Hawa Mahal to Charminar: Dharmavaram painter uses pen refills to create replicas; saves environment

In 2007, Srinivas made his first miniature monument, the Eiffel Tower, using 200 refills in a span of eight months. By the end of it, he ran out of refills but gained the confidence to make more similar monuments.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  19 Feb 2022 5:30 AM GMT
Hawa Mahal to Charminar: Dharmavaram painter uses pen refills to create replicas; saves environment

Hyderabad: Jaipur's historic Hawa Mahal was constructed in four years. Taking a quarter of that time, around 15 months, a mini Hawa Mahal took shape in another corner of the country, Bangalore. But unlike the red and pink sandstones, that were used for the construction of the original Hawa Mahal, the replica was completely made using used pen refills. While architect Lal Chand Utsa was the man behind the original Hawa Mahal, a passionate artist Srinivasulu MR conceptualized the idea of miniature monuments out of used pen refills that were disposed of as trash.

Srinivasulu's passion for art and interest in architecture developed since his childhood. Coming from Dharmavaram in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, his father ran a saree shop. "There were sarees of a wide variety of colors. I was drawn towards colors then and started painting," says Srinivas.

Later, he joined a formal painting class. Every day, after his school hours, little Srinivas used to run to his painting classes.

This was also the time when he developed a love for making houses, building out of wedding invitations cards. Interestingly, Srinivas also used to collect used pen refills from his friends, without the idea of making structures out of it in his faintest imagination but as a hobby. But all those refills came useful years later when he was making his first miniature monument, the Eiffel Towers.

When Srinivas completed his intermediate, he wanted to take up Architecture. But his family urged him to go for Engineering. "My brother took Electrical Engineering, and my sister studied Computer Science. So my family convinced me to take up engineering saying that it was the quickest means of settling in life. Moreover, no one in my town, at that time, had the title of an architect," explains Srinivas.

So he took up Computer Science. But his mind never settled on the subject, instead, he used to draw all the time.

This was his turning point when he realized that he had to find some ways of continuing his passion. Many people were using toothpicks, matchboxes, etc., and doing craftwork, so Srinivas wanted to come up with something unique. That's when he thought of repurposing used pen refills.

In 2007, Srinivas made his first miniature monument, Eiffel Towers, using 200 refills. It took him 8 months. By the end of it, he ran out of refills but gained the confidence to make more similar monuments.

To collect refills, Srinivas started organizing 'Say No to Plastic' campaign in schools and colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. At the end of these events, he set up collection boxes on campuses so that students could drop their used refills.

Meanwhile, Srinivas also started working in a software company in Bangalore. One would wonder how he manages to find time amidst his busy schedule and consistently work on the monuments. "My work starts at 8 am and goes on till 9 pm. It's after that I sit for my passion. And I work till around 2 am," says Srinivas.

Srinivas does a lot of research on history and architecture before making a monument. "While making St. Philomina'a Church in Mysore, I explore a bit of Gothic architecture whereas when I made Charminar, Hawa Mahal I learned more about Mughal architecture. "During my research, I draw designs and analyze if the architectural style can be reproduced through pen refills or not. Based on the number of pen refills available, types or size of the refills, I choose the monument for construction," explains Srinivas.

Collection of refills is also a challenging task. "While making the Golden Temple in Amritsar, I just needed 10 more refills to complete the structure. But it was during the pandemic and I had to wait for months to get those 10 refills," says Srinivas.

Golden Temple was completed in 2.5 years. Now, students from China, Ghana, Japan, and Bangladesh have come forward to promote Srinivas's idea of sustainability and 'Say no to plastic' and in turn collect refills for him.

So far, Srinivas has made 11 such replicas. These include Charminar, Big-Ben Clock, Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Gateway of India, Seattle Space Needle, Sydney Harbor Bridge, St Philomena Church, Amritsar Golden Temple, and Hawa Mahal, Jaipur. Srinivas says through his work, he is promoting the idea of sustainability, no plastic, and also tourism.

"Patience is the key and it has rewarded me always," says Srinivas who works for months and years on a single monument.

Srinivas is currently working on his 12th miniature monument of Hampi chariot. "I wish to recreate the original chariot which had a tomb over it. But the history of its existence has been washed away," says Srinivas.

As he carefully cuts the refills into small pieces ensuring that they are of uniform lengths. "To all readers out there, you can contribute your used pen refills to me," he adds.

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