By: Himanshu Verma
In these performative works, responding to some images of women from the master's large body of work, I am hoping to problematise the relationship of the viewer and the protagonist of the painting as seen in Ravi Verma's works. Most of Verma's paintings in this genre portray coy, demure, seductive women, which are happy, sometimes objectified subjects of the male gaze. Here, the dialogue is problematised by the very fact that subject is a man dressed in a saree, posing as a RV nayika. In Lad holding marigold ball, this inversion is achieved subtly - the gently seductive gaze of the subject is maintained.
The other work' Lad holding weapons of seduction, presents a matrix of Ravi Verma feminity, modelled after some other works. Here, the subject roams a little more freely, sometimes reaching close to the Ravi Verma aesthetic and yet departing in varying degrees from these confines in the spirit of autobiography and contemporainety. The lad seduces with some Ravi Verma staples. fruit plate, gajra; and then some other weapons which escaped the master's attention are suggested. Finally, in the last of the pictures, the lad holds a wine glass, in a complete inversion of Ravi Verma victorian morality. The garb is very Ravi Verma-eqsue with the Kerala saree and the rest of the costume modelled somewhat after his image of Saraswati, and the figure of the Ardhnarishvara. However, the accessorisation in this image is contemporary as a stark contrast to the other images, and most importantly, the subject offers a strong confronting gaze back at the viewer, hence inverting the play of the gaze, and arriving with a contemporary, liberal interpretation of Verma's 19th century ouevre.