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The annual crafts mela from Tamil Nadu, Poompuhar, is back with more things. Check out the rare handicrafts

Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

POOMPUHAR CRAFTS mela was here last year. The craftsmen and the sales personnel have come this year as well. In the 365 days that have gone by, lots of things, besides the lifestyle, have changed. Now, there is modernisation in every walk of life. So, why should the artisans be left behind?

The unmatched brass lamps, woodcarvings, leaf art paintings and incomparable Tanjore paintings - things that give the Poompuhar mela its unique feel and touch - are here again. But, there is a definite move-away from Raja Rajeswari Devi and Darbar Krishna paintings in Tanjore style. Today, you can get a painting custom-made. Give the artisans a photograph - of gods, goddesses and nature, among others - and they would replicate it for you. "But still, `butter Krishna' and `Ram Pattabhishekam' are hot favourites," says Raghavan at the Poompuhar exhibition being held at Royal Court Function Hall, Lakdi-ka-pul. And the price range: well, a 10" X 12" painting costs Rs. 4,000. The largest one in this section is Rs. 1,25,000 - the price one needs to pay for the excellent craftsmanship.

And, you thought the touch of modernity is just a passing fad! Move a little ahead towards the counter that sells leaf art paintings. A smiling Selva Ganapathi tells you the leaf work is done with "all natural colours", and is available in the not-so-affordable-for-all price range starting at Rs. 2,000 (approximately). Probe a little more about how they get that natural white colour, and he will reveal, innocently, that the white colour is plastic. "And green. Orange and blue," pointing at each colour. So, what is natural in the artwork? Shades of wood, brown and yellow, the frame and the skill of the artist.

The influence of the contemporary era is evident in the leaf art painting where the form of Puttaparthi Saibaba is fixed in a teakwood frame. And, then you come across a dining table and chairs set which has intricate inlaid motifs of birds ranging from parrots and woodpecker to kingfisher, eagle and flamingos, with floral designs for the border. The chairs have beautifully painted swans swimming in a pond, on the back of the seat, coupled with butterflies sitting on flowers and plants. A real masterpiece which takes about two-and-a-half months and 10 artisans, designed by Rajagopalan in his factory in Pallavaram, Chennai, the set costs "just Rs. 1,40,000".

A little away from the hustle-bustle of sales and activity, in a quiet corner, one finds M. Dhanavelu, an artisan trying to give a stroke of orange colour on a paper-mache idol of Lord Venkateswara. Using "ordinary enamel paints", he creates a rare piece that can adorn your house. How does he decide on the colour combination? "My 20 years experience in this field taught me to choose the right shades and combination. In this particular figure, I thought red (orange shade rather) goes well with the yellow I used earlier."

The new attractions this year are an eight-feet brass lamp with Ganesha sculpted on all sides and on top (Rs. 63,730) and another two-feet lamp with a small lotus structure on top, besides some plaster of Paris figurines, including those of pups and clay idols of goddess Durga for Navaratri.

Last year, a nine-feet brass lamp was bought by Peddamma Temple in Banjara Hills for Rs. 1,78,000. This year, the tallest one awaits purchase. Any takers? The exhibition is on till October 5 from 10.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.


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