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Dolled up to perfection

A creative couple who stumbled upon the joys of making customised dolls and never looked back.
Last Updated : 24 October 2020, 20:15 IST
Last Updated : 24 October 2020, 20:15 IST

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Santosh and Pooja
Santosh and Pooja
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Devika Ramarathnam wanted to restore her collection of Marapachi Bommais (dolls), but didn’t know how to. She believed the dolls made of red sandalwood had inherent medicinal properties; moreover, they were handed down from generations and were cherished for that very reason. It was then that Devika heard of the ‘doll’ couple Santosh and Pooja who managed to restore her dolls to their original state.

Vijay wanted to gift his pregnant wife something special. He reached out to the couple too. He wasn’t disappointed — especially because he found the dolls resembled him and even sported his trademark moustache. Manjari, his wife, gushed, “I never expected Vijay to come up with this idea; I will always cherish this alter-ego of his.”

Santosh Bayaluseeme Raghunath and Pooja early on in their ‘arranged’ marriage, decided to bond over their differences instead of focusing on the same. They had, in their three plus years of wedded bliss, “tried horse-riding classes, dance drama, music shows and participated in Kalagraama held in Bangalore University.” Over a period of learning and experimenting, they both stumbled upon the art of creating dolls. Once bitten by the bug, their free time was spent learning the art of making dolls and that made them travel to Channapatna (the hub for making wooden toys) and Mysore during Dasara.

“We learnt the basics from an elderly lady, who had actually stopped taking students, but taught us, thanks to a mutual contact,” Santosh recalled their journey. “I was her sole male student as doll making is not ‘macho’ enough. We explored ideas in Mysore, tucked in more in Phuket (Thailand) and from visits to Taman Mini in Indonesia. We are learning garment design and stitching for our dolls. My mom and father-in-law exposed us to the basics of tailoring.”

Tradition plus passion

Working from home, they are averse to taking bulk orders. They are happy as long as their artistic space is not compromised and “aim for absolute customer delight”, says Santosh in a typical customer service lingo! Indians have a special affinity for dolls. There was a time when dolls were given as wedding presents to the child bride. The remnant of this tradition is still prevalent in most of our weddings. So prevalent are dolls at wedding ceremonies that a Google search gives out thousands of results when you type out a lazy, “dolls at wedding in present days”. Besides weddings, Seemantham or baby shower is a time when dolls play an important role.

Besides, we have the golu, a multi-level display of dolls during Dasara. Hence, dolls have always had a special place in our heart and homes.

Capitalising on this need for dolls on most happy occasions, this couple have turned their hobby into a passion. Their attention to details and careful choice of colours make their dolls stand out from the rest.

These personalised dolls are made of clay, cotton, fibre and the decorations are made out of satin or brocade silks, among others, to give the dolls a very rich look.

“We ask the clients to part with a small part of their trousseau material so as to make the doll twin with their outfit for extra authenticity. Such detailing ensures that they have a personality of their own.” Each doll takes anything up to ten hours and they start work only after they share the prototype and images with their client.

Living in a joint family comes with a decided advantage. Most of the chores are taken care of and both sets of parents help iron out the intricate details. Signing off, the quieter of the two Pooja says, “We feel happy when our dolls find a loving home and hope that the new owners love them as much as we do. When our dolls leave home, we feel a pang!” The couple say their passion has not only helped broaden their creative vision, but also strengthened their marital bond.

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Published 24 October 2020, 19:33 IST

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