Calligraphist Achyut Palav’s recent book ‘Kitta’ finds beauty in the harmony of the Devanagari script
Kitta, a Marathi word, means an exemplar or a model, a person, a practice, or a fashion to be imitated. Calligraphy artist Achyut Palav has just published a guidebook (named Kitta) to appreciate the beauty and harmony in the Devanagari script. For someone who grew up reading the ornate handwritten Marathi billboards and blackboards in yesteryear Girgaum, Palav feels strongly in favour of preserving the art of handwriting. He feels the old-fashioned stencil — the rigorous sessions of alphabet practice — cannot be allowed to die in the age of automation and computer graphics. Kitta (and the English alphabet manual he brought out a while ago) is Palav’s way of reaching out to students (and their parents) that should not lose out on the aesthetics of handwriting.
Calligraphy artist Achyut Palav at work
The 1960-born Palav credits his 35-year-old career in calligraphy to the handwriting practice sessions in his formative years. He is thankful to the stencil, which instilled in him the love for the Marathi and English alphabet. He recalls the banners and boards he worked on for small-time shops and the rough designs he perfected on paper. A world of designs opened for him as he explored the curves, vertical lines, horizontal shapes and diagonal angles residing in the alphabets. He feels that an understanding of these possibilities is the first jump into the realm of visual arts. And it is this education that is not being imparted in the current cultural environment, feels Palav. By way of books, manuals, a website and workshops in and out of Mumbai, Palav has become a vocal advocate of scripts and letters. He endorses the power of the alphabet design for a range of audiences in various milieus, be it the Indo-German calligraphy fusion event or the monsoon special calligraphy on umbrellas.
Kitta is a compendium (75 pages) of exercises and directions for anyone willing to devote time and energy for good handwriting. Equipped with specific directions about the use of the flat tip calligraphic pen, graph paper, drawing boards and ink, the book takes you on an alphabet to alphabet ride, of course bringing home the patience required for the process.
Interestingly, Kitta advocates the use of the Devnagari alphabet for other than writing purposes. For instance, several industrial designs and Akshar Rangolis (made out of Marathi letters) have been detailed in the manual, which are worth trying out. By extending the alphabet to a wider public space, Palav has highlighted its vast applicability and commercial quotient. At the same time, he has shown the potential of all Indian scripts (not just Devanagari) as innovative props in interior design, fine arts, and architecture. In many of his ‘Califests’, Palav has used English and Marathi alphabet designs in ceramics, body art and couture.
Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre is a Mumbai-based culture chronicler.