CUDDALORE: A life-size statue of Bharathiyar will soon adorn the Cuddalore Central jail, where the national poet was lodged for three weeks during British rule in 1918. It will be the second honour for Bharathiyar as a bust has already been installed at the entrance of the prison, whose quadrangle is now a sort of art gallery, boasting of a Thiruvalluvar statue and a bust of Mahatma Gandhi.
The significance of the statues, including the yet to sculpted one of Bharathiyar, is that they are all in-house offerings – made by a 31-year-old convict, undergoing a life term in the jail, Guru Kalaikannan.
Kalaikannan, who proved his mettle as an artist by doing a portrait of Bhartiayar at the behest of the prison superintendent, A Murugesan, is now prolific in churning out art work after art work. He was first asked to do the Bharthiar portrait and a nature painting to beautify the wall of an auditorium inside the jail. Then he was given cement and other material to sculpt the statues. One of them, a 3.5 feet high Thiruvalluvar, in a sitting posture, has been put up in the middle of a garden. ‘He took just two months to complete the statute,’ said Murugesan, who had wanted the two feet high bust of Gandhiji, to be finished on short notice as he was keen on inaugurating it on Independence Day. Murugesan lived up to the expectations by finishing it in 15 days. Apart from the statues, the colourful mural on a wall of a building had added to the beauty of the premises.
Though Kalaikannan, a trained stapathy, has been in jail for the past seven years, he was able to given vent to his creative talents only now. ‘When I was young, I used to travel with my father and brother to places like Thanjavur and Ariyalur to work in temples to sculpt idols and also paint walls decoratively. I have learnt the basics of painting and sculpting,’ he said, adding: ‘Here in jail, I am honing the skills now’.
Murugesan has turned Kalaikannan into the in-house artist. Besides motivating him to do paintings, he is also engaged to paint sign boards. He also reads profusely in jail, mainly poetry and fiction. Kalaikannan, who hails from Vashistapuram area near Thittagudi, caused the death of his wife, Revathi, by pushing her in a fit of anger following a quarrel on the terrace of his house. She died on the spot.