The 'Beautiful Hands' video series journeys into the City of Joy, Kolkata which is home to the Ritu Kumar brand. The films portrays the soul of the company - its techniques, processes and people who work behind the scenes to create each design. It is also an ode to the craftsmen and their ancestors who have been meshed with the fabric of our society and families for generations.
RITU KUMAR has been working in the hinterlands of Kolkata from the mid-1960's with various sections of craftsmen:
The weaving districts of Phulia and Shantipur - home to the Tangail and Jaamdaani cotton woven saris of Bengal, which use fine hand-combed cotton of a gossamer quality with interesting woven paars or borders to create what are known as the Woven dreams of Bengal. The villages encompass an area as big as a small state in the country.
The Embroidery districts en-route to the Kolkata highway which stretch for an approximate 60 mile square area in the hinterland, with the villages of Ranihati and Uluberia as their hub. This district has been home to highly skilled hand-embroidery craftsmen, who perhaps had patronage from the Nawabs of Bengal, and also from the erstwhile kingdom of Avadh. The craftsmen were originally associated with the Sultanate courts where gold taar embroidery was popular to make Khilats and women's ornamented costumes.
The village of Metiabruz - This entire court of Wajid Ali Shah was exiled from Lucknow and was re-stationed in Metiabruz on the outskirts of Kolkata by the British. The area has become the hub today of the most intricate tailoring, and the centre of supply of the same ready-made garments in the non-organized sector in India. The patronage to the tailors was furthur extended by the British inhabitants living in Kolkata adding to the repertoire of European fashion tailoring.
The village and city of Serampur and Chandernagar, originally a Dutch and French colony on the banks of the river Ganges. The centres were situated to facilitate textile export of the organic silk produced from Murshidabad and Bhagalpur, both areas in the hinterland of the Ganges basin.
The films showcase the rich heritage and legacy of the brand. Ritu Kumar products keeps the traditions of high value hand-craftsmanship alive. It is a story of India’s past becoming its present and we want to take pride in its future.
Filmed & Directed by: Chintan Gohil
Produced by: Amrish Kumar for Mummy Daddy Media Pvt Ltd.
GRAMIN HASTKALA VIKAS SAMITI” (GHVS) is a voluntary non-profit non-government organization (NGO) working in the craft sector for welfare of craft persons and development of Handicraft and Handloom sector since 1993, based in Agra (India). Having more than 2500 craftsmen working under it. Main activities of Gramin Hastkala Vikas Samiti
1. Organize Trade Fairs / Exhibitions all over India.
2. Providing Platform for marketing to the crafts persons / weavers / artisan / entrepreneurs by promoting their crafts and products through organizing exhibition and trade fairs in metro cities in India.
3. A one – stop shop for India’s largest verity of handicrafts and handloom.
4. Availability of low cost, traditional and custom made design under one roof.
5. The place to find craft person and artisan from all over India and their master creations.
6. More than 2500 craftsmen working under GHVS.
7. Helping both crafts person as well as customer in both hands at one place one gets market, platform with other get verity products at reasonable price.
8. Crafts demonstrating and display by award winning crafts persons from all over India and their master creation.
To support and know more, visit: http://www.craftsofindia.org
It is a part of movement working towards the revitalisation of Indian crafts. A registered voluntary, non-profit organisation it is committed to supporting and sustaining the development of extraordinary variety of the crafts and textiles in India, as well as our artisanal resources. To support and know more, visit: http://www.craftrevival.org
The Crafts Council of India (CCI) was founded in 1964 by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay as one of her pioneering efforts toward protecting and enhancing India’s heritage in the nation’s transition to modernity. Inspired by the commitment of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore to hand production as a catalyst for political and social emancipation, as well as her experience with national efforts at craft regeneration since Independence, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay felt the need for mobilizing public awareness and action. For this, she brought together a band of volunteers in CCI to help build a lasting awareness of the knowledge and skills of India’s artisans, and to help address their needs within a rapidly changing environment. It is with the purpose of protecting this identity, that the CCI was established. The CCI is a registered not for profit Society head-quartered in Chennai, Tamilnadu.
Regional and local efforts were encouraged, particularly through the founding of Crafts Councils in different States. Today CCI works together with a network of 9 State councils.
