Is it a high-resolution photo? Is it a painting? No, it is a sprawling rangoli illustrating Veerbhadra, a folk dance popular in Karnataka.
The monochrome 4×6 ft rangoli of an artist with emotionally charged expressions was created after 18 hours of rigorous work and patience.
The giant moustache, bushy eyebrows, questioning eyes, and creased forehead are detailed to perfection. The artist has used black and white-coloured marble dust to create the monochrome look of the rangoli. It was made in an enclosed area during the National Youth Festival in Raipur in 2016.
The talented artist behind the exquisite rangoli is Raipur’s Pramod Sahu, who is internationally known for his hyper-realistic and 3D artworks. Each artwork fetches him anywhere between Rs 10,000 and 1,50,000.
“The intense expressions on the face of the artist struck a chord with me and motivated me to try something creative and thus began my tryst with hyper-realistic rangolis,” Pramod tells The Better India.
Pramod has been in the rangoli-making industry for 15 odd years and so far he has made over 500 commercial rangolis across India. It takes anywhere between 2-50 hours to complete one piece and it demands utmost focus. The artwork is such that If one colour runs into another, the artist has to start all over again.
“I feel one with the divine every time I sprinkle the powder on the floor. My work gives me positive energy that helps me release my creativity,” says the 29-year-old.
Pramod can make rangolis on any surface. However, he prefers the MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) and plywood placed on the floor, “If there is too much sunlight then the colour changes. The floor has to be dust, wind and insect-free.”
While rangoli remains a significant part of Indian households, Pramod still has to constantly innovate if he has to stand out. He is a pioneering artist who introduced 3D and hyper-realism in something as basic as rangoli. He uses social issues like plastic waste, women empowerment, dowry, and so on to generate awareness via rangoli.
His stunning artworks have bagged him several accolades and awards including the All India Platinum Artist Award and Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Rashtra Nirmaan Puruskar in 2018.
How It All Started
Pramod discovered his passion to draw and design by hand using the powder of white stone or lime when he was merely four years old.
Fascinated by the colourful powders and intricate patterns of rangoli, the young Pramod would often imitate his mother or sisters. During one festival, his sister dared him to complete a rangoli that she was finding frustrating.
“That was exactly the kind of opportunity I was looking for. She was annoyed, but I was so excited to make the rangoli. The results surprised my mother and that’s how for every occasion I became the rangoli maker of the house,” recalls Pramod.
The household stint eventually expanded to the neighbourhood and by the time he turned 12, people started inviting him to make rangolis in their homes for Rs 5 each.
Generally, rangolis are done by the women in the house. Naturally, Pramod faced gender stereotyping and he was often mocked by his classmates for doing a ‘feminine’ job.
He did not let that deter him. Squatting on the floor and silently working for hours together to make deities, flowers, animals, auspicious symbols, and abstract designs gave him peace.
Given the financial limitations of making a living from art, Pramod worked harder and even started conducting drawing classes to financially contribute to his family between 2005 and 2010.
After completing his MA in Linguistics in 2013, Pramod continued to pursue rangoli-making and started participating in art events. After the initial financial struggle, money started flowing in after people noticed his incredible talent.
Today, along with making commercial rangolis, Pramod also runs Chhapaak, an art institute in Raipur that provides a full scholarship to 8-10 children every year. Since its inception in 2014, the academy has enrolled more than 400 students. His teaching is not limited to the academy, as Pramod also takes workshops in the city.
“The art school is to provide a platform to those who want to unleash their creative side in a way that will also help them earn in the future. I sincerely believe commercial viability is an integral part of any art. So, apart from strengthening their basics and then providing them with advanced courses, we also guide them towards lucrative careers,” Pramod adds.
Arjun Nag, a student-turned-art instructor is one such person, “As a team member I often get to attend exhibitions and interact with renowned artists. I don’t think I would get this kind of exposure in a conventional art school,” he says.
Here’s a look at Pramod’s incredible artworks:
Get in touch with Pramod Sahu here
Edited by Nishi Malholtra