Mazhakapu - The many hues of the rain
- Padma Jayaraj
Photos courtesy: Biju Mekkayyil

July 6, 2013

On a cloudy afternoon, I entered the isolated hall in Kerala Sahitya Academy complex in search of a painting exhibition on MONSOON. Without a banner, away from the main venue, a few people lingered viewing the perennial theme. It was comforting to know that many do care for environment and love nature in its pristine beauty.

Biju Mekkayyil, who showcased thirty of his paintings, reminded me of the many street artists passionate about their art. Based in Kozhikode, self taught, the artist paints just for the sake of painting. Sponsored by a group of like-minded friends, he exhibits his paintings in different parts. A rustic simplicity emanates from the quiet artist. So do his paintings. Mazhakapu was a display of various moods of the monsoon, a beloved event for the people of the subcontinent. He has used various techniques to project his ideas and moods.

The artist

Family in rain


Memories of Onam
PAPER BOAT welcomes you. The girl who sends a paper boat in a rivulet created by the rains is poetic and poignant. It pushes you down the stream of your childhood memories. It is symbolic of life’s journey. For a girl, it suggests departure from her own home crossing alien shores to destinations unknown. The empty boat seems overflowing with intangible dreams and the stream stands for the transience of life. MEMORIES OF ONAM, oil on canvass, is another painting that evokes nostalgia. The water drenched green hill slope with tiny flowers celebrates the harvest festival of Kerala. Children gathering flowers for making flower carpets to welcome the mythical King Mahabali is a colorful part of the event.

FAMILY IN RAIN, water color, is transparent like the rain itself. So is the painting of ‘The women who gather firewood and coconuts from rushing waters.’ The title, in its simplicity is “Rain, rain, go away…” But I hear the picture singing… “Rain, rain, come again…” “It is a sight that I watch in my neighborhood year after year,” says the artist. Perhaps the climatic turmoil and the recent water scarcity in Kerala pushed me to interpret it as the women longing to be in the waters. 

Just like the rain, moonlight rains in some of his paintings. Again it is water color on handmade paper that creates the illusion of a moon soaked landscape. Here the tool for painting moves from brush, finger tips to knife. The picture of the lovers hidden in the moonlight, evokes the saga of Radha-Krishna celebrated in Indian arts. And here is another visual that is culled from life: a couple in the dark night under the starry sky, a romantic scene from real life. “They are a doctor couple whom I know who move on in life celebrating love and romance for more than a decade of their married life.” Love rains unseen!

RAASALEELA is an interesting version of the original myth. In a forest glade with the river in the backdrop, music rains. As the unheard melodies of the flautists rain celestial raagas, the gopikas come down to them oblivious of everything except love. THE MONSOON CLOUDS is a skyscape filled with the harbingers of rain. It is such sights that make the peacocks dance. The old man in the inset has a face awash with the joy of rains, the memories of the many monsoons of his life…and I recall my memories of the many monsoons of my life.

Horse-drawn carriage, a window view

The pot seller

If these are the facets of Kerala, there is the picture of the monsoon in Rajasthan. THE POT SELLER and THE FRUIT SELLER are women from other states united by the theme of the monsoon rains. As we stood in front of a horse against the backdrop of wet green and dark sky, the artist fondly recalled a prancing horse that disappeared from his window view during a train journey through Goa. Green and blue dominate the paintings. But MONSOON BLAST is streaked in red as it suggests the fire caused by lightning.

There are slices from social life as well. THE ANTIQUE DEALER lost among his collections is a character like the village idiot in certain places. THE RUINED FATHER speaks of the agony of a father with a grown up daughter in a dilapidated hut in today’s inhuman social reality.
The underlying metaphor of the monsoon rains accentuates the theme of the show. In the title MAZHAKAPU, the rain is conceived as an ornament signifying marital and religious rituals in Kerala. The different meanings of the word in Malayalam suggest its many dimensions, fertility as well as mystical. The show (June 10 to 14, 2013) rose from its mundane facet to the spiritual heights as all arts is bound to take you.

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the Arts and travel and is a regular contributor to