When we first met Pranav Varma, we were struck by his cheerful demeanour, colourful shirt, and his eagerness to chat. A fan of Malayalam films, visits to Kerala, and the game of Kabaddi, Pranav immediately has a million questions for us. As we wandered through the grounds and classrooms of Spastics Society of Karnataka (SSK), where he studies, we found ourselves answering more than asking!
A sociable soul, Pranav appears to know everyone in the school, smiling and greeting all the passersby, while his mother, Priya, looks on proudly. Diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), Pranav has found his niche at SSK. Priya says, “I’ve been here (Bangalore) for the past 10 years. My husband is working here. Pranav studied in a “normal” school from the 2nd standard till the 8th standard. It’s much better after coming here (SSK). It’s his 4th year here. It’s much better.”
Finding And Following His Passion
A longtime doodler, it was during his art classes that Pranav really began to bloom. As a child, Priya can’t recollect him drawing much, but as he got older, she says that he began to take it more seriously, “He never used to be so interested in drawing. Then when he started, we saw it and bought him a drawing book. With that he started really drawing and we understood that he was good at it.”
It was at SSK that Pranav’s talent for drawing and painting came to the fore. Priya elaborates, proud of his accomplishments,
Many of the teachers encourage his painting. Priya ma’am (one of his teachers) – for each and every painting – she calls me. He had painted the Ramayana on a chart. He drew the full story.
Pranav says simply and modestly, “It was nice.” His mother doesn’t let him get away with it, saying, “They featured it in the school exhibition also. He draws Thrissur Pooram, Kathakali, things like that.”
Art was one of the reasons why she was sure Pranav would fit in at SSK, “When we came here, we saw the director and showed her his drawings. She said that they will put him in drawing classes.” That was just the beginning of Pranav’s artistic journey.
Through An Artist’s Eyes
Pranav’s passion is drawing the pantheon of Gods, and his favourites to draw are “families”. A sketch of Baby Jesus adorns the bulletin board in his classroom. He also enjoys drawing Ganesha, and his latest masterpiece is a three-panel depiction of the Ramayana. Pranav says, “I took many days to do it. I did it little by little. It’s three different paintings on big chart paper.”
His teachers are prolific with their praise, and his teacher, Priya Rao says,
He doesn’t use an eraser, just puts pencil to paper and draws without having any ideas about art or dimensions or how to frame. There’s nothing he’s been formally trained in. It’s a God given talent.
Another of his teachers, Vidya Venkat, showed us some of his work and explained that the form he prefers is black-and-white sketches. With some encouragement, he will expand his repertoire to include colour.
Until recently, Pranav’s talents have been confined to drawings and paintings of divine beings. Priya Rao elaborates,
Everyone kept saying that he could only draw God figures. I took a few sessions with him and realised that his visual imagery is very good. It is also experiential in many ways. From what I understand, more than auditory, visually his ability to retain and reimagine is very high. And it’s all very experiential because if you switch him to something else he isn’t able to do it. But when I use a little bit of movement and I tell him a story, he listens very attentively, and is able to put it on paper.
His unmistakable talent and his love of art is what in the end convinced his teachers that he should be featured as an individual artist at the school exhibition.
Steps In The Right Direction
Part of Pranav’s charm is his modesty – he doesn’t realise how truly talented he is. Very few people can sit down, visualise and put images to paper. Still fewer can do it without fumbling or correcting themselves. Though he’s far from being an MF Hussain, what is breathtaking is his potential. At 17, he’s on the cusp of adulthood and is beginning to have a sense of his future.
It’s hard not to see the last vestiges of his childhood while chatting to him as he expounds on his love for movies, music, and kabaddi. He’s eager to tell us about his brand new Samsung phone and all the songs he can listen to on it. Yet his work, shaped by his experiences and memories, is mature and stunning in its simplicity.
His teachers, who are all rooting for him, are keen that he has the right opportunities to develop his talent. Priya Rao shares, “The way forward is if I can do any rehabilitation with art – that’s the perfect thing for him. There’s so much divinity in what he does. He just needs a little exposure in the form of taking him out, showing him different environments, helping him out there and then he can put it on paper.”
Priya ma’am, as she is affectionately known as at SSK, also spoke about her hopes for Pranav’s future,
If he could work at a design house, I think it could be good for him. What otherwise will happen is that he’ll go into a sheltered work environment. He’ll end up doing data entry. It will be monotonous. He’s a child who can do monotonous but I don’t want that for him.
Content With A Cause (CwC)
We, at KnowYourStar, are thrilled to share Pranav’s story with you, and are even more excited about the fact that it’s just the beginning. Pranav’s enthusiasm, upbeat outlook, and humility resonates with everyone who meets him. This friendly young man is unaware and unappreciative of his own innate talents – but we aren’t!
To help this aspiring artist, we want to give you a chance to contribute towards Pranav’s future. Here are a couple of ways in which you can help Pranav on his journey of making a career in art (…and earn your CwC badge. Read more about it here!) –
- You can purchase one of Pranav’s one-of-a-kind paintings right here, right now, for a humble amount of INR 300.
(And in the spirit of Pranav’s divine motivations – why don’t you pass on the good will and gift it to someone special?)
- You can convert your urge of wanting to help Pranav into action right away by contributing whatever little you can. Be it INR 10, INR 50 or INR 100. It’s the act that counts, not the denomination.
- Visit SSK or any similar institution around you, look around the campus (with permission of course!), and become aware of what it is to have PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder).
- Read more about PDD and tell any 3 people about it.