From West Bengal to Tamil Nadu and Assam, you will see many individuals in political rallies with body painting the logo and prominent faces of different political parties. Body painting has become an inevitable segment of political rallies and a very effective medium to impress the voters.
Body painter Dipankar Das from Purba Medinipur, Nandigram told Afternoon Voice, “Body painting is very common during Durga Puja or in the flea market in the form of tiger or cow, depending on the theme. But since a decade body art has been hugely used for political campaigns. Some people rent their body as a canvas for the political drive. Where artwork is painted directly onto the human skin. Unlike tattoos and other forms of body art, body painting is temporary, lasting several hours or sometimes up to a few weeks in the case of ‘henna tattoos’ for about two weeks. It all depends on the requirements of political parties.”
When asked if they paid for the campaign Dipankar said, “Yes they are paid handsomely because they impress people more than the hoardings and poster banners.”
Dipankar charges between Rs. 10000 to 30000 for each body paint. The remuneration depends on the size of the work and artwork. If only plain face painting then the rates are very low. If full-body painting then the rates are different.
Political campaigning agency from New Delhi told Afternoon Voice, under the condition of anonymity that, “The unemployment is a critical issue and that is the reason gathering crowds for political rallies as body and face paint are easily obtainable”. “Youth to old men, rent their bodies for an average of 1000 to 800 per day. The crowd is paid 300 to 500 a day, obviously with food, water and travelling.”
Madhav who gets his body painted in almost all political rallies said, “Hum Hava Dekh Ke Rang Lete Hain”, (we see political wind and accordingly paint our body). If BJP is doing well or paying us well, we will go for them, if Congress pays us well, we switch to them. We use our body for business keeping personal emotions and choices aside.”
He further said, “My entire family is in this business; we have our community who are in demand during elections.”
Shirpat, another Body on Rent artist said, “People click pictures with us, we grab all media attention, even politicians get attracted to us. We feel special and more powerful than the politician. Money is important but this kind of attention creates google records for us.”
“The youth are very hyped up about election campaigns. They are trying to send a message through their tattoos too, they want designs on political subjects, such as Modi on the face, lotus on the body,” tattoo artist Bhadresh said.
After witnessing some young students and professionals getting their bodies painted with tattoos on political agendas, now women have got body paint tattoos featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the famous symbol of BJP. Women are paid higher than men because crowd attracting capacity is an additional advantage.
It makes them feel sexy, empowered. For others, it points to who they walk with. “Most of the times I’m wearing Modi paints on my back and sometimes lotus on my forehead,” said Ratika, who likes body tattoos for fashion.
Ratika said she got into body-paint modelling about eight years ago after attending a hair fashion show with a theme. Some models were painted as animals, others as ringmasters for Peta advertisement. “Wearing body paint is very liberating,” she said.
“It builds a lot of self-confidence and it makes you feel really beautiful. It’s a good confidence-builder, and even though it can be frightening at times, but still, I just find it enough fun and other things don’t matter,” said another model Chandani.
Body art is big business in Indian politics. Thousands of artists and bodies get paid. In India every year there is some or other political event and an ample number of social events, these days no event goes without body paints and tattoo artists.