Acrylic, oil and paint marker on 24″ x 24″ wood
The Great Khali is a fascinating figure, not just because of his physical stature but also because of who he is and what he represents. Dalip Singh Rana was born on August 27, 1972 in Himaschal Pradesh, India. Though his parents are of normal height, his grandfather was also a giant and Singh has been diagnosed with Acromegaly, a disease associated with Gigantism. This causes a body to continue to grow past normal heights, as well as causing abnormal bone growth. Other notable people with this included Maurice Tillet, Andre the Giant and The Big Show. While in India he worked as a police officer, and still keeps his training current for that. Debuting first in America as Giant Singh in 2000, he then went on to tour Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was paired with Giant Silva by Masahiro Chono to form the tallest tag team in wrestling history, with Singh alone being billed at 7′ 1″ high.
He was signed by World Wrestling Entertainment in 2006, debuting in a feud against The Undertaker on SmackDown as The Great Khali. Khali was booked strongly during this period, destroying every one of his opponents and appearing as an unstoppable monster, with Daivari as his heel manager mouthpiece. I remember when I first saw him I yelled out, “That’s a big mother$%^#er!” The Undertaker finally defeated Khali months later, giving the giant his first definitive loss in WWE. Later in the year he moved to the ECW brand, where he resumed destroying all of his opponents. In 2007 he debuted on the Raw brand, attacking Shawn Michaels, Edge, Randy Orton and later John Cena to let them know he was a serious threat to Cena’s title. He went on to chase the title, resulting in a match that saw Khali lose to Cena after being FU’ed off a crane bed, leading to his first time being pinned in a singles match.
In June of that year he moved back to SmackDown and began a feud with Batista, and then won a battle royal for Edge’s vacated World Heavyweight Championship, becoming the (I believe) first Indian-national world champion in pro wrestling history. During this time he debuted his new finisher, the “Khali Vise Grip”, which he used to gain victories over the likes of Ric Flair, Batista, Rey Mysterio and Kane. Batista would eventually defeat Khali for the title. After this, The Great Khali had a notable feud with Finlay and later another with Triple H.
Since then, Khali has largely been used as an attraction and in comedic roles, often paired with Hornswoggle. The size difference between the two writes the bits on its own. He has also had several notable film appearances in movies like The Longest Yard, Get Smart and MacGruber, as well as Bollywood films Kushti, Ramaa: The Saviour and Sur la piste du Marsupilami, and in television on Bigg Boss, Outsourced and Pair of Kings. In his native India, Singh is a national icon and easily the most popular wrestler in the country. A deeply religious man, (leading to his choosing of the ‘Khali’ name after the Hindu goddess Kali) Singh does extensive charity work around the world. That’s inspirational to me personally, that a man has what is defined as a disability and used it to turn himself into an international superstar, and then uses that fame and visibility to do good for those less fortunate than him. That’s more than the majority of his detractors can claim, I’m sure.
About the piece: First, Khali’s distinctive face is a blast to portray. I don’t know why I haven’t painted him earlier, because his facial features are so cool. Second, his name evokes all of that amazing traditional Hindu art and iconography, so I knew from the day I started this project that I would incorporate that into his portrait. Instead of doing this in a traditional Hindu style, I opted to stay within my own approach, yet still incorporating some of those elements. First with the background I used gold paint to create the glow around his head that is associated with depictions of Kali, and added in a little ‘fire’ iconography with paint markers. I then took a nod from Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ paintings, where all of the movements of a figure are painted atop each other to create the appearance that Khali has multiple arms. I then lightly brushed some black and gold over the figure to balance the composition.