It is ideal to spot large numbers of worshippers gathered in a tight knot around an idol on occasions like Ganesh Chaturthi, Vishwakarma Puja and Durga Puja. Idols add a dash of colour to our celebrations. But strangely, not much is known about the sculptors involved in this Sisyphean cycle of making idols every year. That is what took 20-year-old Mukul Kapoor all the way to Pen, a secluded town tucked away in the countryside of Maharashtra, that is often dubbed the abode of the much-revered Hindu deity, Lord Ganesh.
Kapoor, a fledgling film-maker, is all smiles as he recounts the journey. “As one thinks of Ganesh Chaturthi, images of ornate idols flit through one’s mind. The Pen town is the hub of idol-making. And we had the opportunity to witness the work at close quarters,” he says.
His documentary entitled ‘Ankuran, The Art of Idol Making’ dwells on the lives of the artists who spend months painstakingly sculpting clay into bulbous Ganesh idols and daubing the statuettes with fine strokes of paint. The film captures how a pliable blob of clay is sculpted into a deity by nimble-fingered artisans. He says, “The artisans make idols of all different shapes and sizes. These sculptors make use of clay, mud and materials like porcelain. The future of this ancient art looks bleak. Many young artisans have been pulling out of this business of idol-making. It is a dying art that might soon disappear.”
He goes on, “Many people prefer to purchase idols made of the Plaster of Paris (POP) these days, as those are cheap and look beautiful. We need to make more environment-friendly choices.”
The auteur, who originally hails from Chandigarh, says, “As film-making students of the Whistling Woods International, we had been asked to create a zero-budget non-fiction documentary film. We wanted to explore the methodology of an artist. There is a widely held belief in the Hindu mythology that all of us are made of mud.” He feels that this apophthegm underlines how pliable we all are as human beings. He adds, “It is our passion that shapes us. We breathe it in. It runs in our blood. And we dissolve into its vastness. And it is through cinema that we can breathe life into new ideas. It impacts the way you think, and helps shape a unique perspective.”
Kapoor says that it was not all plain sailing for him. The entire film, which revolves about the time-honoured art of idol-making, was shot on an iPhone. He confides, “We did face some technical issues while shooting the film. For instance, the battery of the iPhone would run out. Also, the only microphone we had that did not work with the sound set-up, something that we had found out just before we were to shoot the main interview for the movie. So, we had to settle for a pair of earphones instead. We had to stay up nights, devising ways to salvage the audio.”
The documentary has earned his team plaudits. He has bagged awards at various film festivals, including Tagore International Film Festival, Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and the Virgin Spring Cinefest.
The fresh-faced boy fondly recalls, “As a child, my grandmother used to narrate tales to me. My family would often take me out to catch performances at the Tagore Theatre in Chandigarh. I remember how my mother would articulate her thoughts through vibrant colours and concepts.” Digging deeper into his thoughts, he says, “I feel that is how I picked up this passion for expressing myself through making films.”
Mukul also believes that entertainment should not be the only ingredient in the dish. “I like thought-provoking stories. I don’t just watch content for the sake of enjoyment. I want to create something that will make the viewer connect with the world. Something which offers pain, pleasure and a lot more.”
Asked if some new projects are in the offing, he says, “I have my hands full with plenty of freelance projects, both big and small. I have also been working on another documentary film that would come out next year. I look forward to showcasing my aesthetic eye and my technical knowledge through my work.”
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