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Conjuring chairs with wings

February 07
00:52 2013

Film sets thrive on Bioscopewalli’s art 

web_1Her nails are painted pink, her eyes rimmed with kohl. She is wearing black, her hair ironed straight, her voice brimming with ardor. A hundred painted beer bottles hang from a fiber tree, candles are flickering in the cement grotto, Mona Lisa stares from a high-back chair, a page out of an old dictionary bears the image of Frieda Kahlo and wooden horse seems to gallop off from the ceiling.

You’d think that the famous film and television production designer will talk of vibrant pinks and pulsating greens. Or, maybe the stark black of film Black or the surreal blue of Saawariya, film sets that she created.

No, she does not begin with colors. Or, the furniture/jewellery designs that she illustrates on her sketch pad. Sitting pretty in Bioscopewalli, her new furniture/linen/jewellery store in Andheri, Mumbai, Kumar talks of bugs. No, not the creepy, slithering ones. But the creative bug that crawled into her head early because she was born to parents who worked for the advertising world.

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The creative bug that often stung her with the realization that her destiny lay in something ‘arty’. That restless bug that inspired her to do a formal course in applied arts. The degree – and the bug – that led to films and television set designs. And finally, the big fat bug that pushed her onto another path – creating her own furniture, linen, jewellery line.

Before you step into Bioscopewalli, shed all notions of ordinariness. Forget the triteness of straight lines. Ignore the triviality of everyday artistic outpouring. Kumar’s creative line is certainly neither dull nor predictable or everyday. But do not conclude that it is edgy or funky or kitschy. Warning: Do not use these adjectives. Because Kumar rarely identifies her work with kitsch. She calls them ‘Creations’, ‘Visual Art’.

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Stick to these adjectives. Once you walk into Bioscopewalli, you’d know why. Exquisitely chiseled chairs have grown large wings, a square table has a naked man painted on it, an antique gramophone still hums a tune, Rembrandt-esque women lounge on cushion covers, three brooches together get transformed into a dainty bracelet and a cowboy-ish shoe pin becomes part of a chandelier earring.

Miniature curios huddle in an ebony shelf as ‘assemblage art’ and Raja Ravi Varma acquires a new meaning when his coy sari-clad woman becomes part of a decorative bed. Jesus and wings are ubiquitous. Quiz Kumar about it and she’ll animatedly tell you about her ‘connect’ with Christianity and all things ‘winged’.
For Kumar, inspiration is not static. Not sourced from one entrepot. That process is eternally on a continuum. Her beliefs begin everywhere. From her journeys around the world. From ‘lived in’ furniture. From pain that is palpable in this world. From her dream that no one grows old ever. From her love for animals. From mythology. From ancient art. From her favorite color black that she describes as mysterious, intriguing and beautiful. From everything. From everywhere.

Vanita Omung Kumar

Vanita Omung Kumar

Every moment, Kumar lives that ‘eternal process’. Perhaps that explains why when she sat with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the look tests of films Black and Saawariya, she conjured a dark, stark world of a blind girl in Black and a dreamlike-blue/green for an unusual love story in Saawariya. That process came in handy even while designing sets for other films like Love Story 2050; Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi; Shabd; Chameli; Yuvraaj; Jhankar Beats and television serials like Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai, Behane, Virudh, Ramayan, Prithviraj etc.

Blame it on the bug. Or, her ceaseless restlessness. Or, those silent moments when she takes a break from fabricating a piece of furniture or devising an illusory film set and lazes on a settee doing nothing. Nothing at all.

That nothingness, however, is not meaningless. That eternal process spins her yesterdays and tomorrows. Her yesterday has been rewarding. Her present fulfilling. She waits for a happier tomorrow. And in that wait lie new ideas, new dreams for tomorrow – a musical. And a shelter for animals.
The famous production designer owes it to the ‘bug’ in her head. Bioscopewalli is her world. But she knows somewhere another world waits. All she needs is to pick a pair of chiseled golden wings from Bioscopewali. And fly.

Preeti Verma Lal

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