On ‘The Happiness Road’ with Thota Tharrani

My conversation with National Award-winning Art Director Thota Tharrani for my ‘The Happiness Road’ Series that appears in DT Next every Sunday. Read the conversation on the DT Next page here.  ‘The Happiness Road’ is also my next Book. Photo Credit: Vinodh Velayudhan 

“I am happy when I feel grateful for who I am”

 Life, to Thota Tharrani, is a three-letter word: “A-R-T”! “I don’t do art for building an identity or for fame or money. Art keeps me creatively alive; it flows through me,” he says over tea in his beautiful studio. “But cinema is different,” he clarifies, adding, “It has given me a name that is bigger than I really am. Luckily, I haven’t let it get to me. I always look at those who are more talented than I am and I look at those who are less privileged. I am happy when I feel grateful for who I am and for all my blessings.”

That’s a very modest perspective coming from a man whose body of work spans five decades. His art direction in Nayagan (1987) and Indian (1996) fetched him National Awards. Besides these, he has been feted for his work in many films and his art has always been celebrated by connoisseurs globally. “I am humbled people find my work worthy. I don’t attach too much value to material gains. There’s great joy in creating art of all forms, and there’s greater joy when your art has been able to touch a Life and make a difference,” explains Tharrani. He shares an anecdote about a painting he randomly made and gave away to a casual worker in Kolkata, 20 years ago. Recently, while visiting the city again, when he bumped into the worker, the man thanked him profusely saying he sold the painting and raised money for his daughter’s marriage. “That moment is priceless. I am happiest in such moments. This happiness – no amount of money, no recognition can get you,” he avers.

Thota Tharrani - Option 1 - Photo Credit - Vinodh Velayudhan

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Tharrani, Sarada and their daughter with Vaani and AVIS

Tharrani’s wife Sarada pipes in to say that he is always “happy, positive and immersed in his art”, no matter how challenging the circumstances around him are. How does he manage to stay this way? “I work very hard. I enjoy the process of creating art. And I have learnt not to have any expectations from the world – so, I am never disappointed. I believe in my art, in the value I create. And never in the valuation that people place on me or my work,” replies Tharrani.

Tharrani’s unquenchable thirst for creative expression blends beautifully with his remarkable contentment in a material context. This explains why he is so accomplished and so happy!

Thota Tharrani - DT Next - 26.3.17
The story in DT Next’s print edition