By Shriram Khadilkar
|V A Mali with an Industrialist and his portrait|
The great painter V. A. Mali was a living legend. Two months ago, on 22nd August 2011, he completed 100 years of age and embarked on his 101st year. A long and eventful journey; where the spirit was raring-to-go, even till this grand age. I had been to his house to greet the doyen of Indian art.
|vasaiwale (Boys from Vasai)|
I am one the few fortunate ones who got to know the painter well. Some years ago, I enjoyed my last privilege of working with him as member of jury for a fine art competition. I was hesitant of his approval of my views, but everything sailed very smoothly. In fact, he lauded a few praises on me. And I felt rewarded.
|V A Mali on his 100th birthday|
Artist Vasant Anant Mali was from Kolhapur. His father and grand father were also painters. He came to Mumbai to study at Sir J. J. School of Art and was highly impressed by Prof. Chudekar, who was known for applying colours in patches. Around the same time, Prof. Walter Langhammer used to work with knife. Mr. Mali also started using a similar technique of applying colours in bold patches. His brush strokes were bold, and there was always the white space of the canvas peeking through between two strokes. The forcefulness of his brushwork was so unique that, till date, nobody is able to copy his style.
|mor viknaare tarunee (Peacock seller)|
He was renowned for his talent and one of the highest paid portrait painters of that time. Many a celebrity was portrayed by Mali: Mr. Daftary (Attorney General), Mr. Chhagla (Justice - Bombay High Court), Industrialists Shri S. L Kirloskar, Valchand Hirachand, B. D. Birla and so on... The interesting thing was that he was painting portraits in a conventional style, but doing other paintings in his own patchwork style. In this distinctive style he painted makadwala, a peacock seller girl, kadaklaxmi, bairagi (sadhu), vasaiwale etc., which were a real treat for his followers.
|tuntunewala (instrumental folk artiste)|
He had a good friend circle too. Stalwarts like Mr. N. S. Bendre, S. M. Pandit, S. L. Haldankar, V. P. Karmakar, Gopal Deuskar, and Harish Talim were close buddies. He was an active and dedicated member of the Art Society of India for a long time. He won several accolades during his lifetime; among them were the Gold Medal each from Bombay Art Society and Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta and a Silver trophy from Art Society of India. Bombay Art Society greeted him with the prestigious Roopdhar Award.
|Shri S M Dahanukar|
|Smt.N S Dahanukar|
Two months ago, on 22nd August, I went to his house to personally wish him for his 100th birthday. He looked physically tired but his mind was agile. He told me that as soon as he becomes fit, he is going to paint a canvas in oils. He was very eagerly waiting to paint a portrait of his son Kiran. But kismet... His end came on 8th Oct.’2011, around 10.30pm.
We have lost a great painter. An adviser. A mentor. And a very honest and humble human being.
|Chief Justice Mr. Beaumont|