It was 1903 and the Diwan-i-Khas at Red Fort in Delhi was the venue for the Coronation Ball, in celebration of King Edward VII. George Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, was hosting arguably the largest party Delhi would ever know. But what the world remembers is the Peacock Dress that Lady Curzon wore. While the bodice was of embroidered net and gold, the skirt was brimming with peacock feathers done in zari. The centre of each feather was embellished with the wing casing of a beetle, known for its iridescent green colour.
More than a century later, the peacock pattern dressed up the Buckingham Palace. Last week, at the London residence of UK’s royal family, the best of Indian and British culture was celebrated at a reception to mark the launch of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. London-Bangalore based Studio Carrom developed the imposing peacock projection inspired by Indian dance motifs.
“We were drawn to the idea of performance and dance as it encompasses a vast wealth of different people and forms. The peacock offered an iconic motif, which on a larger level could stand for performance. The peacock’s plumage display was also reminiscent of firework displays that had the celebratory aspect we were looking for,” says Nia Thandapani of Studio Carrom. “We focused on finding different dance forms and instruments, but specifically wanted those which have strong, identifiable forms and movements, as this had to be visible and clear on the complex architecture,” she adds.
Formed by graphic designer Thandapani and illustrator Priya Sundram, the studio mediates between the east and the west, with nostalgia playing a part as well. “If you look at our leaflets for the Darbar Music Festival at Ravenna, Italy, or the V& A (Victoria and Albert Museum) India Festival promotions, they represent a certain meeting point between India and the west. But if you look at our book project The Thirsty Fish, which comprises selected poems by Jalaluddin Rumi, or our work with Tara Books, you will see the meeting point is different,” says Thandapani.
For the picture book-cum-graphic novel Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Bananas by Tara Books, Sundaram used close-ups and cinematic tropes as a nod to film noir detective movies. The Thirsty Fish, on the other hand, alludes to various aspects of Rumi and Sufi poetry. “The book was approached as though it has been gifted to the reader by someone who was perhaps already a Rumi enthusiast. For instance, you will find a photo of whirling dervishes and a prayer-card-like piece with images of figures from the text,” says Thandapani.
For their future projects they are working with Bangalore-based Quest Alliance, in the education and skills space, and with Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters.