www.punemirror.indiatimes.com | November 22, 2017
Learn to make stunning, theatrical masks for your home from a master craftsman of the Chhau mask-making tradition
Two years ago, Bhim Sutradhar, a Chhau mask maker from Charida, a village in the Purulia district of West Bengal, undertook one of the most challenging projects. He was commissioned to build a 30-foot-tall mask of Ravana to decorate a pandal in Kolkata during Durga Puja. The 40-year-old craftsman laboured for months to craft the gigantic visage of the Lankan king, whose fierce countenance and sheer size won Sutradhar many plaudits.
Sutradhar is among the numerous craftsmen in Charida who practice the ancient craft of making the animated masks worn by practitioners of Chhau, the famed tribal martial arts dance of Purulia. “My forefathers also made Chhau masks,” says Sutradhar, who was taught the art by his father. The artisan runs a small workshop in his village where he spends his days making these masks that are inspired by mythology. Sutradhar has seven artisans working for him.
Making a Chhau mask is a laborious process, but for Sutradhar, the activity is akin to meditation. “I let my heart lead me when I work on a mask,” he says. He begins the activity by fashioning an earthen mould, which is covered with layers of paper pulp, reinforced with special glue. The mould is then polished and left to dry in the sun. Once the mask is adequately sapped of moisture, Sutradhar uses rudimentary tools, such as a cooking spud, to fashion an image out of the mould.
Sutradhar and his peers are the busiest during Durga Puja. Orders for Chhau masks, which are also used for decorative purposes, pour in from all over Kolkata. He charged over a lakh of rupees to make the enormous Ravana mask. However, standardsized masks used by dancers, measuring over five-foot in length, are priced at anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000. Some pieces find buyers among art collectors from London and Paris.
The Chhau craftsmen usually take to the art from childhood. Sutradhar was four years old when he began his lessons, and at 40 he has no regrets about his decision of choosing the profession. He has been painting professionally for decades now and has helmed Chhau workshops as part of the Rural Craft Project undertaken by UNESCO and the Government of India. “I will be teaching participants in Pune how to make Chhau masks of Ganesha, Durga and other characters from our mythology,” says Sutradhar, who will lead a series of workshops in the city this week.
The event is an initiative of Heart for Art, a public charitable trust that promotes the traditional art and craft of India. Participants will get to take home two masks that they make during the workshop. Those interested must indicate the workshop venue when they call to register.
Where & When
Monalisa Kalagram, Koregaon Park
November 23 & 26, 4–7 pm
November 24, 10 am–1 pm
Gyan Adab,Kalyani Nagar
November 24, 3–6 pm
PM Medley-Burgh, 2/3
Bihari Deep Building Lane No. 11, Prabhat Road
November 25, 10 am–1 pm
November 25, 3–6.30 pm
The Learning Farm,Sus Road
10 am–1 pm
Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Yerawada
November 27, 11 am–2 pm
COST: Rs 1,200 (includes materials)