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Chinnappa has shaped many stars with his deft strokes

Chinnappa has made 32 banners for the Rajkumar's hit, Mayura - Photos: K. Gopinathan

HE IS the man who makes larger-than-life figures of film stars. Quite literally: 67-year-old K. Chinnappa has been painting cinema banners and making cut-outs since he was nine. Actors across languages — Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bacchan, N.T. Rama Rao, and so on — have all turned into imposing heroes in the deft strokes of Chinnappa in over 3,000 banners.

Having learnt the art from S.K. Seenu in the 40s, Chinnappa started off as an assistant. The climb was not easy for Chinnappa, who had no education to speak of. A break came when he joined Rama Arts. In 1973, he began his own business called Rajkamal Arts. He went on to make banners for some of the greatest hits of the industry: Bangarada Manushya, Naa Ninna Mareyalare, Kalla Kulla, Prema Loka, Ranadheera, and Chakravyuha to name a few.

Chinnappa remembers making 32 banners for the Rajkumar's hit, Mayura — a record of sorts. He also remembers well-known director Puttanna Kanagal being all praise for his banner for Paduvarahalli Pandavaru. Chinnappa also did the Banner of V. Shantharam's 1962 film, Stree.

Chinnappa recalls how, even during the black-and-white era, banners had to be in colour. He did it for the Rajkumar classic, Bedara Kannappa. "The cinema industry runs in colour, and we should do everything in colour!" he says. The commercial success of a film could well depend on the perfect execution of a banner, he adds. Getting the proportions right is difficult while painting a large banners, and if a fan sees his favourite hero or heroine depicted "wrong", it could spell disaster in more ways than one!

The credit of making the very first huge cut-outs of film stars goes to Chinnappa, an idea that caught up in a big way eventually. If it's a regular banner, Chinnappa makes it a point to fit in the hero, heroine, villain, and an action fight. Meticulous directors such as Puttanna and Siddalingaiah would even tell Chinnappa the scenes frame by frame, so that Chinnappa could make the banner in the appropriate mood.

Chinnappa says that the job of an artist is one filled with joy. Though vinyl banners are fast taking over traditional ones, Chinnappa prefers the old-style ones. He says that the new ones have the appearance of being machine-made, while those done by hand have about them the feel of an art work.

Chinnappa has, of late, been dabbling in some serious art too. He has done over 20 works on canvas. He plans to hold an exhibition of these paintings at Chitrakala Parishat soon.


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