting which is gradually fading away due to an absence of remunerative returns. But, some of the early practitioners of this painting technique like Eruva Ananth Rao are struggling hard to keep the art form alive.
In the early 1950s when the Nizam patronised the art and brought the artisans to Hyderabad, Nirmal painting had made its way to the city. Attracted by the carpentry work involved in making this piece of art, Rao started his career by helping the artisans in carpentry work and, later, mastered the art form. “I hail from Tangaturu village near Chevella, and around 50 years ago, I moved to Hyderabad and started practising this art,” says 65-year-old Ananth.
Till date, he had made thousands of Nirmal paintings and created mementos for various organisations like the Lions Club International, Bharata Muni Theatre Arts, and Yuva Kala Vahini, to name a few. He also involved his wife by teaching her the know-how of this art, as making a Nirmal painting requires extensive effort, right from cutting the cardboard to making the precise design and, then, painting it using special colours.
Nirmal paintings have some standard templates such as a dancing lady, Radha Krishna, Balaji Padmavathi, etc., “Unlike many artists, my father started making new designs using Nirmal painting technique,” says Eruva Vamshi Krishna, son of Ananth. Ordnance factory in Medak happens to be one of Ananth’s customers. “My father used to make paintings of Sarath war tank which was manufactured in Medak Ordnance Factory; thus, he broke the traditional norms of Nirmal paintings,” adds Vamshi.
Ananth feels that the art form is not receiving the needed appreciation these days and says people are unable to recognise the value attached to it. He adds that in addition to those working in government-run Nirmal painting industry, only a few are continuing it as a full-time profession.
Ananth, who is now ailing with paralysis, is still practising it with a motive to keep it alive. “My father never treated it as a business; that was one of the reasons why he could not make huge money. Even in days of financial crisis, he did not leave the profession out of his love towards Nirmal paintings,” explained Vamshi.
Vamshi Krishna, a research scholar in Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, says even he was trained in making Nirmal paintings and he will not let the art form die. “I am planning to teach painting to those interested and also want to re-open our art gallery which was closed many years ago,” he says.
Ananth says he voluntarily stopped delivering paintings to a few of his customers as they were not aware of the changing needs and it has become difficult to get the investment back. There are hundreds of paintings lying at his home which they are planning to sell online sometime soon.
Both father and son are strongly determined to take the art forward to next generations, come what may. In this process, all they wish is due recognition from the society.