27 July, 2021

Cut Out For Big Things

Larger than life—it's a simple motto in Tamil Nadu's image factory. For J.P. Krishna, it's hard work.

Cut Out For Big Things

THE biggest modern myths of the state are made of plywood. Cutouts of Dravidian politicians, from MGR to Karunanidhi to Jayalalitha, all literally larger than life, have led the brisk business of image-making in Tamil Nadu politics for decades. Now, at last, the little-known chief executor and the curator of most of these projects—J.P. Krishna—has found fame beyond his native state. His pop art have dominated the skyline during the Seychelles presidential elections in late March. For that event, his industrious assistants Ravi and Pandian put up about 10 huge 40-ft cutouts—a fine sight for the homesick Tamil diaspora in the island nation.

Work for the 42-year-old cutout king is, well, cut out for him. Educated in a modest corporation school in downmarket north Madras, Krishna has over 2,500 dramatis personae—mostly film and political personalities—to feed his cutout business. His mantra as always: the bigger the better. When he first carved a cutout of Jayalalitha, it was a modest 30 feet high image. But as her stature grew, so did Krishna's cutouts: from...

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