Achyut Palav and his continuing quest for excellence in Calligraphy

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Achyut Palav needs no introduction to the cognoscenti – someone, to whom, “each letter in every script known to man holds an eternal power, an individual beauty in its vertical, horizontal, angular lines, in their continuity…” here, in an exclusive interview to, he talks about calligraphy, his passion, the 1st India Pen Show and more. Excerpts:

Q1. Is the art of Calligraphy dead and buried? Should we inculcate in our young the need to have good calligraphic skills? Why?

Achyut Palav

Achyut Palav : Calligraphy is definitely not dead. Its former glory and popularity may have diminished until a decade back but recent years have seen a promising revival of the art. People have shown interest in learning as well as applying the art in various fields.

As far as calligraphy is concerned, I have always advocated it to be a common man’s art. You need not have a formal training in art to learn it and there is no age limit. The ideal age to introduce calligraphy is 12 years. A single skill like calligraphy gives the child a chance at multi-faceted growth. It inculcates discipline, promotes reading, improves concentration and handwriting and develops a sense of aesthetics and proportion.

Achyut Palav

Q2. What about Calligraphy as an art form? What is its need and efficacy in these days of electronic word processing and Photoshop led designing?

Achyut Palav : Calligraphy is a part of India’s art heritage. Our manuscripts, stone tablets etc. are excellent works of calligraphy. Though its application has reduced, it still has its charm. As said before people are now open to its use and are curious about it. Making the initial creative by hand is always better as compared to a digital selection. It carries the element of uniqueness. By laying emphasis on handwork one aims at perfection. Photoshop and other software can help enhance the creation and also increases its potential of applicability. Art like calligraphy promotes originality and also develops your knowledge about tools, material, textures etc.  

Q3. In the context, how important is a Fountain Pen? Is it a mere relic of words past?

Achyut Palav : A fountain pen is not technically a relic. But surely the number of users has declined. I have seen many people use it. Certain brands are a status symbol. The importance and appeal of such pens is still there. To me an ink pen teaches you the importance of applying pressure while writing to get the right stroke. It is a tool that lasts longer… sometimes a lifetime. While taking care of the pen one learns to respect his / her tools.

Achyut Palav

Q4. How do you explain the sudden burst of interest in Fountain Pens? Is the surge in demand a fad? A flash in the pan? Or is it a part of a larger scene – of people rebelling against the digital domination of their lives, a kind of digital detoxification?

Achyut Palav : The Digital age is here. You cannot deny its existence and in some cases its supremacy. It has made life easy and fast in many cases. I feel the old preferences can live in harmony and we need not for forsake one for the other.

As for the surge in demand, it may be that more and more people understand the sentimental value of a handwritten document / note. They cherish the uniqueness of creating something new rather than choosing from an existing array of typed options. This may not necessarily be a rebellion but an attempt of preserving a connection to the past.    

Achyut Palav

Q5. How does the art of handwriting and calligraphy feature in this changed scenario?

Achyut Palav : Calligraphy is all about creating beautiful handwriting and presenting it an appealing manner. Ink and nibs are an integral part of the art. If the popularity of the art increases so will the attention to and demand for the inks and pens. While writing instead of typing people tend to make their own statement and create their own style. This is calligraphy in its nascent form.

Achyut Palav

Q6. What role should the 1st Indian Pen Show (February 2nd and 3rd, 2019) play to spread awareness about Calligraphy?

Achyut Palav : I feel that this must not be an exhibition that gives a feel of artefacts displayed in a museum. An artistic quotient like display of calligraphic creations using the displayed ink pens can also be added. It will not only promote calligraphy but also increase the appeal of using Fountain pens.

Achyut Palav

Q7. How you feel about the India Pen Show? Will lead to a revival in the love for pens; enrich our already rich traditions in calligraphy?

Achyut Palav : The show will certainly generate curiosity about ink pens, nibs and Calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing) in the new generation. Some of the students have never seen a fountain pen. The show will get them closer to these instruments that seem like things of past. It also will be a treat for ink pen aficionados who have cherished these fine tools. The show must have live demonstrations about the use and care of such pens and how striking calligraphic designs can be created using various pens, modern and ancient. Practical applications are a must in order to attract attention and later a demand for a tool. The India Pen Show must also hold exhibitions in other metros to expand its reach.

A few years back I had visited Russia for a World Calligraphy event that focused on the promotion of the art and the tools. The program was a success as they lay emphasis on student participation, especially at school level. I too feel that these young children must be informed and educated on the importance and fine quality of these instruments of writing.

Q8. How do you, as an acknowledged domain expert, propose to use the platform to spread word about the good work that you are doing?

Achyut Palav : Calligraphy can be promoted among the visitors by Calligraphy Demonstrations, workshops, and presentations to various groups like school and college students, writers, artists etc. You can also use the platform to display manuscripts, stone tablets and other ancient texts. Calligraphy must be promoted as the art that allows you to imagine, think beyond forms of letters.

Achyut Palav

Q9. What will be your message to the new comers and those who want to take up calligraphy? Message to the Fountain pen lovers?   

Achyut Palav : I would say that let your love for writing, become a habit. Read something new often. Then think about what you have read. Respect your tools and also note the subtle differences in their resultant writing. While seeing different writings give attention to the technical details like size, types, colours etc.

Achyut Palav

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2 Replies to “Achyut Palav and his continuing quest for excellence in Calligraphy”

  1. I have known Palav since the mid 90’s. He has specialised in Marathi and Devanagari scripts under the tutelage of a great teacher R.K. Joshi. He has done a wonderful job of spreading the word of Calligraphy with his tour of India during the mid 2000’s during which I had organised his demos at various venues in Bangalore. He is known for outdoor large sized work. I am happy for Palav and wish him the very best in his endeavours.


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