Dirty Hands


Rajiv Subba (Chandigarh Art College, NID) and Mamta Gautam (SPA, NID) got together to experiment and delve into something that had no set precedents in India. They formed Dirty Hands, a company that now makes hyper-realistic silicon mannequins and prosthetics for films and works at recreating what we experience.

Though trained in art, architecture, ceramic and glass design, their skills as mannequin makers is self-taught. Which is probably why their office is a cheerful collective of talented friends from various fields with no ‘degrees’ in hyper-realistic work. Their work is convincing and brings out the Indian skin tone and character impressively. Dirty Hands, though pioneering in India, still has some way to go if compared to hyper-realistic works around the world. But it does open up possibilities to create new experiences in the country by people who have an affinity to the stories within.

Mark Twain once said, ‘Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t’. Creating a realistic portrayal of something that once was or still is means there is material to adhere to, possibilities unexplored because a finite object has finite rules that bind it. The idea of portraying reality, to me, seems more in the realm of fantasy, to create something that really isn’t. A clone of reality, distinct in its fictional self and boxed in finite possibilities. Thus not real. No matter how alike.

Let’s interact with the fiction of reality, painstakingly created by Dirty Hands.

The Darshan Museum

The Darshan Museum

The mannequin with the model

– In conversation with Dirty Hands –

Indian By Design: How did it all start?

Dirty Hands: The company ‘Dirty Hands’ was founded three years ago by Rajiv Subba and Mamta Gautam, both students of National Institute of Design (NID), specialists in ceramic and Glass design. Rajiv Subba graduated from Chandigarh Art College where he perused sculpture and Mamta graduated from School of planning and architecture from Delhi where she graduated as an architect. During their academic course of two years at NID, they realized they had complementary skills and collaborated to help each other in their assignments. It was in 2008 they further collaborated to form ‘DIRTY HANDS’ at National design Business Incubation (NDBI). The team comprises of friends from their college days. The design house is a collective of skilled and specialized architects, designers and artists under the same roof. Our team comprises of fifteen talented and skillful individuals.

Indian By Design: Were there any precedents in India that you could learn from? What is the process like?

Dirty Hands: The material was new to us and there was no organization in India where we could go and take coaching or workshops to gain information on the material. It was each individual’s effort put in together that resulted in the art pieces that you see today.

The process is time consuming and demanding. We gathered all the details and data from the Internet and brainstormed to find solutions to bring out the best. We took two years to master the material. The entire journey was magical, there were days and nights when we did not sleep and just explored the material and its various possibilities but as the saying goes no effort is ever wasted. The credit goes to each and every individual working in the company, we couldn’t have reached where we are without their hard work and support.

Indian By Design: The general understanding of realistic mannequins is more in terms of Madam Tussauds and the wax works. How is what you do different from that?

Dirty Hands: The mannequins in Madam Tussauds are in wax and the mannequins we have made are in silicon. Silicon material has a longer life than wax. Our material shelf-life is more than fifty years. Secondly the look and feel of wax is very different from that of silicon. Wax is high-maintenance as it’s a soft material and is not heat resistant. Silicon is low-maintenance, you can clean the dust by just spraying some soap water.

Indian By Design: Artists like Ron Mueck, Evan Penny and Carol Feuerman have turned hyper-realistic mannequins into collectible art pieces. Have any of them been inspirational in your work and do you plan to exhibit on your own any time?

Dirty Hands: The entire team consists of skilled artists and we plan to exhibit in a few months time. Yes the renowned names you have addressed are inspirational, as they have achieved great quality of work in Hyper-realism. But we are more inspired by individuals working in our team. I see potential in each one of them to become as great an artist as the above mentioned names.

Indian By Design: What is your typical workday like?

Dirty Hands: The team comprises of friends from our college days so a typical day is filled with fun and work. We don’t take work as work we enjoy it so you can see a lot of discussions and interactions happening the entire day. Individuals in the team are responsible for the work assigned to them so they work according to their feasibility. Some choose to work the entire day, some work late at night. We don’t stick to the official timings of 10 to 6. The kind of work we do is very artistic in its approach hence we like to provide freedom to each individual working here.

Indian By Design: Which sectors have been the most interested in what you create?

Dirty Hands: We believe in exploring various materials, which go beyond their conventional definitions. Hence when we were approached to work for Sadhu Vaswani museum in Pune around two years ago, we began to research and develop mannequins made in silicon. This was the first project in which we explored this magical material. We are also into prosthetics for bollywood movies and have completed a movie for Anurag Kashyup productions that will be released some time next year. We are also looking at medical prosthetics in the near future. We believe that the material can be used for diverse purpose and has a good scope.

