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He is more than 60 years old and has spent 46 of those years perfecting, performing, inventing and reinventing the art of puppetry, combined with ventriloquism. The creator of the murderous doll, Tatya Vinchu, in Mahesh Kothare's 1993 Marathi film Zapatlela, Ramdas Padhye has returned after a two decade-hiatus to make the same doll for the film's sequel, Zapatlela 2. This time, he says designing the doll has become more complex with the advent of modern technology but the fluidity of the designs show on the silver screen. The doll was one of the reasons for the movie becoming a hit in 1993. Zapatlela 2 released earlier this month in the Marathi circuit.
Tatya Vinchu is a possessed puppet who is hunting for his deceased creator's son in a bid to become human. "The first doll was a no-frills, bare-bones affair. A simple foam design, basic levers to control the puppet, and hardly any technology. That was how the original Tatya Vinchu came to life," he says. His wife Aparna helped him in creating the doll.
"Even a simple doll like that teaches us how much life and technology have changed over the years," says the second-generation ventriloquist, who has teamed up with his wife and son to create the new Tatya Vinchu. With a foam exterior, a latex-and-rubber interior layer and remote and radio-controlled actuators for more life-like movements, the new doll belongs to the 21st century.
"No puppets in India have used mechanical movements with animation effects to create a life-like structure. Since Mahesh was doing Zapatlela 2 in 3D, we couldn't let the doll look weak. The doll had been the selling point of the original film," he says. Working on its design for more than four months, Padhye devoted 40 days just to ensure that the movements are smooth and life-like. "It took 38 days of non-stop shooting but it was all worth it," he says.