By Shatabdi Chakrabarti
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Videographer / Director: Chandra Sena
Producer: Shatabdi Chakrabarti, Michael Muncer
Editor: James Thorne
For the past 22 years, M. Narahari has been growing his nails to a particular size, cutting and storing them – before painting brilliantly intricate images on them.
Narahari, from Hyderabad in India, has now painted pictures on 85 of his stored nails and plans to complete paintings on all of the 100 nails that he has collected over a period of 25 years.
He explained: “My dad is an artist and so is my brother. I got inspired by them and got into painting.
“When I was in college, I noticed my brother grow two of his finger nails as a fashion statement so I started growing my nails as well. And while I was pursuing my Bachelors in Fine Arts, I saw that people were painting on different surfaces, from canvases to egg shells.
“I wanted to do something different and so thought of my nails.”
Narahari, aged 40, first started painting on his nails in 1995, and his unique choice of canvas brought him immediate attention.
He said: “The first painting I did was a portrait of a freedom fighter. Then I painted the Charminar (the famous Indian monument) and India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
“The story of my nail paintings started appearing in the newspapers and it’s now been 25 years that I have been growing my nails, and I’ve been painting on them since 1995.
Narahari has managed to collect 100 usable nails for his miniature paintings and is proud that he’s never used anyone else’s nails.
But his choice of canvas does have its complications.
He explained: “It takes a lot of patience. For the nails to grow properly to the size where I can paint, it takes about one, to one and a half years. So waiting for one year would give me five usable nails. But I now have 100 nails after all these years.”
Most of his paintings are miniature portraits of famous personalities like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Michael Jackson, but he also paints national flags and monuments like the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower.
And his unique paintings have secured him a place in both the India Book of Records and the World Records of India.
However, Narahari has to be very careful in preparing his nails.
He said: “My nails are naturally strong and don’t break easily, but still I have to take care of them. I regularly clean them and apply oil and even take calcium tablets.
“Every moment I have to be careful. But since I have been doing this for so many years, now it’s almost an automatic reaction to be careful so that I don’t damage them,”
For each portrait, he simply cuts the nail off and paints on it. Since the nails don’t get spoilt, he still has the first nail he painted in 1995.
Narahari, who teaches art at a private school, is loved by his students who are all inspired by his paintings.
One of his students, 10-year-old Sahasra said: “My favourite thing about his classes are the nail paintings. When I see them, I wonder how difficult it must have been. But Sir makes them so easily.”
Another student, 11 years old Bhavani, also wants to pursue nail painting.
She said: “I would love to grow nails like him and paint on them, but it is very difficult. But I will try to learn from him.”
When he started, Narahari did face some adverse reactions to his art, but is now treated like a celebrity.
He said: “My art shocks people. There is no one else doing this. And I feel good about all the appreciation that I get.”
“I got inspired by my father and brother, but I also worked hard. Hard work is compulsory. Only then success will follow.”