The cramped Masi streets are depicted with a pile of square boxes for buildings, beneath which a sea of people are shown. In the middle are two chariots, caparisoned in decorative red cloth, wading through the crowd. This is a painting on one of the walls at the newly-built integrated fruit market on Melur Road, that has captured the pomp and colour of the car festival. On the adjacent wall is another life-size art measuring 40×13 feet, that reflects the iconic Kallazhagar thiruvizha. Two other walls bear compositions of various landmarks of Madurai, such as the Thiruparankundram hillock, the Goripalayam Dargah and the St Mary’s Church, the mallipoo, the Thirumalai Naick palace, the big Nandi at Pudumandapam, the ubiquitous Yazhi on temple pillars, intricate kolams and folk artistes.
The Madurai Corporation has commissioned these wall paintings to showcase the historic aspects of the city.
“As part of infrastructure development and improving the aesthetics of the city, we have identified a number of spots to be painted on. The fruit market is an ideal location and we thought why not use the broad white walls as a canvas to showcase the city’s heritage and culture. That’s how we zeroed-in on the concepts, size and position of the paintings. This is also a way of encouraging local talent to take part in the upkeep of our city,” says Aneesh Shekar, Commissioner of Madurai Corporation.
Behind the efforts is A Kannan, the art teacher at TVS Matriculation School, Palanganatham. He, along with five of his assistants, has brought to life captivating scenes and compositions, capturing the colours of the city. The soon-to-be-opened market complex will house 200-odd shops that will be shifted from their current location at the Yanaikkal wholesale fruit market. Though the godowns are yet to function and see the bustle of a marketplace, the paintings are attracting onlookers already.
“Madurai is a city of festivals. It bubbles with energy round-the-clock, even through the night. I have conceptualised the paintings on how people-rich the city is. That’s why you find the human element in all the frames,” says Kannan, who had previously been roped-in for beautification projects by the Corporation. He had painted the walls of the Tamil Sangam Art Gallery and the pillars of the Kalpalam Bridge over the Vaigai.
He also recently painted a platform at the railway station. “Each of the walls at the fruit market took over five days to be painted completely. Proportion is the key and colour combinations add life to it. My team of painters have been working for the past 20 days for nearly 10 hours a day. We have used enamel paint that doesn’t fade off in rain and sunlight. We will be adding more detail, such as the sculptures on temple towers.”
“We will also be painting four other walls but the theme may differ. We have decided to paint fruits and still-life paintings, as the place is going to be a fruit market. Madurai is also known for bustling markets that are visited by locals, tourists, buyers and sellers from far and wide. That way, I am proud to contribute to beautifying a marketplace,” says Kannan.