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Popular South Indian Actresses Pose For This Modern Day Recreation Of Raja Ravi Varma Paintings And It’s Stunning

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You don’t have to be a fine art nerd to know that there are a handful of women painters who have managed to be influential in this field before the feminist movement. That is not because of lack of talent but that of opportunity. According to history texts, women weren’t allowed to hire models to pose for their paintings and relegated to just creating landscapes and fruit bowls. This phenomenon resulted in the history of pre-modern era art being littered with men who not only used women as naked canvases for their work, asking them to pose in weird contorted positions that only gymnasts can achieve, but also the art was mostly through the male gaze. But there are a few instances of respite where women were presented in a realistic way…Raja Ravi Varma being of those rare artists.

Varma’s paintings are instantly recognisable in Indian households for his renditions of Gods, epic stories and picturesque women posing in front of a beautiful backdrop. These images were recreated for a super cool calendar project by photographer G Venket Ram in collaboration with actor and director Suhasini Maniratnam; the process of the sales going towards charitable organisation NAAM working for women’s issues. “I am always looking for ways to inspire and empower women, and what better way than this homage: a calendar featuring twelve beautiful, graceful Indian women in rich costumes, ornate jewellery, and a lavish backdrop.”, said Suhasini about the initiative.

Elaborating on this creative decision, Maniratnam commented “Raja Ravi Varma was one of the few Indians who not only understood women but also represented them exquisitely in a single dimension within four frames, infusing each painting with life through the use of colour. I have always admired the lighting in the paintings of great masters and loved creating the ethereal lighting in Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings. We have worked hard to bring the images as close to the originals as possible, in terms of the styling, costumes, jewellery, and props used.”

The calendar will feature popular South Indian actresses like Samantha Akkineni, Shruti Hassan, Ramya Krishnan, Aishwarya Rajessh, and Nadhiya among others. Keeping in line with Varma’s penchant for painting women he saw on his travel across the country; the photographs are a careful amalgamation of women with North Indian features styled with South Indian traditional sarees and jewellery.


The photographs have been carefully styled and processed to bring Varma’s aesthetics to life, sepia tones and all. We love how uncanny these recreations look to the original paintings; almost as if these women are fabulous time travellers and wanted to once more strike their signature pose, this time for a modern artist instead. What makes it even more charming is the intention behind the work. Suhasini founded NAAM in 2010 to empower single women from underprivileged backgrounds. The foundation works with female volunteers, who are called Naam Thozhigal and work with issues like health, self-defense, and poverty, to name a few.

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Check out some of the other beautiful portraits from the catalog below!

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