Published: 29th May 2021
The Kalakarah effect: Why this Bengaluru graffiti group will never be just another brick in the wall
Vishnu and his friends got their big break in 2019 when they got a call from an NRI living in the Middle East and they were asked to paint the walls outside the Prime Minister's residence in Ethiopia
We love what we do, that's why we don't feel tired or bored, says Vishnu Ambat, a wall artist who creates unique works of graffiti. He feels that everyone must love whatever work they do. Vishnu, along with his childhood friends, started Kalakarah, a cult of professional graffiti and street artists in 2014. They have painted many walls, apartment spaces, music studios, corporate offices, social or co-working spaces in Bengaluru, Mumbai and even the United Kingdom. But even before they started painting walls, Vishnu and his friends were exploring graffiti back home in Kochi. "We tried our hands at graffiti when we were living in Kerala. It taught us the kind of colours one needs to use, even some mathematical calculations that help make the artwork perfect and so much more. Our parents were a bit angry with us for messing up the walls at home," recalls Vishnu with a laugh.
Later, in 2011 he moved to Bengaluru with his friends, all of them in search of jobs. Fortunately, all of them got jobs with decent salaries. Vishnu says, "I worked as a technical illustrator for an IT company, my friends worked in other fields. But we always wanted to start something of our own. That's how, in 2014, we all quit our jobs and started Kalakarah. Initially, it was difficult for us to get projects but gradually, we picked up in terms of getting some great projects and exhibiting our best work. Our first project was at our friends' iPhone mobile showroom and service centre in Bengaluru. There, we painted the portrait of Steve Jobs on their wall. The same year, we painted a portrait of Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. We used to listen to his songs all the time. When he died in 2017, we felt sad and we wanted to pay homage by painting his portrait on a wall."
Painting of a galaxy for one of the co-working spaces in Bengaluru
Vishnu and his team not only do graffiti but they also do canvas paintings and sculptures on the basis of commissioned work that they get. Their graffiti work is unique and their list of graffiti works is as long as they come. "We have painted a portrait of A R Rahman in one of the city's music studios. We have also painted PV Sindhu's portrait in one of the badminton stadiums in the city. Apart from this, we have worked for bigger projects that we bagged from famous constructors and developers both in Bengaluru and Mumbai." Among their graffiti works, the painting of our galaxy at one of the co-working spaces in Bengaluru will surely catch your attention when you scroll through their Instagram page, @kalakarah_graffiti.
This group has painted several sport personalities on the walls
But Vishnu and his friends got their big break in 2019 when they got a call from an NRI living in the Middle East. "For a moment, we had to sit and think if it was a hoax call. We asked him if he wanted his residence back in India painted. But he wanted us to paint something all the way in Ethiopia. He had been following our work for a long time on . We were flown to Ethiopia and we painted some of their national symbols on the outer walls of their Prime Minister's residence."
Following this, Vishnu scored even bigger projects and there came a time when they had to execute seven projects in a month's time. Time would fall short but their hands would be full. However, since last year, it has been slow and rather difficult for Vishnu and his friends. "We have had fewer projects in the past eight months. But again, we have started getting some good projects now and travelling to different cities to execute them," he concludes.
For more on them, you can check kalakarah.com