Chennai gets a Chester Bennington mural, thanks to the city’s Linkin Park fan club

Chester Bennington mural painted by Mickey Santiago, with LPI in Chennai  


These are unusual surroundings for Linkin Park founder Chester Bennington — next to a decidedly local TASMAC shop and a Madurai mess boasting ‘Malasiyan parotta’ (sic).

Ever since Chester’s death four years ago, a group of hardcore Linkin Park fans from Chennai had made it their mission to give the city a Chester mural to commemorate their favourite artiste. Weeks after what would have been his 45th birthday (on March 20, 2021), their dream has finally materialised.

A picture of the singer, caught in all his screaming, tattooed glory, has been graffitied on to a wall at MZink Tattoo Studio, Nungambakkam.

The waft of freshly made rice from the mess outside is masked by the odour of paint as we walk into the studio entrance, interrupting its owner Mickey Santiago’s reverie. He looks up from applying the last few strokes to Chester’s name.

“Some of us haven’t slept properly for a week,” says Mickey, “We were approached by Linkin Park India to paint the mural a month before Chester’s birthday.”

Chennai gets a Chester Bennington mural, thanks to the city’s Linkin Park fan club

Linkin Park India is a community of 85,000 fans across the country. In Chennai, its earliest members were Aravind Ramaswami and Shankar Narayanan. “When Chester passed away, we wanted to bring together fans sharing the same grief, and celebrate his life. India only has two of his murals so far: one in Bangalore and one in Mumbai,” says Aravind.

Ripples of grief

On July 20, 2017, Chester was found dead in his home in California. His death was ruled as suicide. Overwhelmed, the world shared their favourite memories of the singer. For their next few concerts, Jay-Z, Chris Martin, Jared Leto, Muse, Machine Gun Kelly, Imagine Dragons… everyone would pay their tributes.

Back in India, a country Linkin Park has never toured, fans were equally heartbroken.

Chester’s struggle with depression and substance abuse sparked off a conversation on mental health among his Indian fans, who began sharing their own experiences. Every day for three years, on WhatsApp and Facebook, they have been sharing videos of their favourite concerts, their favourite songs, vinyl recordings, other artwork related to the band, and of course — merch. Till today, they meet up in their respective cities and cut a cake on his birthday.

After his death, the band had to cancel its One More Light tour. The song about losing a friend, lends its name to the mural in Chennai.

“The basic idea behind the mural and the project is to highlight mental health. It’s called One More Light to underline that each and every one is important. We plan to do this in other cities too, this is the beginning,” says Roma Neupane, who flew down from Delhi for the unveiling of the mural.

Wouldn’t a public wall, easily visible to commuters, have been a more suitable venue for the mural? The group says it criss-crossed the city — Ashok Nagar, Anna Nagar, Nanganallur, Ambattur, Purasaiwalkam — hoping to find one.

“There isn’t a graffiti culture in the city. It was very difficult to find a public place — either there would be permission issues or financial issues, or the question of how long it will be allowed to stay up,” says Javid Farooqi, another member of Linkin Park India.

Finally, they approached Mickey, a metalhead and a former musician himself. “This is a place associated with Art and Music. Lots of musicians walk into the studio, so they would like seeing Chester’s mural here,” says Mickey.

Mickey & Co went through 40 photos of Chester before picking the one from the Projekt Revolution Tour in New York, 2007.

“It captures him with his flaming tattoos and his signature scream,” say Javid. “That’s him in his element”.

If these topics cause mental distress, please call Sneha Foundation at 24640050 or Aasra at 9820466726.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 4:44:37 AM |

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