What led you to become a statue man?
I actually started my career as a security guard in VGP Golden Beach Resort in Chennai, way back in 1984. The park owner, while once on a visit to the UK, saw the royal guards outside Buckhingham Palace and wanted to do something similar here. So he chose around 10 of us to train to become statue men. I was one of them. Initially, I didn’t like the idea, but I didn’t have the courage to say no to my employer as I didn’t want to be without a job. That’s how I landed this job.
What was the training session like?
During the three-month training in 1985, we were made to stand still in a particular pose for about four hours without moving. We were not supposed to blink our eyes, sip water or eat food during those duty hours. We could not smile, talk or even shoo away a fly if it bothered us.
How do you keep yourself from braking into a chuckle or smile when people pose for selfies with you?
It is very tough but my training has been good I suppose. In the initial days of my career, it was very difficult to stay still if somebody tried to make me laugh by doing silly antics in front of me or by telling a joke. I guess I’m very good because the management had announced a cash reward of Rs10,000 to anyone who spots me flinch. It’s been 31 years now and to date thousands of people have witnessed me as a statue but have never been able to see me move. So the cash reward has still remained unclaimed.
A lot of people must have tried their luck to get the award, right?
Oh yes, several. Several celebrities and comedians from the Tamil film industry too have tried their luck.
Tamil film actors such as Vaijayanti Mala, Shivaji Ganesan, Arjun and Saroja have tried to make me laugh and move. A couple of years ago,well-known stunt director Kanal Kannan tried to make me move by doing various antics and when he failed, he garlanded me with a bunch of currency notes as a mark of appreciation.
Sometimes, women visitors kiss me on my cheeks to distract me and break my stillness. Some have even said I’m not a human but a robot.
Occasionally pesky kids try to poke and prod me to make me move. In such cases, there are security guards who come to my aid.
You must be practising really hard to stay immobile...
Yes, I do. Many people ask me what my secret is to remain immobile for hours and how I manage to do all this without taking rest. My answer is yoga. I practice power yoga every day. That makes me strong enough to perform my duties with ease.
I’ve been told that no one in the world can stand like statue for six hours at a stretch. Even the world famous guards at the Buckingham Palace change shifts after every two hours.
I also go for a long walk every morning and try to remain very active when not playing statue man. I eat only home cooked food and avoid junk food. I think the body is a temple if you don’t pollute it with unnecessary additions and temptations, you can achieve whatever you desire.
Has being a statue man taken a toll on your body?
Standing like a statue for hours might look easy, but it is a very difficult and demanding job. The park owner had trained three people; I am the only one who is still in the job. I’ve trained four to five persons of which only one managed to learn the skills. Now, I am teaching him the nuances of the job to take over once I retire.
When I started the job, I was full of vigour and energy. But, now over the years, I have come to know the stress involved, which is affecting my health. Standing still for hours has started to affect my blood circulation. However my yoga exercises are helping me a bit. I might have got a few health related problem may because of the nature of the job or simply because of age, but I owe heavily to this profession that has made me a celebrity of sorts. Now, wherever I go people come to me, talk to me and take selfies with me. But despite all the hardship and health problems, I love my job and I am thankful to people for the love and respect, they have showered on me.
Is this a well-paying profession?
I earn around Rs10,000 a month. It is tough to manage a family which includes three sons and my wife.
I have recently started door to door delivery of milk to earn some extra bucks.
How long do you think you would like to work as a statue man?
Thanks to this job, I’ve become famous not only in India but also in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Tourists from there have gone back after taking selfies with me. Now, I’m 54 now and plan to retire soon. But before I do that I need to find a replacement and train him to be the next statute man. As far as my children are concerned, they are not going to take up this profession as it is a taxing job with little pay.
When the time comes, I want to die playing a statue.