Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Makers of Indian Contemporary Art 2: Story of Jobbii Chakkoroo
Jobbii Chakkoroo speaks when he draws. He looks at the hagiographic details of his sitter and his large, inquisitive and smiling eyes measures each part for its finer details. When friends come around Joby speaks without stopping even for breathing, while his moving hands make criss-cross lines to capture the last bit of resemblance from the sitter’s face, posture and ego.
At times, Jobbii hands too falter. Then he looks at the person with some kind of resentment. His eyes would plead for one more sitting. He has committed an error. Now he wants to correct it. And as a sitter you are more enthusiastic than him for he does not take any money from you; the organizer of the event pays him. And Jobbii is an event in himself.
Jobbii Chakkoroo is a well known name amongst the instant portrait makers in Kerala. He travels all over the world to make portraits of the people who are interested to have their semblance of the self captured in graphite powder. Have you observed one thing? When you are forty plus you feel like having a portrait done by an artist. You want to see it hanging from your wall minus a garland and a flickering lamp.
Portraits remind you of death. You need not read Roland Barthes to know that. Portraits are like Life Insurance Policies. They guarantee some kind of safety and security from the fear of death while it gives you the assurance of the same happening to you in the near or distant future.
Hence, the portrait maker in a way helps you to understand your own mortality in graphite powder, if it is quick, in water colour wash if it is quicker and in oil or acrylic if it is permanent. Photographers are the messengers of death. Each click of their camera takes away one minute from your life because the more you are photographed the more you become a ‘past’. Photographs capture the moments of ‘past’ to be enjoyed and relived in the ‘present’.
That’s why present has the meaning, ‘Gift’.
Jobbii knows it. So when he is called to make portraits of the people in melas and social events he takes up the job with a lot of happiness. It was long back, when he was a student at the Fine Arts College, Trissur. He was a batch mate of T.V.Santhosh, Murali Cheeroth and ‘Panorama’ Prasad. Jobbii skills were known to the Trissurians. So he was invited to make portraits of the dead, alive, living dead and dead living. Then it became a passion, then a habit, then a source of income, then a profession that brought Jobbii all the fame.
Jobbii lives in Trissur and he knows most of the people by face. Like the way a cobbler know the person by his shoes, looking at the facial features Jobbii could now tell about a person. And he is a repository of stories. Friends gather around him while he works at a portrait. And he keeps speaking while draws as if it were an effort to ward off evil and death.
Personal sacrifices make a person greater than the ordinary mortals or successful mortals like us. Jobbii has not looked for any other job than doing portraits. Nor did he look for a permanent job that demanded most of his time. He chose this kind of freelancing as he realized that her daughters could not walk.
Jobbii devotes his time to these two school going girls. Perhaps, he realizes the strength of the people in his lines because he wants to overcome the weakness that the greater forces had imparted to his darling daughters. There is no justification for destiny. And we are the only people who could fight destiny and surrender to it.
Surrendering without giving it a fight is not a good thing, Jobbii knows it more than anybody else. But none would come to know that he carries a deep sense of pang in his mind. None sees him brooding over his destiny. He faces it with a smile. And he shakes hands with it when he draws the faces of the other people on the white paper on his drawing board.
Only once Jobbii cried. That was when he was in some Middle East Countries. He had gone for a ‘portrait trip’ invited by some friends there. He had collected enough money for his young daughters. But in the airport he came to know that his money was missing. It was stolen by someone. Jobbii fainted and when he woke up he cried.
Jobbii is a great friend of many. I got this rare opportunity to sit before him for a portrait. He captured my semblance in no time. I looked handsome in that and I was very happy. I thought in a momentary death everyone looks handsome.
Jobbii still works on in Trissur and around the world. When friends come back with their success stories, Jobbii tells them about the stories of those people who were once dear to them all as young boys. He tells them about the girls with whom they had flirted. He tells them about the sky of the city, the changing rituals in the temples, the sizes of the elephants that come for the temple festivals…But he does not speak anything about anybody’s face.
That he draws on his papers.