Ahobilam Prabhakar is a Hyderabad based artist who masters the skills to visually present the complex chemistry of human emotions-be it love, anger, despair or devotion. His drawings, lines and colours make his unique decorative visual vocabulary depicting the idea of human behaviour that are emotionally driven. Mercy, disparity, disrobing, helplessness and devotion can have various depictions and Prabhakar’s paintings present these variations like something that keeps evolving and continues to evolve in the viewers’ mind. His compositions narrate the emotional bond which the viewer can feel.
Prabhakar’s subject of depiction is Draupadi’s worst humiliation, that is “Cheerharan” (disrobing/stripping). Seeing that she is at the mercy of the men in the court and seeing that her husbands were not going to rescue her, she calls on Krishna to intervene. This was the biggest turning point of the epic – Mahabharata. By evoking Krishna, Draupadi exercises what could be called war of justice.
Prabhakar’s visual composition depicts Draupadi’s innermost strength and firmness of mind that is rooted in the way she vows that she will not tie her hair until she has washed and decorated it with the blood of Dushasana. Her vows portray her as not only powerful but as a woman filled with vengeance as well as resistance. The humiliation is the worse of its kind and she calls Krishna to rescue her. This is an interesting twist of events because Krishna comes to her rescue and her honour and dignity is restored.
Prabhakar Ahobilam is successful in depicting the imperfections, opinions and mannerisms of a historical episode in his paintings. The gestures and expressions on Krishna’s faces speak about his protection to the virtuous and announcing war with the evil. There is a feeling of the divine closeness between Krishna and Draupadi which can make the viewer feel complete and smile for in pleasure and peace. The entire composition is a self-support system like expressing every single emotion each of the figure have for the other in the painting.
Prabhakar’s paintings are a visual poetry that expresses the deepest, most passionate and emotional aspects of the human experience without words. The notion of women as weaker and powerless is contested and her vow speaks the hidden and latent potential of creation and destruction possessed by a woman. Despite all her humiliation, Draupadi emerges a victor because of her own will, her own determination, her own capacity, and most of all her own existence. This painting beautifully depicts the graceful elegance of all the male and female forms making the viewer relive the experience.
Authored by Vasanth Rao
Artist & Curator, Sydney, Australia
For Malini – Online Group Show, a project of Car Street Studios, Sydney.