Mumbai: Lower Parel dollhouse keeps things footloose and fancy-free

Oct 01, 2017, 15:43 IST | Benita Fernando

Disconnect from the virtual world and reconnect with your childhood at an experiential dollhouse in Lower Parel

A corner of Everyday, Play a Little at Baro. Pics/ Tanvi Phondekar

A Doll's House is not just the proto-feminist play by Henrik Ibsen, but also the joy of playfulness that a design boutique is set to treat us with, starting today. In a unique experiential show, Baro, a handmade furniture store in Lower Parel, has been transformed into a walk-in doll's house for the course of the next 11 days. At Everyday, Play a Little, visitors are not only allowed to give into the pleasures of purposelessness, but also encouraged to do so. Everyday, Play a Little is a collaboration between Baro and Wolf, a partnership between creative entrepreneurs Ritu and Surya Singh. The Singh couple, who live in the outskirts of Jaipur, and run The Farm, an artist residency and homestay, met at a wedding about 14 years ago. After they wed, their interest in working with scrap and experiential projects has led to collaborations such as this one. They called their endeavour, WOLF, a homage to a resourceful yet misunderstood creature.

WOLF had installed an abandoned dollhouse at a newly launched café in the Pink City earlier this year. "We used scrap that was available around the café premises, such as scaffolding and packaging material, to build the doll's house in the café. We had a reading room, a kitchen and toilette with perfumes as part of it. The doll's house was built based on our ideology of play for play's sake," says Ritu. The massive installation was peppered with knick-knacks and games to let people unwind and explore their abandoned, even forgotten, childhoods.

Srila Chatterjee and Ritu Singh
Srila Chatterjee and Ritu Singh

Srila Chatterjee, a former film and advertising producer who co-founded Baro with designer Siddharth Sirohi, says that Everyday, Play a Little is an attempt to reclaim the sense of play and woo people away from the wired world of gadgets. "I am not excited by the virtual world and believe that the best things come out of human interaction," says Chatterjee.

For this show, which follows closely on the heels of the abandoned dollhouse, Ritu and Surya have made 12 original artworks that embody the philosophy of repurposing and upscaling. The wall-hung works use vintage photographs of studio portraits and candids shot sometime around the mid-20th century. These pictures are sourced from junk shop owners, or kabbadiwallahs as we call them, in Rajasthan. These mixed media works also incorporate fabric that Chatterjee uses for packaging, second-hand magazines, computer keys, soda bottle caps and old coins. "We want to instill the thought in people that, 'Hey, I could have done this with some scrap material'," says Surya, adding that they routinely source from junk shops across Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and now, hopefully, Mumbai.

Where Wolf got three weeks in Jaipur to build their doll's house, over here they have kept it grounded and made the scenography happen in three days. "We want the dollhouse to have a lot of whimsy, and we have predominantly used white to convey the manner in which we all, as kids, would have pretended to play house under bed sheets," says Ritu. The project, is by nature, collaborative, and includes works and products by eight designers, such as Priyanka Shah's reinvention of the world's oldest toy, the top, and Brigitte Singh's archival collection of rag dolls.

More than what the dollhouse can do for you, what can you bring to the dollhouse? This seems to be the question that Baro and WOLF are posing to their visitors. Certainly, a sense of childlike wonder and the time for leisure will help. Surya hopes that every visit to the dollhouse will spark off something new. "The main thing here is about a playful state of mind and using your imagination to look at the possibilities of this space," says Chatterjee.

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