A day of focusing on the lines and strokes at the IDSFFK - Post
Bhattathiri Calligraphy

A day of focusing on the lines and strokes at the IDSFFK


The copy writing book is something that most school students would wish to avoid, but for the young Narayana Bhattathiri it was something he looked forward to every week. He might not have known back then that a life dedicated to calligraphy was lying ahead of him. It was perhaps something innate in him that drew him to the beauty of letters and made him explore the myriad ways in which they could be written, conveying the feelings, the moods and the meanings attached to the words.

Aksharangal Ennum Ishtamayirunnu (I was Always in Love with Letters), Anup Narayanan’s documentary on the calligrapher being screened as part of the Focus Short Documentary section at the 15th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) opens a window to a world where each bend or a twist to a letter matters. It captures the calligrapher at work over vast canvases stretching several feet long as well as on tiny pieces of paper in his studio, using his inventive methods to give distinct shape to the letters, with the camera panning in sync with the movement of the calligraphy brushes.

Bhattathiri speaks of his early college days, when he wrote lines of poetry or words of protest every day on a poster in front of the college. The sheer visual creativity of the lines made one of his professors to advise him to shift to the Government College of Fine Arts. It became the crucial nudge that pushed him fully into calligraphy in Malayalam language. Over the past four and a half decades, his calligraphy has adorned works of literature, posters and even a giant block of stone at the Calligraphy Stone Park in Northern China, where works of calligraphy in languages across the world are showcased. To the younger generation that seeks to follow his path, he advises not to follow his style, but to evolve their own. “Mine is not the last word,” he says.

Documentaries on cartoonists

Cartoonist E.P.Unny at the IDSFFK

Cartoonist E.P.Unny at the IDSFFK

The day of lines and strokes at the IDSFFK also featured filmmaker Shyamaprasad’s documentary Karupp Veluppine Valayumbol (When the Black Encircles the White) on political cartoonist E.P.Unny. The quick run through of some of his best political cartoons also doubles up as a snapshot of India’s political history in recent years. In his younger days in Palakkad, he drew his inspiration from G.Aravindan’s cartoon series Cheriya Manushyarum Valiya Lokavum and O.V.Vijayan’s political cartoons.

Ironically, for a political cartoonist, some of his earliest works were not accepted in a college magazine because they were found to be too political, but they did find their home in the legendary Shankar’s Weekly. It would pave his way to be a cartoonist in The Hindu for over a decade and later in various other newspapers. The picture of Unny that emerges through the documentary is of someone who is on top of the latest political developments all through the day and connects it to the larger historical contexts to evolve a perceptive, pointed take on current issues.

Gurcharan Singh’s 1997 short documentary Don’t Spare Me Shankar, with animations of Shankar’s cartoons on Jawaharlal Nehru, became a welcome addition to the day. It also served as a reminder of the importance of the Films Division, which produced the documentary, which has now almost ceased to exist with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issuing orders to close all its branches two years back.

AU Bureau
Author: AU Bureau

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts