Fashioned on UK’s Madame Tussauds, India’s Celebrity Wax Museums house some very life-like statues.
Sunil Kandalloor, a 37-year-old wax artist from Kerala, uses real human hair on the statues he makes for his Celebrity Wax Museum. He sources it from his friends and temples like Tirupati Balaji (where devotees shave their heads as an act of sacrifice) more often than from beauty salons.
Fashioned on the lines of UK’s Madame Tussauds, Kandalloor has founded three wax museums — at Kanyakumari (2005), Thekkadi in Kerala(2008) and a recent one inaugurated at Lonavla in April, 2010.
Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hariharan, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Mother Teresa, Sai Baba, AR Rahman, Balaji Tambe and Yesudas are among some of the famous personalities one will find at the wax museum in Lonavla.
“I have spoken to two top models to make their sculptures. I have recently finished Jackie Shroff’s statue and he has promised to come over to unveil it soon. Sachin Tendulkar and Aamir Khan are also in the making,” says Kandalloor.
Kandalloor, a fine arts student, is a perfectionist and makes sure that each of his statues are a close replica of the celebrity he chooses. “If I need to make a beard, I ask my friends to grow beards and use that hair once they shave it off. Beard hair is coarser than hair on the head. So, a beard requires beard hair, just like eyebrows need hair from real eyebrows.” One would think head and beard hair are easier to obtain, but how does he manage to source eyebrow hair? “Well, we have our ways,” winks Kandalloor.
Each wax statue is made of fibre and close to 35 kgs of wax, among other things and costs close to Rs 1 lakh. The museum also has tailors hired to design the clothes for the statuette.
There is a pattern in the choice of celebrities too: Less of women, more of male celebrities. “It is difficult to make a female figure. For a male body, there is hardly any need to show the exact anatomy, the statue wears a jacket and the job is done,” says he.
Kandalloor displayed his first statue, which was Lord Krishna’s bust for Guruvayur Temple Museum in Kerala. The Chattarpur Mandir in New Delhi also houses his wax depiction of Baba Sant Nagpal, which the temple bought from the artist for Rs 5 lakh.
For now, the artist has his hands full. The Maharashtra Tourism is in talks with him to explore opportunities. Private enquiries, too, pour in, with people wanting Kandalloor to make statues of their parents, gurus and loved ones. But, his focus remains celebrities.
Kandalloor can make one wax image in a month’s time and can disintegrate and join back a statue in 10 minutes. He has two assistants. His recent work of A R Rahman’s statue will be travelling all the way to the UK for the Oscar winner’s promotional tour where it will be showcased.
Ask Kandalloor about the celebrity he would love to make a statue of and he is quick to reply, “I have always wanted to make statues of Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani as they have rolled the country financially. I also have a dream of setting up an institution to train artists in this field.”
As Kandalloor keeps himself busy with his profession, he also finds time to play the guitar and travel once in a while to observe people around him to be able to model better. But, “there is a problem,” he says, “our bodies change each day. I had carved Rahman in wax some time back. Now since he looks different, it makes my statue appear different from the way the musician looks. But it’s a professional hazard,” says he.
Kandalloor has plans to expand to Hyderabad, Delhi, Cochin and Mumbai. “Mumbai is my dream project. Though the planning has begun, I have not found the right place yet. I want to have all the amenities for my visitors, like ample parking space etc.” The Mumbai museum will have the best of 35 statues from a total of 65 that Sunil has sculpted.