The concept of a parallel universe has fascinated science fiction authors and filmmakers and has inspired movies such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Jet Li starrer, The One where Li kills the manifestations of his alter egos in parallel universes. In Nandini Valli Muthiah’s exhibition — The Visitor — Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, finds himself in a parallel universe.
Speaking about the concept behind the exhibition, the 34-year-old Chennai-based artist says, “During a discussion with my friend, we touched upon the topic of popular calendar art and how they represent God as one of us. During festivals, kids often dress up as Gods.
That’s how The Definitive Reincarnate exhibition happened; The Visitor is its second part.” Muthiah adds that the images have a certain romanticism and beauty to them without being kitschy. “The images explore the concept of Lord Krishna metamorphosing in a parallel universe. So there are two Lord Krishnas who are exactly at the same place and time yet are different from each other. The idea being to portray what would we do in a parallel universe and the concept of time travel,” observes Muthiah, who is a big sci-fi fan.
The images were shot on location in Madurai and it involved transporting a team of 15 people including models, costume designers, make-up persons, lightmen, photographers, as well as other assistants from Chennai to Madurai. There were other challenges too: “There were certain shots where Lord Krishna is depicted as standing on water, those were tough to shoot. It was also tiring due to the night shoots involved; we shot from 8 pm to 6 am and often found it hard to stay awake,” the artist recalls.
The Visitor has been a special project for Muthiah. While she shot the images over a year in 2010, she admits it took her two years to get ready to display it. The images, which depict Lord Krishna with wings, have a certain western touch to them, admits Muthiah. “I chose Lord Krishna because he is easily recognised and is much-loved. At the same time, I used wings (a western element) as I wanted to show him as an angel or messenger (he guided Arjuna in the Mahabharata as his charioteer).”
While the images may be of deities and divinity, don’t go expecting a battle of good versus evil. “There isn’t a message behind the exhibition or a concept of good and bad. It’s about telling a story in stages, in a modern fashion,” she suggests.