Meet Artists Who Put Joker in JNU, Silk Smitha in Van Gogh’s Art

Imagine... Silk Smitha in Van Gogh’s ‘Wheat Field with Cypresses’, Mani Ratnam’s ‘O Kadhal Kanmani’ in Van Gogh’s ‘Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts’, Aalavandhan’s Kamal Haasan with Fight Club’s David Fincher in Menahem Golan’s ‘Over the Top’, Dear Zindagi with Claude Monet’s ‘The Boardwalk on the B each at Trouville’...

This is not a random list of random stars and movie characters juxtaposed with random world famous paintings? This, actually, is what Kalakki is all about.

It all started on 23 September, when Charles Britto came across a black and white picture of actor Silk Smitha on her death anniversary and was inspired to add artist Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Wheat Field with Cypresses’ in the background. What came out was beautifully altered picture that soon became a hit on social media.

Silk Smitha x Vincent van Gogh (Wheat Field with Cypresses,1889)

Seeing the massive response, Britto and his friend Mohammed Salegh started their official page on Instagram, Kalakkii. The two friends put together starkly different images based on ideologies, eras or even a significant message conveyed in a movie.

Also Read: Can You Guess All 40 Classical Indian Ads in This Painting?

Two Chennai Boys Who Made Tamil Cinema ‘Artsy’

These Chennai artists have created mashups of iconic actors with legendary paintings of Van Gogh, Monet etc. 

Born in Chennai, Britto studied engineering and pursued his master’s from the School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU in Delhi.

“I am not a practicing artist actually. In Chennai or in Delhi. I have done a little theatre...but it all actually started with (love for) films. When I went to Delhi, I was into visual arts, would visit galleries,” Britto said.

Mohammed Salegh, on the other hand, has completed his MBA and is now working for a private firm in Chennai. Dabbling with graphics and digital art is his favourite pass time.

Ritwik Ghatak (Meghe Dhaka Tara,1960) x René Magritte (16th September, 1956)
Mani Ratnam (O Kadhal Kanmani, 2015) x Vincent Van Gogh (Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts,1887)

One Image, Infinite Interpretations

The duo’s favourite mashup so far has been a rendition of a scene from Maari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal mixed with Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’.

Pariyerum Perumal x Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (Resized)

Britto said that this was indeed one of the most liked pictures and he was quite surprised to see people come up with different interpretations.

To give you context, the dog, Karuppi, in the film is symbolic of the victims of caste hegemony in the society.

“In the movie, the dog dies in the beginning and people said it didn’t deserve that kind of an ending. So, the image, they felt, did justice to show that both of them are finally in a peaceful place. And some also thought it was like Pariyerum Perumal and Karuppi meeting in dog world,” said Britto.

Another masterpiece is the one with Vedha, a grey character from the movie, Vikram Vedha, sitting across the table with Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Vedha x Joker : How evil can this get? 

Britto initially wanted to juxtapose a ‘good guy’ against an ultimate villain like Joker, but Salegh wanted to go for a twist.

"“Both of them are villains, but they have different ideologies: Vedha cares for what is happening around him. But Joker, he is not after the money and he doesn’t he says, he is like a dog who runs after a car and doesn’t know what to do if he catches it.”" - Mohammed Salegh, Artist

Another favourite is actor Dhanush’s character from Vada Chennai set in Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Prisoners’ Round’. The Vetrimaran super hit revolves around the intricate lives of gangsters and most of the movie is spent in jail cells.

“For this image of Dhanush, I used Van Gogh’s painting, where prisoners are being taken around. And in his film (Vada Chennai), a major part of it happens in the prison. That’s how I mashed it up,” Britto said.

Vetrimaaran (Vada Chennai, 2018) x Vincent van Gogh (Prisoners’ Round, 1870)

Retro Mashup

In a mix of films made in the millennial age, Britto and Salegh threw in a few retro specials as well.

Actor Sivaji laughing under Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, actor-politician MG Ramachandran in his iconic hat and white pants riding ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, legendary KR Vijaya sipping coffee with the lady from ‘Automat’, etc.

Krishnan–Panju (Parasakthi, 1952) x Vincent van Gogh (Starry Night Over the Rhône, 1888)
M.G. Ramachandran (Ulagam Sutrum Valiban,1973) x Katsushika Hokusai (The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1829–1833)
B.R. Panthulu (Karnan, 1964) x René Magritte (The Infinite Recognition,1963)
Edward Hopper (Automat, 1927). ft K.R. Vijaya

Creating Impressions, One Mashup at a Time

Whether on Twitter or on Instagram, the response has been overwhelming, and Kalakki has even received requests to custom make prints for people.

Britto’s recent post was a mashup of The Joker at Jawaharlal University in New Delhi, with title ‘Occupy Freedom Square’.

Charles Britto’s ‘Occupy Freedom Square ✊?’

The mashup of Farhan Akhtar from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag with the iconic image of Usain Bolt at the Men's 100m sprint at Rio in 2016 grabbed the attention of the actor himself. He took to Instagram to commend their creativity.

Farhan Akhtar shared an image posted by ‘Kalakki.’

The duo were even asked to create promotional posters for the film, Oh my Kadavule, and the result is quite interesting.

“We are getting a few offers. We have even been told to work on a lyric video,” said Britto.

Ashwath Marimuthu (Oh My கடவுளே, 2019) x Vincent van Gogh (The Starry Night,1889)
Ashwath Marimuthu (Oh My கடவுளே, 2019) x Claude Monet (The Church at Vétheuil, 1878)

The duo said they are overwhelmed with the response they have received so far. And they add that they still have a sea of ideas yet to explore. Well, we are not complaining. Keep the mashups comin’!

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