From Hazrat Mahal to Rani Lakshmibai, Chennai actor TM Karthik attempts to start a conversation on women warriors of India with a new photo series
Against a smoky backdrop, Velu Nachiyar stands, spear and shield in hand. Adorned in a red sari and jewellery from a bygone era, her posture exudes power. For Tamils worldwide, Nachiyar is “veeramangai”; the first Indian queen to have waged a war against the East India Company. But in this frame, Chennai-based actor and theatre practitioner TM Karthik embodies the role.
In an unusual series of photographs, to be launched around Independence Day, Karthik, takes on the roles of five women who rewrote India’s history.
Done in collaboration with Pearls Beauty Academy, the series features the actor dressed as Velu Nachiyar, Rani Lakshmibai (Rani of Jhansi), Rani Padmini, Kittur Rani Chenamma and Begum Hazrat Mahal. With costumes and makeup by the Academy and pictures by Ashok, a freelance photographer, the project attempts to tell these stories again.
“I wanted to do a series on Tamil women warriors, but realised that not many would know who they are. The aim was also to reach many. So we selected warriors across India,” says Karthik.