If Invention is the mother of necessity, imagination is the need of the outliers. Ever heard of Folk Cricket? The novel genre created by LastBench Studio in Bengaluru is the newest player on the creative pitch. In cricket-crazy India, it translates portraiture into a hip folk form.
IPL fever is the creative studio’s inspirational virus; the image of one player from each team is recreated into folk art intrinsic to each player’s state. Hence, you find MS Dhoni in Bommalattam, Rohit Sharma in Warli, Virat Kohli in Togalu Gombeyata, a leather puppet show from Karnataka.
Shreyas Iyer, standing sideways dressed in a blue Mughal robe in, no surprises, an oval background holding a bat instead of sword looks right at home in a Mughal miniature. Kohli’s eyes, helmet and outfit get a fun puppet makeover.
Four-armed Sanju Samson atop a lotus assumes a divine avatar in a phad painting—a Rajasthan religious folk art form. All-rounder Andre Russell is rendered in the Bengali Kalighat painting style. It takes from 8-10 hours to make each drawing from start to finish to make a portrait.
Photographer Sriram Sabhapathy, who believes in the power of stories to explain a company’s brand value, founded LastBench, which declares it is not an ad agency. A student at SRCC and ISB, he had the usual accoutrements of a successful corporate job: a smart car and a comfortable house.
After a decade, he decided to quit and work with studio editors, filmmakers and designers to create unusual stories. At LastBench Studio, nothing is run of the mill: a half day ‘story jam session’ is used to build a client’s story through design thinking.
To pull off the Folk Cricket experiment, the studio used detailed research online and offline, and help from craft and cultural organisations to create the perfect last over. “It made us discover and appreciate our country’s art forms,” he says. Since medium is the message, the game is the mission. Folk Cricket has been a hit-and-run experiment. Sabhapathy's aim is to help artisans to earn a livelihood during the pandemic.
He and his graphic artist Raaj Rufaro found an unusual way to do that: contemporise regional art forms. He admits that creating a wood inlay work on a human figure like in Dhoni’s drawing is a rare combination. The first over was a dud—Rufaro tried to visualise the former captain in Tanjore style and KL Rahul in phulkari. He couldn’t quite pull it off.
The medium was wrong: in the end wood inlay was the solution. Rufaro’s challenge was to get the posture, facial similarities of each player and translate into the specific peculiarities of the chosen art form. Fans can download folk art posters from lastbench.studio. Wake up and smell the coffee on a mug with a player on it or folk cricket collectibles in a set of eight cards. The game is on.