Gujral wears a nappy, Manmohan holds a balloon

Jun 29, 2009, 09:01 IST | Soumya Mukerji

Clay caricaturist Charuvi Agrawal turns larger-than-life icons into amusing two-inch sculptures that tickle more than just your imagination

Clay caricaturist Charuvi Agrawal turns larger-than-life icons into amusing two-inch sculptures that tickle more than just your imagination

Charuvi's passion is as rare as her name. A dainty, dusky damsel of 26, she binds humour, aesthetics, exaggeration and technology in clay, and frees imagination in turn. She's dabbled in painting, animation and clay art, and combined them all in what she calls 'Claytronics', a pursuit that won her a place in the Limca Book of World Records. We entered her room and made way through skybags, easels, paintbrushes and old Labrador Oops to find what we were looking for: the heart of her art.  

Do you remember your first tryst with clay play?
I was always interested in quirky art, but it was back in the 9th grade that my parents brought me a special packet of clay from the US, and I started squeezing it at summer siesta hour. Soon after, I subconsciously found myself copying IK Gujral's features from a newspaper. The face came out well, but the rest of the body was out of proportion, making the whole thing cartoonish. To have some more fun, I quickly modelled him with a diaper, and a huge safety pin hanging out. I didn't realise anything as I went through the process, but my dad could. He quickly defined the sculpture as a 3D caricature that had a story behind it: a coalition party baby-sitting our then Prime Minister. That's how I coined the term Claytronics.

The most memorable subjects you've splashed in solid satire?
I like the one in which Mother Teresa is a dove, holding a small kid. Then, there's an in-control Osama Bin Laden riding on a magic carpet, and Dr Kalam with a comb hanging from his pocket. They are the cutest. Apart from these, I've done Sonia Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Veerappan, Osama Bin Laden, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jayalalitha, Mother Teresa, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Dr Salim Ali, George Bush, Bal Thackeray and Manmohan Singh.

What are you thinking when you're finger-finding a form?
I'm thinking of body parts that can be played upon and features that can be exaggerated, to make the statement I want to. That's how the message, and meaning, emerges. For instance, PM Manmohan Singh with a balloon in his hand shows how easily he's puppeteered. The moulding, of course, happens naturally. 


Where do the wacky ideas come from?
Dining table jokes with family!

You haven't taken any formal training in the art. Do you wish to impart it?
Yes, it's true, the reason I was listed in the Limca Book of World Records was because no one else was doing it. I learnt the stuff on my own. In terms of training, however, I think I need to create more before I can teach others.

Was your family supportive, considering no one was doing what you wanted to?
I belong to a family of engineers and doctors, so yes, it was an unusual career choice. But my folks encouraged and stood by at every step. I studied at the Delhi College of Arts, and then went to the Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Computer Animation, Canada.

How much time does a typical piece of work take?
It takes a day for clay to turn into a caricture; solidification and touch-ups included. 

Fantastic Four: Clay caricatures of Manmohan Singh, IK Gujral, Jayalalitha and Bal Thackeray. PICS/Rajeev Tyagi

People you would love to take potshots at...
Barack Obama, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh and Aamir Khan. I've done politicians; film stars are next. Undoing Aishwarya Rai's perfect face would be fun, too.

How many pieces of a single work do you create?
To begin with, one. I've had socialites asking for more, but coming up with too many copies makes art crassly commercial. So, it's no more than a limited edition of 15. Plus, I'm into other full-time fields, too painting and 3D animation. I've set up a creative studio recently, and one of my current projects is an animated music video.   

What draws you to such sculpture?
The moment we wake, work, life and stress comes crashing, but all it takes to beat them is a hearty laugh. On the other hand, if you're like 'nahi bhai, I'm fat, depressed' and all that, those feelings are bound to stay. In such times, every moment of creating causes an unmatched catharsis.

Charuvi's clay miniatures are available on request at Rs 10,000 per piece.
You can reach her at

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