The master painter’s last stroke

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Hand-painted life-size images of film actors and famous personalities will be a thing of the past soon, with Rajkamal Arts, the only surviving company that paints posters and gigantic cut-outs of artistes and personalities in Bangalore, all set to shut shop.

A life size image of Nandamuri Balakrishna in Legend, an upcoming Telugu film, is perhaps the last painted work of 77-year-old artist K. Chinnappa, the man behind Rajkamal Arts. A 46-foot cutout of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate pick Narendra Modi is his last work of a well-known political personality. Interestingly, Mr. Chinnappa had breathed life to huge cutouts of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the 1960s and ’70s.

On Thursday, when The Hindu went to meet the artist, his son Gopalakrishna, who is also a painter, was busy packing some rare works of Mr. Chinnappa at his workshop in Gayathri Nagar to transport them to London.

Mr. Chinnappa has painted nearly every major star in all four southern languages and Hindi in his career, numbering over 4,300. He has painted images ranging from MGR, NTR, Rajkumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Prem Nazir and even that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Mr. Chinnappa feels his works are not relevant in the age of digital printing. “There was a time when I used to work 18-hours a day to meet the needs of the film industry. Now the demand for hand-painted posters is almost gone. It has become difficult to pay salaries to workers, pay rent and electricity bills,” he says.

No one would want to ‘waste money’ when everything is digitised and prints could be got in a few hours, Mr. Chinnappa said.

Those working with Mr. Chinnappa have already found other jobs. Some are colouring temple Gopuras (tower) and paintings murals. Since when he started training under his guru Sri Sheenu at the age of nine, Mr. Chinappa has spent most of his life with colours and canvas. He began as an assistant, working on the iconic Mother India poster.

There is no missing the pride in Mr. Chinnappa’s tone as he talks of his work. “Keep a digital print next to a hand-painted poster and you will find a rich texture of myriad colours that is lacking in digital prints. There is no substitute to hand painting,” he says.

He is a recipient of the Indira Priyadarshini Award. The Discovery Channel has expressed interests in making a documentary film on him.

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