Cutout making industry cut down to size

March 31st, 2009 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

By T.S.V. Hari
Chennai, March 31 (IANS) They are the ones who gave politicians and cine stars a larger than life image. Literally. But now the cutout making industry which created giant life like images has shrunk in the state and is dying a silent death.

With the advent of the computer-generated vinyl hoardings of virtually any size, the painters and carpenters who created huge works of art are facing unemployment.

Though there are no official figures available, film industry sources and political outfits said the industry that was once worth at least Rs.50 crore (Rs.500 million) in Tamil Nadu has shrunk drastically.

At one time some 100 cutouts per week could be found in different parts of the state with average outlays of Rs.150,000 per site.

“We used to create the cutouts - starting from heights of 15 feet onwards. Some of our work would be almost 40 feet tall,” N. Marichamy, 59, told IANS.

“In the days gone by, a hoarding would cost at least Rs.25,000 to cover costs of painting and mounting and needed almost 10 days to complete. Our work would stay on for months in cinemas and roadsides,” Marichamy added.

Once he used to earn almost Rs.1,500 a day during the busy season. Now, he sustains himself by painting buildings and earns less than Rs.200 a day, if he gets hired.

The creators of vinyl cutouts, who deliver better work and cheaper, are not happy either.

“The rules framed by the Election Commission and local corporations have become harder. While political hoardings and cutouts last just a little over a day and are removed to make way for others, movies hardly run for more than three weeks in multiplexes,” A. Stephen John, the part-owner of a small outfit specialising in vinyl cutouts, told IANS.

“And multiplex cinemas rarely encourage huge hoardings and cutouts except for those of top stars whose releases are just one or two a year,” John lamented.

“The costs of creation, erection and removal of cutouts range between Rs.6,000 and Rs.15,000 plus taxes. Failure to carry out the last part of the assignment would result in fines,” John added.

Rules framed by the Chennai Municipal Corporation and the Election Commission are strict and enforced most times not only in Chennai but all over the state.

An official of the Chennai Corporation said: “There are complaints from self-help groups, environmentalists and NGOs worried about the giant eyesores on the roadside distracting motorists.

“While there has been loss of jobs, as officials we worry about owners of private properties and government institutions whose walls get defaced,” the official said.

Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta said: “Politics, politicians’ methods and the reaction of the voting public have changed, and so the officialdom has to change too.”

(T.S.V. Hari can be contacted at tsv.hari@ians.in)

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