Yusuf Arakkal: runaway royal, technician, painter
It took Yusuf Arakkal two long decades to give up his dayjob as a technician at Hindustan Aeronautics. He got the strength to do so only when, in 1983, he won his first National Award — for a painting titled ‘Still on the pavement...’, a nod to his year and a half on the streets of Bangalore as a runaway teen.
Arakkal was born into wealth. The artist traces his lineage to Sultan Ali Raja Arakkal of Kannoor. Even after losing his parents at age 7, he went to school in a chauffeur-driven car. But when other family elders opposed his desire to become an artist, young Yusuf ran away to Bangalore and stayed on the streets till an uncle traced him.
Today the 65-year-old can see some of his early days in the faces painted for his latest show, An Inner Fire. “They’re not very happy. They’re brooding or waiting for something to happen... They are in their own solitude, but not lonely,” says the artist. Maybe there’s a bit of Arakkal in each of them.
@ Art Alive Gallery, S-221 Panchsheel Park, till February 28, 11 am to 7 pm. Call 4163-9000 or 4163-8050 for more
X-rays of everyday life
Sudhir Patwardhan, who ended his 30-year career in radiology in 2005, is sure that his doctoral practice affected his figurative canvases. “Meeting new people with different problems each day affected how I looked around myself... As a doctor I was in a position of power, which can be similar to someone observing and representing them in a painting.
You have to be objective and yet look at them subjectively, with sympathy for their emotions,” says the 62-year-old artist who doesn’t like the tag “self-taught”. “You have to learn somewhere. I enrolled at evening classes in art colleges, discussed with friends, and went through books and prints.” Some of the art seen during that training creeps into his canvases today — from a nude bather by French post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne, to a heap of nude bodies by Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt. Just transposed into a view of everyday India.
How did his art affect his doctoral practice? Patwardhan laughs and says: “I chose radiology because I didn’t have to be on call 24 hours, so that I could devote myself to art.” Now, of course, he can devote all his waking hours. @ Lalit Kala Akademi, Feroze Shah Road, March 5 to 11; 11 am to 7 pm.