Art-A-Tech Par Excellence
He remains deluged with loads of work, flooded with offers for attire ranging from Indian ethnically embellished ensembles; sequin dresses with zari gota work to anything on western themes, they all are sewn and prepared in East Delhi’s Shakarpur only. Myriads glad rags from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from tribal outfits to contemporary apparels with all weird, bizarre and sophisticated accessories, antique pieces of jewellery, trinkets and exotic masks all you name are available under one single roof of 10×8. Ramayan and Mahabharat themes are like go and get it for your school and college performances. The kingly garb of Bahadur Shah Zafar or Tipu Sultan’s sword, Chaucerian or Victorian era’s get-up or Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, King Lear and Hamlet kit, Elizabethan robes, Hitler’s hat, Mohammad Gauri’s gown, 1940’s British handlebar or walrus moustaches and brushy sideburns, Mangal Panday’s togs you drop any ancient or colonial name and pack it home at Dal Chand, a costume designer.
Danseuses like Sonal Mansingh and others with different dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Odissi flock to his Shakarpur residence-cum-workshop. He showcased his dexterity with great finesse doing up with a plethora of epic lore and folklores covering from Mahabharat, Ramlila, Durga Puja to films and theatre genre. He has been into this profession for over 25 years, and one alone of his kind in Delhi and a fewer in the country. He caters his artistic expertise to Delhi Doordarshan, NSD and theatres. Chand, has done dozens of Bollywood films such as Rang de Basanti, Dilli 6, Tere Sath, Lucky Oye, Mangal Panday and Gandhi to Hitler. Besides, hundreds of serials and soaps wore his wardrobe.
Dal Chand has learnt the art of thread and needle under the aegis of DD Battu, a giant name in this costume designing circuit. He for decades ran the whole show when there was no satellite channel. Battu and Doordarshan seemed as if they were complimentary to each other. The late Battu bagged the credit for the famed and well-liked television serials Hum Log and Buniyaad.
Having sailed his canoe for long Dal Chand wants to preserve this treasure of craftsmanship and promote the art further only if the government cares to provide him with some space so that he could not only get acclaim world wide but help survive the art as well. “I’ve yet to explore a point beyond, but inadequate funds betray the show and I have to drop it half way through. The government should recognise our worth. If I am given a small place where I can operate from, I’ll have the castle on my side. It, at times, becomes awfully difficult to run this small unit comprising six boys and huge rental for this flat to cough up every month which leaves me cash strapped,” the 50-year-old artist laments. He has already pumped his hard-earned money into this venture, all in vain.
Almost nothing to pull himself through in his home town Meerut where he spent his childhood amidst grinding poverty. To keep body and soul together, he came to Delhi and learnt the trade of needle and thimble at a tender age of 10 from Battu whom he regarded as his mentor and imbibed the nuances and subtleties of this art and then graduated to the bigger themes. Though he was no way tailor made for this profession, the destiny would have it and he traversed the toe line his guru chalked to cut cloth and then sew to history.
This workaholic stitched 25 coats for Gandhi to Hitler in just six days. He also prides himself on dropping names like Prakash Jha, Shahrukh Khan, Amir Khan, Mahima Chuadhary and the likes whom he has worked with so far.
The man of circumstance says that he has got married to his work only but adds in the same breath, “I want to get married only if I get one compatible, one who understands me and my work. I’ll teach her all that I know so that she too may help in work.”
Though he is a busy bee but earns a little enough to survive, he is living on the edge but is religiously committed to tradition. He usually meets a tough time as his boys drop him in the middle of the work and many a time his clients cheat and hold back his money and then usurp. “Maybe, these boys work on a princely salary for a king’s mammoth work. I start my day on a work treadmill everyday at 8 in the morning and go late night, no matter what. I spend sleepless nights working to meet the deadline. From some schools and colleges I charge just what they care to give,” he concludes sounding feeble.
By Syed Wajid Ali