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Antique affair

S.R. Thangavel of Muthu Furniture has a keen eye for ancient artefacts. Besides buying and selling heritage pieces, he also does restoration work.

LOOKING FOR antique furniture? Then S.E. Thangavel of Muthu Furniture can help you. He has a keen eye for just about anything that has antique value.

For somebody who deals with people on a constant basis, Thangavel is quite a shy person. "I cannot speak fluently in English," he admits in Tamil. But quiz him on the trends in furniture and his work, and his inhibition just disappears.

"We have been in the business for quite a long time. We are originally dealers of household utensils. We diversified into the furniture business about 10 years ago.

"What we basically do is buy and sell old furniture and other artefacts. If a customer wants a particular piece restored, we do that as well. We are also into reproduction," Thangavel explains sitting in his temporary first floor office in Besant Nagar.

The place is littered with odds and ends - blue porcelain plates jostle for space among faded Ravi Varma prints, while eight volumes of the complete works of Shakespeare lie in a dust-filled corner along with a broken part of what must have once been an elegant lampshade. Of course, these knick-knacks will soon find owners who will proudly display them in their living rooms... thanks to Thangavel and his restoration work.

Walk into the showroom at Palavakkam, East Coast Road and Kottivakkam and one is transported into the rich and artistic world of rajas and maharajas.

Exquisitely carved doors that must have once adorned many a Chettinad home, waiting to get a facelift, vie for attention with beautifully patterned pillars. As for home furniture, there are rocking chairs with ornate hand rests, pretty corner and centre tables with brass handles, chest of drawers with carvings and mirrors and huge wooden boxes which can be converted into tables. One can also pick up ancient colourful chandeliers, table lamps, traditional swings and even dressing tables.

For Thangavel, who hails from Valavallan, a village near Tirunelveli, life has not always been a bed of roses. But he has come up trumps, thanks to his hard work and a loyal customer following. Like most entrepreneurs, he too faces many an obstacle, like delayed payment from customers, but he has learnt to take it all in his stride.

So how long would it take to restore old and damaged furniture? "It depends. Anywhere between five and 15 days, depending on the item. But," he adds, "most people these days want that old look retained. They do not like the polished look. That is the fashion today." And the prices? He thinks for a minute and remarks, "Depends on the item. A Chettinad pillar can cost between Rs.1,000 and Rs. 20,000 based on the height, amount of work done and so on. Carved doors could be anywhere between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 50,000."

Customers come from different corners of the country, seeking Thangavel's expert opinion before picking up antique pieces or looking for unusual pieces. "Many of my customers come from Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat." Not just that, he also has a few customers from the world of showbiz too. "Many film companies and TV serial makers hire furniture, mainly Chettinad doors and pillars, from us," he declares with pride. Thangavel is a simple man, who belongs to a generation that worshipped the ground that Kamaraj walked on. His goal is to please customers and in the process earn a decent living.

Those interested in acquiring antique pieces may contact Muthu Furniture at 24919968 or 24512397.


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