I went back today to the political wall painting I saw a couple of weeks back in the throes of composition. It show M.K. Stalin - leader of a key local party, the DMK - and his late father and party patriarch, M. Karunanidhi.
One of the photos I took of the artist at work was - to my intense surprise (and joy) - published by the Guardian. That's a first for me! Perhaps a last as well - but who knows ...
I wanted to see who else and what else had been included in the mural which, as you can see, is a fair old size. There are no more portraits. And the slogans? Well apart from the large script which could be translated as 'Hero Stalin', there aren't any.
The text of the painting consists almost entirely a list of the ward office bearers of the party - a roll-call of the local activists, who wish to bask in the reflected glory of their party leader.
One curious aspect of political protocol here - rival parties put up posters around the edges of the wall painting, but were careful not to obscure it. There's a strong informal code here - you don't deface your rivals murals but that could well lead to quite a dust-up.
Both India's main national parties - the Congress and the BJP - have a foothold in this corner of south India. But the main parties are regional - and indeed Dravidian ... an expression of southern pride, a championing of the Tamil language and culture and (by and large) anti-Brahmin with an emphasis, notionally at least, on caste equality.
So as well as Stalin's DMK and the late Jayalalithaa's AIADMK (the governing party in the state) there's the DK, the AMMK, the MDMK, the PMK ... you get the picture.
And the DMK has just agreed a seat-sharing agreement for the imminent elections with, among others, the Congress and India's two main Communist Parties ... which have been described as, yes, tinged with Stalinism!
Elections are just around the corner here - so it's the season for outsize political wall paintings, one of my favourite aspects of Indian politics. I came across one such work in the throes of composition in the back streets of Chennai.
It's good to see that some parties are sticking with the more expensive and time-consuming paintings, rather than just making do with posters ...
... which as you can see don't have anything like as much scale or impact.
This wall had been marked out for the DMK, the main opposition party in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which (helped a little by its alliance with Congress) is expected to do well when voting is held, probably in April and May.
When I suggested to the artist that his mural was in preparation for the coming elections, he got quite defensive: "no, not for elections", he insisted. Then the penny dropped!
India's powerful Election Commission places strict prohibitions on campaign wall paintings and all sorts of other once-standard election practices. But the dates of the general election have not yet been announced. So I suppose that the DMK hopes that this spot of street art will be seen as normal business rather than part of the election campaign. Hmm ...
The wall painting is of Stalin, the new leader of the DMK, and his late father, M. Karunanidhi, who was the longstanding party patriarch and spent in total the best part of twenty years as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Yes, I did say Stalin ... no, people here don't think it's at all strange ... well, this Stalin was born four days before the other Stalin died and was named after a leader who was widely admired in India at that time ... so, in South India, it's the given name rather than the inherited name which people go by ... his full name is Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, which you have to admit is a bit of a mouth full ... and yes I guess it could be seen as remarkable for a man called Stalin to come to power in the 21st century, but not in Chennai where he is probably the most popular political figure out.
I'm glad we've got that all sorted!
When I again passed by the mural half-an-hour later, a bunch of local DMK heavyweights had come round to inspect the work, and to instruct the artist which other party figures should feature.
They brought round a likeness of a DMK former mayor of Chennai, M. Subramaniam, to ensure that the painter could manage to make him recognisable,
And then, of course, they all posed for a photo.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!