Artist sketches historical spots of Chennai in postcard size

Artist Pavithra Srinivasan

Chennai: The towers are certainly of the High Court or an ancient Triplicane mosque, you may think. But don’t jump to conclusions just by the looks, one has to carefully observe the intricate architecture of the buildings. Hang on, you got it wrong! It is the view of dilapidated Chepauk palace from Walajah Road.

This is the sight that artist Pavithra Srinivasan bumped into when she was scouting for a month to represent the iconic mahal from a different angle.

“I have spent days together at the Victoria Hostel and Railway Station to get a fresh angle of the palace and I found it after weeks of searching,” says the artist.

Facades with red tombs are not a peculiar sight in Chennai. Take a stroll across north Madras and you can spot several buildings in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture.

However, this is only one instance of her quest, says Pavithra, who dons the hat of a journalist, translator, an author and artist. She has illustrated 70 such heritage buildings the size of a postcard.

“Three years ago, I started drawing the historical places of Madras for my book. I am working on a series that talks of the history and heritage and the first book is on namma Chennai. When I began this journey, I learnt a lot about the little-known heritage spots in the city during the research and I decided to sketch them,” recalls Pavithra.

Her book is set in a historical adventure-cum-thriller context and Pavithra began her hunt for heritage structures in the city in 2015.

“I wanted to present the city in a fresh way and began to visit places like Royapuram Railway Station, Madras High Court, Chepauk Palace and other buildings in north Chennai often and spent time in analysing the ornate structures,” says Pavithra, who is originally from Madras but currently leads a serene life in Tiruvannamalai in her farm.

“For instance, take the High Court. The moment we hear the name, lawyers and cases are the things that come to our mind. But when you step in and observe the artistic nature of the court, you would realise that the court is built just like a palace. Whenever I enter the building, I feel like I am in a palace. To me, the majestic court is the best example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Amid the mundane life, we fail to pay attention to such details,’ says Pavithra who travels extensively whenever she visits Chennai.

It was Randor Guy’s lecture on the mysterious death of Alavandar that inspired Pavithra to explore the city and its hidden tales.

“I want to tell tales that are not heard often and impact the listener. People will like only when something is unique and different,” she adds with a smile.

She feels complete about taking a new Madras to the people with old anecdotes. Her miniatures are currently exhibited at Dakshinachitra.

(Photos: Some of the drawings of Pavithra Srinivasan.)