What’s going to be your buy this year? Valli Thirumanam, Kalazhagar or elandhapazham?
A shimmering golden Kalazhagar perched on a pillar lords over the dolls at Poompuhar’s kolu bommai exhibition in Town Hall. Elsewhere, a customer looks intently at colourful wedding, kutcheri and dance sets. No doubt, they will be the centre of attraction in her kolu.
Prahlada Pattabhishekam, Valli Thirumanam, Geethopadesam, Raahu Kethu set… the newcomers are many, but the traditional roly poly Chettiar and his wife have their audience too. This time around, the couple offer customers clay vegetables and fruits that have come all the way from Kolkata — strawberries, litchis, dark green singada (water chesnut), ginger, kovakai, seethapazham and crinkly elandhapazham.
Blue, papier-mâché and beige Krishnar bommais, the work of master craftsman K.N. Shanmugham from Kurichi have many maamis and maamas sighing, “Evlo azhagu kannu ille?” One such couple has come to buy bommais for their daughter who lives abroad.
As always, the exhibition at Poompuhar is manned by the people who make the bommais. So, you have craftspersons from Selvapuram, the hotbed of bommai making in the city, proudly showing off their latest creations and talking about what paint they have used. “You want a lighter colour bommai? No problem, amma,” says Amuthavalli. She pushes aside a virulent blue doll, rummages through the shelves and triumphantly holds up one tinted a sky blue. She hails from Selvapuram and shares her home with the bommais the year round. She, along with husband Murugan, brings the clay from the Perur kulam, casts it into moulds and finally gives it a glittering coat of oil paint. You’ll remember her stories long after you’ve brought home the dolls.
Next to her stall is the one manned by Sakthivel from Telungupalayam. It also stocks papier-mâché dolls. He sources some of the stuff locally. The rest comes from Gummudipoondi and Vandipalayam.
The exhibition also has Chennapatna toys and festive jewellery from Hyderabad.
Kolu at Khadi
At North Sarvodaya Sangham Khadi Gramodhaya Bhavan on N.H. Road, the kolu gods and their subjects sit in orderly fashion, beaming down from the heights. This year, most of them have come from Cuddalore and Puducherry. Others are local.
The monkey and crocodile set, a throwback to the Panchatantra tales, will look good in the park, if you create one at home this year. There’s also a bun baby set, two plump, beaming cherubs.
The USP of the exhibition at Khadi is the Plaster of Paris creations. With their translucent skin and sharp features, they beat the clay dolls with their sheer finish. But, then, when a clay ‘blue and rose’ gopika with mismatched eyes and a stubby nose stares forlornly at Krishna, your heart goes out to her.
The best part about kolu shopping is carrying those carefully wrapped dolls home. The salespersons gently pack them in paper strips and old newspapers. They carefully place them inside cardboard. Another layer of newspapers and string complete the swaddling, and the dolls are ready to accompany you home.
The exhibition is on till September 23 at both Poompuhar and Khadi. Poompuhar is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays; and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Call Poompuhar at 0422-2391055. Khadi is open from 9.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all days. Call them at 0422-2390950/2398857.