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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 10:04 GMT
Indian painter's blood loyalty
By Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC India correspondent, in Madras

Portrait of Jayalalitha by Shihan Hussaini
One of the artist's 56 portraits of Jayalalitha
In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where the dividing line between politics and cinema is blurred, fans often go to extreme lengths to display their affection.

A painter based in the state capital, Madras, has made a habit of demonstrating his admiration for the state's chief minister Jayalalitha, by painting in blood.

Shihan Hussaini, who also describes himself as a sculptor and karate teacher, painted 56 portraits of the chief minister in his blood to coincide with her 56th birthday this week.

One of India's most mercurial politicians, Ms Jayalalitha celebrated her birthday on Tuesday.

Hired nurse

Mr Hussaini says that he worships the chief minister as "Ma Shakti", or the goddess of power.

Blood is the most expressive of all mediums
Shihan Hussaini

He drew about 1,500 ml of his own blood over the past three weeks to collect his unusual paint.

"There were times when I passed out. But I persisted," Mr Hussaini told BBC News Online.

He even hired a part-time nurse to help him draw the blood.

Mr Hussaini does not believe that blood is an unusual medium for a painter.

"It shows my admiration for Ms Jayalalitha, who is a woman of great courage," says Mr Hussaini.

"She has suffered so much in life and undergone so much trauma and humiliation from her political rivals. But she has the guts to always fight back and emerge victorious."

Portrait of Jayalalitha by Shihan Hussaini and the chief minister herself
Ms Jayalalitha earlier asked Mr Hussaini to stop hurting himself

But could not he have paid homage by using regular paint?

"No. Blood is the most expressive of all mediums," says Mr Hussaini.

"It creates a rare bond and shows how much respect I have for my leader. I will do just about anything for her," he says.

Mr Hussaini believes his actions might also increase blood donations in the state.

"People will realise that even after drawing out 1500 ml of blood in three weeks, one can remain healthy," he says.

This is not the first time Mr Hussaini has painted his leader in blood.

In 1994, he arranged for 101 cars to drive over his right hand, after which he is reported to have carried out the improbable sounding feat of using the same hand to break 5,000 tiles and 1,000 bricks.

"And then with my shattered and bloody hand I drew a portrait of my leader in my blood."

Die-hard followings

Mr Hussaini was summoned by Ms Jayalalitha after this unusual show of worship.

Blood drawn from Shihan Hussaini
Hussaini "passed out" a few times in three weeks of blood-drawing

She asked him not to hurt himself again and granted Mr Hussaini's request for land for a martial arts school.

However 10 years on, Mr Hussaini is still waiting for the plot of land.

So to draw his leader's attention, he has returned to his blood paintings.

"But this time I have not hurt myself, following the chief minister's advice," says Mr Hussaini.

Surprisingly, such incidents of devotion are not unusual in Tamil Nadu, where many politicians and film stars enjoy die-hard followings.

A man chopped off one of his fingers as an offering to Ms Jayalalitha on her 55th birthday.

In 2002, another supporter of Ms Jayalalitha cut off his tongue and offered it at the famous Tirupati temple.

When the founder of Ms Jayalalitha's AIADMK party, MG Ramachandran, fell sick some years ago, hundreds of his fans travelled miles to offer prayers at a temple.

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04 Dec 01  |  South Asia

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