BANGALORE, India — Indians have a thing for statues.
We are also obsessive about giant-sized cutouts and massive digital posters of our favorite movie stars and politicians. Such larger-than-life street art is part of the urban visual scenery and skyline in many Indian cities.
Now one Indian is trying to take his fanatical hero-worship to gargantuan levels. R. Chandrasekaran, a granite monument exporter who runs RC Golden Granites in the eastern Indian city of Chennai, has commissioned and completed a mammoth statue of pop king Michael Jackson.
The 12-foot, 3.5-ton sculpture of the legendary singer in an iconic pose is carved out of a single block of fragile black granite. Sekar, as he calls himself, now wants to dispatch the statue that costs millions of rupees to build to Neverland Ranch, the late singer’s home in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Chandrasekaran is a relatively recent convert to the Michael Jackson fan club, having imbibed the pop star’s music and dance moves through his young son. His son has since moved on to become a fan of other musicians but Chandrasekaran is a diehard.
Jackson’s sudden death left the business owner thoroughly depressed. He came up with the idea of carving a singular granite monument to show his own devotion and also show off Indian sculptors’ skills.
It took six of his best sculptors several weeks to carve out the statue. The monolith opened to rave reviews in a viewing in Bangalore.
The late Michael Jackson has his share of fanatical followers in India. At the sculpture’s showing in Bangalore, fans lined up to view and touch the glistening statue. The expressive face and the eyes are a testimony to Indian sculptors’ handiwork, says Chandrasekaran.
Statues have long been a controversial subject in India. From time to time, courts and government authorities have stepped in to stub out controversies surrounding these monuments.
A year ago, a 62-foot statue of Hollywood’s and the world’s greatest comic cinema star Charlie Chaplin was caught in the eye of a storm. The statue was built as part of a movie set and then donated for installation on a beach near Mangalore, on the west coast of India.
But a local Hindu group protested that the statue of an outsider had no place on the beach and that it was too close to a temple. That forced the hand of the filmmaker. He hurriedly scouted an alternative location and finally found a home for Chaplin in a Bangalore theme park.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, its chief minister Mayawati has recently initiated a move to set up a special security force to protect hundreds of statues of herself and those of her political mentors. She has modeled herself as a political champion of the so-called untouchable Dalit caste that she herself belongs to.
Mayawati’s attempts at self-glorification have already cost the public more than $1 billion, not to mention the cost of raising a security force to guard these statues from being vandalized or destroyed.
None of these storms have deterred Chandrasekaran. The Jackson devotee wrote to the late singer’s family in early February saying the statue is a token of admiration.
Chandrasekaran says he will freight the statue to Neverland Ranch at his own expense. He says, “This statue is dedicated on behalf of all Jackson fans in India.”