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Friday, April 10, 2020

Stories in a Maze

The Darshan Museum,located on the first floor of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission building,is spread over an area of 10,000 square feet.

Written by Shruti Nambiar | Published: June 14, 2012 4:10:35 am

The Darshan Museum,located on the first floor of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission building,is spread over an area of 10,000 square feet. That would seem like an unusually large space for a project dedicated to being an interactive ‘biography’ of a person. But,shut off from the gleaming marble climes of this campus,the museum is a maze-like enclosure,that has been divided into eight zones,and presents a fabulous confluence of technology in audio and video story-telling. The museum runs the 100-minute shows every half an hour,in both English and Hindi,and it typically begins with an recorded address from J P Vaswani,shown from a wall-mounted television set in the foyer.

Following this begins the real show. The first zone is a large room with a wide-arching wooden bench stationed in the middle. The audience looks up to two large screens covering the top parts of two walls,while the rest of the room recreates a rural household setting with a rough floor and a few props like a hand-mill scattered around. The show begins with a short film relating the story of Sadhu Vaswani. The next segment in the same room starts with clips from another film and quickly spills out to other parts of the wall,literally. The narrative of the story is split between the films and voice-overs that hover about life-like mannequins. What look like walls are actually cleverly hidden depressions in which are strikingly real replicas of a rural kitchen and bedroom,complete with brass utensils and wall hangings.

The story then extends to subsequent rooms,where a combination of holograms,wall paintings,cut-outs and mannequins build the life story of Sadhu Vaswani,from anecdotes from his childhood to his recognition as a scholar and ultimately,spiritual thinker and leader. The best part of the Darshan Museum is the heady mix of creativity it has managed to bring together. In the winding corridors of the expansive museum,one gets to see brilliantly sculpted mannequins,and crisp voice-overs. The detailing in the rooms is precise to the point of recreating sun rays coming in from sundry windows,and the gruesome splattering of blood in a butcher’s stall. In one zone,breathtaking fresco-like columns re-imagine the initial days of the sadhu’s spiritual journey.

The story keeps one hooked because the format keeps changing at every panel – one moment it is a simple sound and light show,the other it is a pastiche of several incidents put together through paintings. A film clip is followed by collages of photographs; and a huge mural of Calcutta is followed by an anecdote where a stormy Ganges is shown through moving paper waves,and lighting effects that mimic lightning.

An intricately built mini forest section,replete with false flowers of a great variety,leads up to the final sections of Darshan. The last segments takes one through the room where Sadhu Vaswani resided in his final days,and the library that stores his many books.

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