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The painter of signs

Appearances deceive. With his sullen face and lean body, anyone would mistake him as a peddler. But the immensely talented Jaleel ..

News18test sharma |

Updated:February 14, 2012, 12:35 PM IST
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The painter of signs
Appearances deceive. With his sullen face and lean body, anyone would mistake him as a peddler. But the immensely talented Jaleel ..
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Appearances deceive. With his sullen face and lean body, anyone would mistake him as a peddler. But the immensely talented Jaleel has no serious grievance in being misunderstood as one, as long as people strolling along Fort Kochi beach enjoy his art. His works are not mere painting, but the depiction of various social and current issues. Some of these he painted during the time when the coastal areas in Kerala were grieving for the lives of Tsunami victims. The possible likelihood of Mullaperiyar Dam breaking is  Jaleel’s current  focus. With his vivid imagination, Jaleel has painted the horrifying images of water splashing onto tall buildings, vehicles floating and people running for help, if such a catastrophe were to occur.
The wall next to Bastion Bungalow, Fort Kochi, is the wide canvas on which Jaleel’s imaginations take wings. With just a handful of colour chalks and a bit of paint, Jaleel’s art work has been engaging passersby for over a decade now. “It’s been 15 years since I started drawing on the walls; people stopping by and taking a look at my drawings is what I consider as my reward,” said the much elated street artist.
 Every Sunday, Jaleel comes up with new ideas  to draw. Though it takes hours of hard work to complete a painting, he finds pleasure in being able to create awareness among people about issues. Strangely, no one has shown any disapproval of him painting on the streets. Perhaps because Jaleel is a social activist of sorts, spending hours depicting current issues, without expecting anything in return.
However, Jaleel’s imagination and creations are not limited to social issues alone. Live portrayals of huge vessels or luxury ships anchored on the port can also be found on Jaleel’s wall. Mega seasonal events are also his interests. As for the tools he uses, earlier Jaleel employed only chalk to sketch on the walls, but later he started mixing a bit of enamel paint so that his works lasted for at least a couple of days. “When I used to draw only with color chalks, I had to draw new pictures daily, but ever since I took up the issues of Mullaperiyar, I noticed that people were much interested, so I started mixing paint so that the work would remain there for at least a couple of days,” he says.
He also paints on canvas which he wishes to sell. He has a whole lot of paintings like scenery, portraits of other painters, etc. “The main difficulty painters in South India face is the unwillingness of people to buy paintings by street artists. But in places like Goa, Calcutta and Delhi, street painters are given equal importance”, says Jaleel.
 “There is attention only where there is attraction. The same art works would be considered great if they are exhibited in glass frames. That is where talent is forced to give way to money power,” comments Ansal P, an artist friend of Jaleel. Jaleel finds foreigners more encouraging and appreciative.  “Foreigners ask permission before taking photographs of my painting; they also tip me. But native people are just the opposite. They are not even concerned about the artist, and they don’t show any value,” says Jaleel when you ask him about the responses he has been receiving for his work.
Fort Kochi is not the only place where Jaleel’s art is showcased, he travels to other places in Kerala as well. The most raging issue in that particular place is what he takes up as his painting theme. Wherever he goes, his main intention is to make people aware of issues around them, and the need to take immediate actions to prevent any unfortunate events.
The fact that he is taken to be  any common street vendor selling lime, pan masala, and the like, upsets him . Yet he is consoled by the fact that out of thousand people, at least ten step back to take a look at his drawings. In any case, whatever be the hardships, Jaleel is clearly unwilling to let go of his art and what it aims to achieve.

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