Indian By Design: Tell us about Darshan.

Dirty Hands: Darshan is a world-class museum based on the life and teachings of Sadhu T.L. Vaswani. The life story of the spiritual leader is effectively unveiled through a series of audio-visual shows and excellent use of artwork in 100 minutes. The museum, spread across 10,000 square feet, aims at giving a unique experience to those who visit it. Visitors can view the hyper-realistic mannequins of Sadhu Vaswani as a small child, his mother, father and his followers – Dada J.P Vaswani, Sati, Parvati and Shanti – to name a few. The detailing of the sculpture brings life to these characters. We have received good response from the people viewing the museum. The museum is open from 11 am to 5 pm, except Thursdays.

Indian By Design: Do you perceive hyper-realistic mannequins as an element of fantasy or reality?

Dirty Hands: We perceive hyper-realistic mannequins as reality as we create them but guess the people viewing it perceive it more as fantasy.

Indian By Design: Tell us a bit about the NID incubation centre and how the association has worked out for you.

Dirty Hands: NDBI is an initiative of the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad set up with the support of Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, New Delhi.. NID has been a catalyst in disseminating design awareness amongst the Indian industry, as its graduates are active in every sphere of economic activity in the country. The mandate of NDBI is to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship in the creative minds of young designers, so that their ideas metamorphose into newer and niftier products or services capable of being marketed and sold. The outcome is the creation of a new class of entrepreneurs. NDBI has supported and nurtured our design instincts to reality but has also shown faith in our endeavours.

Indian By Design: Any strange incidents with people mistaking your mannequins for real?

Dirty Hands: Well, there have been myriad incidents where people have mistaken the mannequins to be real people. To pick out one of these incidents which I personally found very interesting and hilarious was when the sweeping lady came into the (NDBI) National design business incubation office and found the mannequin sitting quietly for a long time. She found this strange and went near the mannequin to investigate if the mannequin was breathing or not. When she realized that it was not breathing, she nervously rushed to the guard sitting at the main gate and directed him to call for an ambulance. The guard pacified her and told her it was not real.

< The Dirty Hands fb page can be found here. If you’d like to see more realistic works from around the world, find them here, here and here. (warning: some works contain nudity) >

19 Responses to “Dirty Hands”

  1. 1 umashankar vishvanath

    very interesting. would like to know how you are funded, how big is your business, are you looking for funding, do you have a business pla, are you looking at scaling

  2. Hi,

    Came across Dirty Hands in Business Standard. Truly hyper realistic mannequins. This is by far the most realistic silicone mask I have seen. Very impressive. I am a PhD scholar at IIT Madras working in the area of medical simulation devices. At our lab, we develop novel manikin based medical training systems. I have been actively involved in Silicone mask development myself for an year now. I would love to speak to you and your colleague about possibility of a collaboration. Please let me know if and how you might like to take this forward.

    Biswarup Mukherjee
    PhD Scholar
    Healthcare Technology Innovation Center-IITM
    Measurements and Instrumentation Lab, IITM

  3. 3 valaji bagda

    hi…my name is valaji bagda i am a spray painter in ceramic. my no..9033267238

  4. 4 valaji bagda


  5. 5 Radhacharan Das

    Can you help to get the contact details of the Dirty Hands team or their office number so that I can talk to them about the possibilities of making statue

    • hello sir i m rajiv subba co founder of dirtyhands my no is 07567159322

      • hello sir Iam patil n a working in J N V canacona south goa as a art teacher I like u r silicon model please u r mobli no———- my no 9970446035

  6. 8 Hitesh

    Wow, loved the article here and the one in paper today, great job guys, will look you all up when in ahmedabad next!

  7. 9 Pankit

    what are they hearing in “The mannequin with the model” pic?
    Sorry M not artistic person so just wondering; but still I like concept and its presentation as well

  8. Amazing Mannequins. Really great work.

  9. Amazing Mannequins. Very lifelike, it is difficult to tell which one is real.

  10. brilliant……………..

  11. Wow.. these mannequins look so much real. This is a combination of brilliance and art… stupending use of raw materials for intericate detailed relatistic looking creations.

  12. Haunting!

  13. Nice work…really inspirational.

  14. 17 Rekha

    Absolutely fabulous post,Kavita. Really enjoyed reading it.

  15. Wow.It’s really wonderful.We think this is realistic but is is one type of art.This pictures are really great.

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