Immediately I could see they were different. They were young, loved making bronze statues and had big ideas for their future.
I met Vardaraj, Varun and Sini 8 years ago in the first years of Lotus Sculpture. Varadaraj is the eldest, Varun is in the middle and Sini is the baby. They were three kids who just broke away from a bronze collective they were apprenticing at for the past ten years to start their own bronze collective. I was their first customer. Immediately I could see they were different. They were young, loved making bronze statues and had big ideas for their future. I saw myself in them as we both were striving towards the same goals. In our first meeting I also discovered Varun, the middle aged brother wanted to be in kung foo movies. I still remember that exchange when he told me his future plans. “Like Jackie Chan!’”, he said eagerly. I made him repeat it several times as I really couldn’t believe my ears and in the end came the conclusion that this tall, muscular kid from Swamimalai had bigger dreams outside of the bronze casting business. Everyone can dream! From that day on my relationship and love for the Kung Foo Brothers, as I started to refer to them, has grown 100 fold. They are part of my Indian family!
Vardaraj, the oldest, had a different dream. Besides casting the best statues Swamimalai has to offer he wanted to make the worlds largest Nataraja statue. After arriving at his workshop this afternoon I saw how close he is to realizing his dream. The Nataraja is ready for casting! The Nataraja is 23 feet tall and will weigh a total of 10 tons of pure bronze! View this amazing Nataraja! After we climbed over the enormous mold of the Nararaja I then moved inside to view my, more modest bronze statues. They are experts at the Nataraja form and I took in my 4 Natarajas I commissioned. Each a perfect representation of Shiva’s dance of destruction. In each statue, Shiva is suspended upon the prostrate dwarf, Apasmara, like he is flying, light as a feather. In my opinion there is no statue form as fine as a Nataraja with perfect proportions. It will always take a little of my breath away to see a masterpiece Nataraja as Varadaraj is so adept at creating!
I spent two days with the family and enjoyed their youthful, smiling mother’s, “Mama’s” cooking for lunch each day. It is always my favorite meal in India a mixture of prawn curry, chicken masala and coconut rice that is impossible to find made with such love at any restaurant. I bought them an iPhone which we spent a couple of hours figuring out the inner workings to the phone. I love watching the interplay between the three brothers. They are so close I really think they can read each others mind. Whenever they are sitting with together they have an arm over each others shoulder, whispering into the others’ ear. I often feel like I am intruding as their exchanges feel so private and personal.
While roaming around the now 30 workers Varadaraj now has working for him I took many videos of the lost wax method process to show in more detail how south Indian bronze statues are made. The process is incredibly long and tedious with 5 separate steps. I thought video is the best way to illustrate with bronze statue making process. People often times say the prices of bronze are too high on Lotus Sculpture. I know that when one fully understands the entire process and the overall work that goes into the making of one bronze statue you will wonder whey they are so inexpensive! I will adding these and many other videos to our site and youtube channel in the coming weeks.
By far my favorite piece of news I have received on this trip was that Varun has received a role as the hero in an action film in Chennai that starts filming in two months!!! He will be a kung foo hero, like Jackie Chan!!! I literally jumped off the ground when he told me this. I am so happy for him. I love when people have dreams and make them into realities. The kung foo brothers are dreamers and I am very happy to call them my friends.