Mould of passion

The clay busts he makes are often sponsored, some even by his own students, and the sponsors’ names are imprinted on to the busts.
Chandru making a late communist leader Sankaraiah’s bust in Tirunelveli.
Chandru making a late communist leader Sankaraiah’s bust in Tirunelveli.Photo | V Karthikalagu

TIRUNELVELI: For Chandrasekaran alias Chandru, art is like life in continuity. The passion of this former principal of Chennai's Government College of Fine Arts remains unquenched even after retirement. Chandru, a man of many talents including design, sculpting, and painting, has had a renowned presence in the world of Indian art and art history.

Hailing from Thoothukudi, his work has found its way to several official buildings in India: Madras High Court’s Ambedkar statue, the Madurai bench’s Gandhi statue and another one at Ahmedabad High Court, and also numerous museums across Germany, London, United States and Japan. Notably, his paintings have also been displayed at Kolkata’s Birla Museum.

Chandru with the sculptor of his father.
Chandru with the sculptor of his father.Photo | V Karthikalagu

“I had retired from the post of principal in 2010. It was a great journey for me, from being a student, to a lecturer and then the principal of the college, over a period of three decades. Many of my students have become known for their original artworks. Still, I never wanted to take a break from my own pursuit of art. I did think about leaving Chennai and settling in some remote place that would give me more time to spend on research and sculpting. I had gone to Ambasamudram for an art camp with my wife some years ago, and that was when we decided to move here,” he recalls.

His home attracts numerous art students from across the state who come to learn from him. Notably, his study circle In Chennai once had drawn big names such as Pa Ranjith and Thangar Bachan. His most recent work includes a 20-feet Nilgiri tahr sculpture made for the Porunai museum being constructed by Tamil Nadu government, and the Paampadam (Thandati) sculpture installed in front of the Tirunelveli Trade Centre.

At present, Chandru is working on his 51st sculpture, portraying the late communist leader N Sankaraiah, as part of his efforts toward establishing an open museum with 600 clay busts of social reformers, scholars, poets and writers, at his home, along the banks of Thamirabarani, on the outskirts of Ambasamudram.

He has so far completed the busts of Bharathiar, Thoppil Mohammed Meeran, Sundar Ramasamy, Nammalvar, Rettamalai Srinivasan, Ki Rajanarayanan, Annamalai Reddiar, Vilathikulam Nallappaswamy, Pramil, Abraham Pandithar, Tho Paramasivan and John Pennycuick.

The clay busts he makes are often sponsored, some even by his own students, and the sponsors’ names are imprinted onto the busts. Chandru has also written several books on subjects dear to his heart. His notable books include Seppadi Thappadi (contemporary art criticism), Oviyam Endroru Mozhi (research papers and articles) and Avan, Evan, Uvan (short stories).

As for accolades, Chandru came first in the national stall designing competition during 1993’s Kalamela festival in New Delhi; the Indian team led by him won second prize in the 1996 Sapparo snow sculpture festival held in Japan. Also, his team had clinched first place in pavilion design during the South Asian Tourism and Trade Festival, Colombo, in 1997.

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The New Indian Express