To support and know more, visit: http://craftscouncilofindia.org
Sasha is a not-for-profit fair trade marketing outlet for more than a hundred groups of craftspersons and producers from all India. Registered in Kolkata, Sasha also involves itself in the formative stages of craft groups. Sasha works with these groups to revive crafts and develop new designs and techniques. Sasha works with around 100 groups of which 70 are core groups of disadvantaged women and marginalised producers from rural and semi-urban areas of West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and other states, and a further 30 groups are associated intermittently. Sasha focuses design and training efforts on new producers, as the more established producers have a greater capacity to work autonomously. Nearly 80% of producers are women, and producers in Orissa are tribal peoples. Producer group structure varies from co-operatives to self-help groups (set up by other agencies) to small entrepreneurs.To support and know more, visit: http://www.sashaworld.com
All of 18 years old, Hasim's chance meeting with designer, Ritu Kumar, shaped a whole new course in this life. Mrs. Kumar recalls her association with Hasim: ‘He was very young and could not even afford the bus fare to Kolkata from his village.In the initial years, he used to travel on the top of the roof of the bus to save ticket fare, to bring the potli of fabrics to me. I did not know how impoverished his family was till I went to the village to see him once. This is when I decided to support him to set up his own entrepreneurial venture and he has never looked back since.’
Ritu Kumar helped Hasim start a small embroidery unit in a shed near his hut, in his native village with an investment of Rs. 3 lakhs. He started this small enterprise with 3 fellow embroiderers, and eventually the business flourished over time. Currently he supports nearly 50 families in his village with the work he executes for the production of Ritu Kumar bridal ensembles. Today, Hasim has been instrumental in changing the prospects of his family and children. His eldest son has just completed an Engineering degree while three of his daughters have completed graduation and one of them is in school. From a humble beginning in a small hutment, today Sk. Hasim is a true source of inspiration for many other artisans in his village.
Another endearing story of a Md. Nisar, a young artisan who started as contract worker with Ritu Kumar 35 years ago when he was in his late teens. Ritu Kumar fondly remembers Nisar as an artisan who knew his textile trade in a way that is rare in the business. 'He had an eye for detail and craftsmanship, which did not fail to impress me. I remember giving him a really intricately printed panel with the image of the ‘Devi’, which he worked on for over a month. What came back to me was a master craftsman’s interpretation of the goddess, in intricate thread work, the likes of which should be in the realm of art and not only craftsmanship. He was modest though, and knew his worth and believed in the craft so strongly that I knew it was only a matter of opportunity, and he would go far.'
Ritu Kumar encouraged Md. Nisar to start his own embroidery unit. With a small group of 7-8 embroiderers, he scaled to over 300 odd embroiders in a short span of time. Over the years, he developed an expertise in various embroidery forms like Kashida, Zari, Zardozi and machine embroidery. Md. Nisar, the son of a head mason, hails from Bihar and has completed his education till Class VIII. Today his younger brother helps in his business and his family and children are well settled. His eldest son is a post-graduate and works in the IT department of a reputed firm in Salt Lake and 3 of his daughters are undergoing graduation. He strongly believes in the saying that ‘Learning never ends’ and continuously endeavors to hone his skills. He also says, ‘When your skill is appreciated, you find the extra enthusiasm to go the extra mile’. Today he has built a vast talent pool of skilled embroiderers who will help keep the tradition of hand embroidery alive.
Sk. Israfil started work as a Hand embroiderer along with his uncle in Delhi and received his first job contract of garment alteration from the Ritu Kumar Head Office. Ritu Kumar identified his raw talent and keenness to work and offered him the choice to work for the Export Division in Kolkata, which he took up promptly. Ritu Kumar then supported him in setting up a unit in 1984. Israfil started the unit in full swing with 20 workers and eventually scaled the work-force strength to 120 by adding another floor to his existing unit. And during peak seasons, he has to engage more than 300 embroiderer's in six different villages to complete the job.
He credits his success to Ritu Kumar and feels he will always be indebted to her for her support. His children today are well settled. His daughter has completed graduation while his sons have finished schooling in Darjeeling, a dream come true for him. For him ‘Ritu Kumar will always remain his source of inspiration’.
Kantu Gorai, a small-scale printer from Serampore joined the Ritu Kumar family in 1977. Ritu Kumar herself recalls Kantu’s precision work, ‘Printing, the water, the colours, the process are all in the blood in Bengal, and Kantu seems to have learnt the craft from a very organic stage of his life. I never really had to worry about the execution of the colours he used, or the end result of the printed sari as he knew instinctively what was and what was not aesthetically appealing. It is a long way to come to Kolkata and he did that and more, set up a printing unit under the palm and coconut trees around his village, and has not looked back since then’.
Kantu worked in the organization till 1996 and recognizing his inherent skill and passion for the craft, Ritu Kumar took the initiative to help him open his first unit by investing in it. He first opened his unit in Uttarpara with 2 tables and then relocated to a larger space in Rajarhat for which he further received a capital investment from the company. Kantu has not forgotten his days of distress and he admits that without the help of Ritu Kumar, he would not have been able to lead such a life with his family.