Coverage in Eenadu

Patalam Ramachandriah, 46, lives and breathes his craft in Kalahasti, near Tirupathi, in Chittoor district, in southern Andhra Pradesh.
Kalahasti is one of the two living centres for the art of Kalamkari, the other one being Machlipatnam, also in southern Andhra Pradesh. The key difference between the Kalahasti and Machlipatnam schools is that the latter mixes up block printing with Kalamkari, while Kalahasti remains more loyal to the sketch-and-dye tradition.
Ramachandriah, a student of the venerable C. Subramaniyam, is a first generation master craftsman, unusualy attached to his craft while most families in Kalahasti who have paracticed Kalamkari for generations are giving it up and moving on to other livelihoods.
Ramachandriah's art should be seen against the backdrop of contemporary Kalamkari which is practised more as an applied art, worn and slept on, while Ramachandriah himself practices it as pure art alone.
It is ironical that among the 400 or so Kalamkari artists that Kalahasti boasts of, only 7 or 8 people can sketch and that Ramachandriah is one of them. The rest of the artists only dye, possessing the necessary technical knowledge to produce Kalamkari cloth.
Some of the reasons for the rarity of those who sketch is the additional demands on knowledge and skill. In order to sketch, the artist requires knowledge of the vast body of themes that Kalamkari has been associated with for centuries, the epics in particular, the improvisational ability to present the much-told stories in new light, the compositional skills to plan and execute the literary and artistic themes, and the knowledge of the treatises that inspire this art.
In addition to possessing each of these attributes in ample measure, Ramachandriah is also a great colourist, infusing a great many more shades into his Kalamkaris than one is used to seeing. At the same time, he remains true to his craft, refusing to use dyes other than natural, while expediency has long since permitted and made legitimate the use of chemicals on cloth, a practice that substantially diminishes the life of the cloth that can otherwise survive hundreds of years if taken care of reasonably well.
By temperament and in his desire to excel, Ramachandriah is more like the contemporary canvas artist, pushing boundaries and seeking to establish a signature style and value, in an idiom in which no such values are entertained by the buyer, nor the establishment. An example of his spirit of enterpise is the self-financed undertaking to produce his monumental Ramayana narrative, which stands out not only for its magnitude, but also for the density of the drawings.

Career milestones
  • Began apprenticeship in Kalamkari under C. Subramaniyam in 1978
  • First exhibition in a group in Hyderabad under the banner of Lepakshi, the Andhra Pradesh State Handicrafts Development Corporation in 1983
  • First solo exhibition under the auspices of Dastkar Andhra in Hyderabad in 1989
  • Regular workshops and initiation and training of a number of students all over India since 1996
  • First exhibition of the World Record Kalamkari (background and outline only) at the Rukmini Devi Arundale memorial exhibition held at Kalakshetra and organised by the Dastkar Haat Samiti in 2007
  • Lepakshi Andhra Pradesh State Award for the year 2008