In this information age pictures and images have retained their ability to convey and enthral audiences. A message, which otherwise would need a plethora of words with precise style, syntax and grammar, instead gets conveyed in a shorter span of time with better recall value with a visual.
No wonder Napoleon once said “A picture is worth a thousand words.” There are a multitude of streams of visual arts which we aware of, but in the daily conundrum of life we often ignore; Calligraphy is one such unique communication medium.
For starters, calligraphy is a visual art related to writing and has been widely practiced in a number of regions across the world; structures built at different times and in different styles have examples of fine calligraphy etched in them. So how did it begin in India?
“Calligraphy in India was used as a pattern of encryption,” says Achyut Palav “This was done in order to ensure that the authenticity of the message can be verified.” Achyut Palav is a well-known calligraphers based in Mumbai who not only espouses the art but also proliferates it in every possible way.
An alumnus of the prestigious J.J School of Arts, Achyut was drawn towards calligraphy in his college days and ever since has remained loyal to this art form. Going into the finer aspects of the art Palav says, “If an artist requires a canvas and paint brushes to express himself and his art; a calligrapher too needs his tools of expression and a calligraphy pen is definitely a pre-requisite.”
Calligraphy is like free hand sketching where you can’t use scale or any other elements in your geometry box, but yet you have to maintain the measurements which vary with each font. In short you are an artist who is drawing a font, a message, a slogan et al.
Achyut has exhibited his works in Germany, London, Korea, Dubai and Russia. At the recent International Exhibition of Calligraphy which was held in St. Petersburg, Russia; along with his colleague Manohar Desai he informed the audience about the variations in the Indian culture of calligraphy. This series of global conventions which saw Achyut spread his knowledge of Indian Calligraphy across the world began with a single lecture at IIT-B in Powai.
Recollects Achyut, “I was once giving a lecture on calligraphy at IIT-B in Powai, two Germans who were among the attendees noted my annotations, and felt that as a calligrapher it was essential for me to share this knowledge with larger diasporas across the world. They invited me to a convention in Germany and that was just the beginning.”
Such global conventions have spread the art of Indian calligraphy far and wide. Citing an anecdote Achyut makes a mention of a German student who gave him a bunch of letters written in the Devnagari script. “It was one of the most memorable gift I received, it goes to define the impact of the Indianness in calligraphy and proves that art forms operate sans any borders.”
Achyut is also known for fusion of performing arts and calligraphy wherein he etches calligraphic designs in the backdrop of music and dance. His body painting demonstrations too have turned out to be a real hit. In minutes, he paints designs on a model’s body. Umbrella calligraphy which he promotes quite regularly in his workshops is also a popular diversion of the art in practice.
Achyut Palav believes the role of calligraphy in the contemporary times has evolved; from wedding cards, to sarees and products like jewellery, calligraphy is also being utilised actively by architects and interior designers. “Calligraphic tattoos for instance are a rage with numerous participants, especially young girls love it,” confesses Achyut candidly.
Art forms have time and again been put to use by the principle of democracy – so how can calligraphy be left behind. At the stroke of his calligraphic pen, Achyut reproduces English in an Arabic style and Marathi fonts in a Bengali way. In one of his exhibitions at the Tao Art gallery Achyut skilfully merged Om and Allah into a singular symbol which was greatly appreciated.
Achyut who also runs calligraphy tutorials and also an ad agency believes calligraphy should be introduced in schools to ensure better visibility of the art form; Achyut notes, “Since India is home to numerous languages, it will find a profound use, the permutations and combinations involved will run into large numbers and we as a nation can become the leading experts of calligraphy which has capitalised itself in the West and South-East Asia.”
Achyut also has a number of books to his credit. One of his books titled “Silver Calligraphy”, wherein he collaborated with noted German calligrapher Katharina Pieper, was released by well-known lyricist Gulzar and popular actor Nana Patekar. More recently ‘The World of Calligraphy’, a compilation of present day calligraphy, assembled together by Achyut along with 50 students his School of Calligraphy was released by Hon. Chief Minister of Maharastra Shri. Prithviraj Chavan.
A national award winner, Achyut also has three Marathi books to his credit namely Aksharanubhava, Aksharkruti and Urjaakshara.
Calligraphy has certainly come of age from mediums like wood and paper, it has diversified into other mediums including glass too. It has not only survived, but evolved, and at the helm of its evolution and survival are people like Achyut Palav.
So if words and fonts strike an artistic chord, maybe you too have inherited some calligraphic genes. Go check!
Text By Vikas Bhadra
School Of Calligraphy
G – 203, Deck Level,
CBD Belapur Station Complex,
CBD Belapur, Navi Mumbai 400 614
tel: +91 022 27571513 / 9513