|(Left) The Kartik puja pandal at Bansberia, Hooghly, that won the award.
(right) Abin Chaudhuri, who designed the pandal
A Kartik puja pandal from Bansberia, about 78 km from Calcutta, in Hooghly district, has beaten top-notch advertising agencies across the country to the Best of Show trophy at a design contest.
The Kyoorius awards, hosted in partnership with D&AD (Design and Art Direction, the British educational charity that promotes excellence in advertising and design) and the International Advertising Association India Chapter, were part of the ninth annual Kyoorius Designyatra, held in Goa.
“This is unbelievable,” exclaimed Abin Chaudhuri over the phone from Goa. The Bansberia boy runs Abin Design Studio, which is working on premier city projects like Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMoMA), JW Marriott and Nazrul Tirtha.
He had entered his para pandal’s design in the Design for Space category with little expectation. The pandal, built on the local football ground at less than Rs 1 lakh, made the final nomination list alongside Asian Paints and Moksha Yug Access, a rural supply chain management company, founded by Harsha Moily, son of Union minister Veerappa Moily. The results were announced on Thursday night.
“I had left the venue with the trophy in our category when I got a call that I would be getting the Best of Show also. I had to turn the car around,” he laughs.
What made the judges Elsie Nanji, Gabor Schreier, Jeremy Leslie, Simon Sankarayya (Sanky), Tania Singh Khosla and Ton Van Bragt — all associated with the global creative and communications industry — present the Black Elephant to the pandal? It must be the sheer brilliance of innovation to overcome constraints of budget — shoestring, by Calcutta’s premier league Durga puja standards.
“We have a 3.5acre football field kept fenced with bamboo poles round the year. The pandal poles get recycled for the purpose,” says Chaudhuri.
For his club Kishore Sangha’s Kartik puja last November, he thought of a rising mass of light and colour, to be achieved using bamboo poles cut to specific heights. “We chopped 1,864 poles to heights ranging from 3ft to 13.5ft, covering the entire ground leading to the idol. They were planted in a grid formation and painted in blocks of rainbow hues.”
At night, the plan was to use coloured LED lights to illuminate the poles. “But the lowest estimate for the lighting came to Rs 16 lakh — way beyond our means.”
It was during a ride back to Bansberia from his studio in the city that Chaudhuri’s eureka moment came. “On the way, I notice these retro reflective vinyl stickers on the highway poles. It struck me that it could do the job if pasted at the eye levels of visitors. Lights reflecting on the stickers would blink one after another as one made one’s way in.”
So stickers worth Rs 12,000 were bought and club members got busy pasting them at the top ends of the poles. Fourteen halogen lights were hired to reflect on the formation at specific angles, with spectacular effect. There were eight-inch gaps between every two poles. “We chose the leanest member of the club to make his way into the formation for the final touches,” he laughs.
Now with the Best of Show trophy under his belt, Chaudhuri is recalling the words of his colleague on the KMoMA project, associate architect Jason Fratzen of Herzog & De Meuron, one of the world’s best architecture firms. “He had wanted me to send this design to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and offered to recommend it. I think I will do so,” the 38-year-old says.