Breathing life into sculptures

Wax museum at Lonavala

Breathing life into sculptures

For those who are dying to visit Madame Tussauds museum in London or Paris, here is good news - a wax museum has come up at Lonavala hill station near Mumbai. It is a creation of an Indian artiste who has recreated the magic and wonder of wax sculptures of celebrities - from Rajiv Gandhi to Saddam Hussain and from Mother Teresa to Amitabh Bachchan.

Set up by sculptor Sunil Kandalloor, 38, of Kerala, this museum has undoubtedly come as an inspiration from Madame Tussauds. It was opened recently and now boasts of wax sculptures of 24 famous personalities. The museum is spread over 2,500 sq ft and the entry fee is Rs 75 per person. You can take photographs of the wax sculptures of the famous person you like, standing next to it.

“I wanted to set up the museum in Mumbai, but that could not materialise, so I set up the museum in Lonavala,” Kandalloor told Deccan Herald. “I have museums in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and this is the third one,” he said.

Kandalloor, a diploma holder in fine arts, had wound up his timber business. He started sculpting in Kerala by creating a wax idol of Lord Krishna. “I came across a newspaper article on Madame Tussauds 12 years ago. I was deeply inspired by it and
a beginning was made. I created the wax idol of Lord Krishna, which is kept in
Guruvayur temple.

Encouraged by the response to his work, Kandalloor decided to make the wax sculpture of former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran. “It was an arduous task, which took up almost seven months of back-breaking labour, but there was no looking back.”

“In the early days, I used to work with posters and video footage of the celebrities. It is a very tough road to take. A three-dimensional look at the person is any day preferable. So nowadays, I make appointments with the subject, take his/her measurements and shoot some footage,” he said.

The figures are so real, you feel like shaking hands with Rajiv Gandhi. The eyes of the artefacts - which are the acid test of a scupltor’s skill - are so faithfully made that you cannot say they are artificial. They are made of glass and chemicals but the
eyebrows, hair and eyelashes are made of real human hair. The exact shade of the
skin is reached at with deftly mixed tempera colours. The final touch comes from the clothes and the shoes, usually straight out of the subject’s personal wardrobe.

Kandalloor has brought some of his earlier creations, including those of Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein, father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, pop icon Michael Jackson, spiritual leaders like Shiridi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba and social reformer Narayana Guru. The museum also boasts of wax images of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, playback singer Yesudas, music composer A R Rehman, India's first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and so on.

People visiting this museum say that the wax sculptures look quite  real. The awe on the faces of the visitors is evident and many stand in front of the images for minutes to appreciate the work. “It is difficult to differentiate between the real person and the wax image,” said a highly impressed Rohit Kulkarni, a bank employee.

“This museum is outstanding, as we didn't have a museum like this in India. This museum will make India proud. The number of visitors will go up, as more and more  people will come to know about it,” said Namrata, a visitor from Pune.Sunil Kandalloor

The next addition to the wax sculpture will be that of father of the Indian Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The sculpture will be placed in the museum but it will be formally unveiled at a function in Mumbai on July 27, the artiste said. He is also
doing a wax sculpture of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the  great warrior king.

In the near future, Kandalloor wants to sculpt cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and
former Miss World and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai. He likes Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and the MNS leader Raj Thackeray, and would soon be making their life-size images too.

“I will be approaching the state government to help me in setting up a museum in Mumbai. I don't want help from any private party, as I had a very bitter experience from private partners,”nd he said.

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