“Kabali da!” The dialogue pops up in my mind while standing next to a wax model of Rajinikanth at the newly-opened Sunil’s Wax Museum in the city. One can’t miss the swag and style of the superstar in Kabali. Seated next to him is Mohanlal as Stephen Nedumpally from his mega-hit Lucifer.

Celebrities, politicians, freedom fighters, social reformers, sportspersons, and newsmakers vie for attention at the museum opened by wax sculptor Sunil Kandalloor. There are 27 figures now and more are in the pipeline.

Sunil has been a wax sculptor for two decades now. “The wax figures of Carl Lewis and Fidel Castro that I saw in a magazine piqued my interest in working with wax. I learned this on my own, by trial and error. If earlier it took me six months to complete a figure, now it takes not more than 25 days,” says the artist, a diploma-holder in fine arts.

The work on a wax figure starts with taking accurate measurements of the person concerned, provided he or she permits. “The complexion, expression, and colour of hair are important and so too are facial features such as shape and size of eyebrows and eyes, the colour of the pupils, cheeks, nose, chin, jaw, forehead…. We use photographs and videos as well. If we can’t get the measurements, we rely on photographs or videos,” he says.

Creative process
Based on the measurements, a life-size clay model is made. It is then transferred to a mold, which can be of Plaster of Paris or fiberglass, depending on the posture of the figure. Hot paraffin wax is poured into the mould. “Powder color is mixed with it so that the wax stays harder. Once the wax sets, we attach acrylic eyeballs, eyelashes, hair, facial hair and the like. Each hair strand is attached individually. It is difficult to make figures of individuals with beards as in the case of actor-dancer Prabhu Deva and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Sunil says.

The hair used is real, which he sources from his “regular donors” or beauty parlours. As for the costume, usually, his models themselves donate the dresses. However, things can go wrong even after a figure is completed. “You will get a complete picture only after fixing the hair, eyebrows, eyelashes or, in some cases, the moustache. “If there is a small mistake, I discard the figure and all the hard work goes down the drain,” he says. Each figure consists of six pieces that can be dismantled and reassembled within five minutes.