Published: 30th June 2021
This series on Instagram shows a woman in various avatars — from dancer to goddess. Check it out!
We speak to Sudha Padmanabhan, creator of the Ammukutty series on Instagram, about her art and how she developed the much-loved character
It was during the lockdown last year that Sudha Padmanabhan decided to create a new character. A self-taught artist, Sudha had a lot of time to explore the nuances of this new character. In the end, she created Ammukutty, which she feels is an extension of herself. “I always wanted long hair and I created this character to represent that,” says Sudha. Large, expressive eyes, fair-skinned, rosy-lipped and vibrant clothes, Ammukutty doesn't have just one avatar. She is everyone from a queen to a goddess, from a Bharatanatyam dancer to a woman painted by Raja Ravi Varma. What Sudha managed to create is not just an art version of herself but an everywoman in all her various forms.
Sudha knew that she wanted Ammukutty — which is a term of endearment while addressing young girls in Tamil Nadu — to embody tradition. “I like to wear Indian traditional clothes and jewellery and I wanted Ammukutty to be represented in the same form,” says Sudha. “I wanted Ammukutty to be as real as possible,” she adds. While Sudha started with painting miniatures in wood and canvas using acrylic paint, she later moved on to larger canvases. “I started off with representing Ammukutty in various Bharatanatyam poses as I love the dance form,” recalls Sudha. Later, she explored the character in various forms of Kuchipudi.
Ammukutty does Bharatanatyam
Around Navaratri last year, Ammukutty took the form of various goddesses. “I chose to represent her in nine forms for each day of Navaratri,” Sudha says. She then went on to represent the character as various queens of India — from the Rani of Kurupam to Maharani Chimnabai — as seen in the portraits of famed artist Raja Ravi Varma. “Ravi Varma has been a great source of inspiration and I decided to pay tribute to him while doing something unique — representing some of his most famous paintings through Ammukutty,” says Sudha.
After creating several versions of her character, which has garnered her over 8,000 followers on her Instagram page @artytectabode_29, Sudha has moved to customising Ammukutty for the masses. “People approach me asking if I could create an Ammukutty version of them. I usually take three to four weeks to create one custom portrait from their photograph, while the ones that are part of the series take anywhere between a day or two to create,” says Sudha. She has completed over 60 orders since she began customising Ammukutty around eight months ago.
Ammukutty as a goddess
After quitting her job as an HR professional, Sudha went through some hard times. “Painting helped keep depression at bay. When it became too tough to manage, I would get lost in my art and that is how I coped,” recalls Sudha. Back then, Sudha would create tapestries and other home decor pieces with her art, which she says gave her immense satisfaction. But Sudha didn’t pick up the brush for the first time after quitting her job. “I used to paint ever since my school days,” says Sudha, who graduated with an MBA degree from Annamalai University.
In the future, Sudha says, she plans to explore more dance forms of India through Ammukutty and create more awareness about the various Indian classical dances. “I also want to explore some Western styles eventually too. I have created Ammukutty as Frida Kahlo and I would like to see her as more such Western artists too,” states Sudha.