1972-74. Heady days of visual communication in India. We
were the first nation to apply satellite technology to
communicate with rural people. The first satellite which
would beam its images to select villages on a DTH platform
[a technology which is not available even now to the most
affluent urban homes in 2003].
For us in SITE [Satellite Instruction Television
Experiment] in Doordarshan [it still was AIR then.
Doordarshan was not born yet, I think] the times were
electric. The feeling that we will embark upon a path of
communication history pumped adrenaline up our veins day
after day. Base Production Unit, Hyderabad [as Hyderabad
Doordarshan was known then] was to cater to six districts,
three in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh and three
in the North Karnataka area of Karnataka.
Into this atmosphere walked in a short man with long, near
shoulder length curly hair whose eyes shone like a pair of
diamonds and whose gesture always had an air of impatience
about them. We had heard that this was a very bright star
on the Indian art firmament. M F Husain had just written a
piece in the then prestigious Illustrated Weekly of India
in which he had counted this short man among the five most
important artists in the country. "This artist"
was Laxma Goud from Nizampur Village in Medak District of
Telangana, one of the "poorest" regions of
Andhra Pradesh and incidentally the prime target of the
Indian satellite television.
And this Laxma Goud had walked into the Indian Television
What would he do there? Can his artistic expressions on
the small canvas [at that time his canvases were really
really small] fit easily into the small canvas of the
Television frame? Or will the wide and wild vision of this
artist become too hot for the staid state owned television
It took next two decades for the answers to emerge.
Laxma would sit in his spacious white cabin for a major
part of these two decades, half hunched over the plates
scratching out his zinc/iron plates with the sharp iron
etching tool and then put them to burn in the acid
troughs. In a sense, he had sublimated his inner violence
through the process of etching and burning the hard plates
of zinc and copper. The erotic and often violent images
that he had gifted outside world through his repertoire of
prints, etchings and drawings were completely absent from
his body of television work. His copulating couples, the
erect penises of men and beasts, the exposed breasts --
everything had vanished from his television graphics.
Instead it was a completely different artist and man who
worked for a completely different set of audience, the
rural men and women from Telangana who would refuse to be
shocked or titillated by these images, unlike his affluent
clientele from the fancy art galleries in major metros. In
a sense, the rural, wild young man who had a point to
score with his urban, elite admirers vibed very
differently with his own community of Telangana rural
people. His erotica and violence was not what he would
like to share with his communities. It was in fact they
who had gifted him with these erotic sensibilities through
their folk songs, theatre and stories. What is the use of
giving it back to them. They would neither appreciate it
nor benefit from it. So what should he do?
Probably Laxma found himself humbled before this question.
And he went on looking for images that would satisfy this
new quest for his roots. Roots that would not shoot up
like a wild cacti full of mysterious shapes and thorns but
like the ubiquitous neem trees in his native Nizampur
which would not only offer shade and timber but also
medicine and solace.
Once he cracked this puzzle, images started tumbling out
of his drawing pen. Onto the 3' x 4' "aspect
rationed" cardboard pieces he would paint myriad
images of the same men and women, the same goats and
trees, but in a totally different avatar. They all wore
decent clothes, sometimes even pretty prints. His women
invariably fully bloused and sareed. His goats were more
like the goats that farm women took with them to their
fields than pieces of erotica meant to decorate a
Of the images that still haunt me, images, which were
totally new to Laxma's art and consciousness, are the
images of little girls and boys. The tiny little girl with
her two little plaits flying in all directions, her eyes
wide open with a sense of mystery, her mobile face vibrant
with a determination to discover the world around her.
This little girl became a leitmotif in graphic after
graphic, now with a paper wheel, now with a skipping rope,
now with a slate. She gave birth to a new Laxma for whom
the time had come to pay back his gratitude for his people
-- people who had enriched him with their outstanding
culture replete with folk songs, rituals, theatre and
millions of images associated with them.
Now that Laxma was working to be in communication or
rather in communion with his own Telangana community, a
new soft focus began shaping his images. The softness of
the focus was not due to the mellowing down of advancing
age. It was a specific birth of a new consciousness. A
consciousness which repeatedly warned him that his images
on television will not be seen by an elite art market but
by precisely the same people who populated his prints and
drawings sitting in front of their community television
sets. This realisation informed the softer lines as
against the sharp etches of his earlier prints, greyish
tones as against his earlier violent blacks and whites.
Into this new soft world of his graphics entered the
children in a never before numbers.
And with them grew a new Laxma.
This is the Laxma who can seen in these exhibitis. It is
also highly illustrative of the way an artist can engage
in purposeful communication when the need for this
communication is driven from a shared cultural base with
his audiences. This is not an engagement in empty art for
society type of political rhetoric. This is where the
artist is rooted to his soil along with his community and
when the need comes, sows the seed of his art into his own
soil. Hoping that many Laxmas can emerge from that soil.
Powerful in their images, culturally unpolluted, strong in
sensibilities and driven by the desire to share their art
with their heritage.
P.V. Satheesh is a Resource person for SAARC countries and
is currently working with Deccan Development Society an