Enticing curtain raiser to Dhaatu Puppet Festival

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is suddenly becoming a hub of cultural activity with the ongoing adult and children’s workshops on art, and the curtain raiser for the Dhaatu Puppet Festival taking place on its premises. This activity perhaps coincides with the instating of a Director for the Bangalore NGMA, Sobha Nambisan (IAS, Retd).

A small audience on May 6th had an introductory glimpse into the ongoing Puppet Festival which is being held at different venues around Bangalore from May 7th to 16th. Dhaatu is a non-profit organisation which began in 2004 with an aim to bring about awareness on the diverse traditions of puppetry, existing locally and nationally, and reinterpret the word ‘tradition’ for urban audiences.

Pic: Anupama Hoskere.

It has often been the case that ‘Traditional’ is made parallel to ‘Rural’ and therefore considered in some way beneath urban consumption. Speaking strongly for the use of puppet theatre in value education programs, Anupama Hoskere, founder and active member of Dhaatu said that what began as a passion for puppetry became a journey of discovery, a happy journey that Dhaatu wishes to share with its audiences. Her husband, Vidya Shankar Hoskere, who also spoke a few words, said that art of all forms help us celebrate life, and puppetry is one such art form.

The two short pieces presented at the NGMA auditorium made the celebration come alive. The first episode was experimentally choreographed, with an on-stage combination of dance and puppetry. A (human) dancer and a string puppet, dressed in almost identical costumes, first matched steps to classical rhythms. Then the dancer paid ode to the beauty and skill of the puppet danseuse by adorning her with jewels and singing of her beauty and skill. Certain moments were greatly applauded by the audience, particularly when the puppet made complex eye movements, and positioned her body to take an intricate dance pose.

For Dhaatu Puppet Festival program list click here. There will also be quizzes and workshops on puppet making and handling at select venues.

The second piece elaborated the moral story of Dharmavyadha, where the character Kaushika learns the importance of caring for his parents over and above his study of the Vedas. The beauty of the puppets is the way they become expressive, and close to real by their gestures and bodily movements, and the voices that become theirs though they are spoken behind the scenes. Appropriate props and lighting combine to create the beauty of theatre.

The ten-day festival will have presentations from the Dhaatu senior and junior teams, and artistes coming from Bangalore, Chennai, Trissur, Mumbai and other parts of Karnataka. The types of puppets will range from shadow, rod and string puppets to marionettes, glove puppets and contemporary puppets with programs at venues across the city including Yavanika, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Freedom Park, Cubbon Park, Seva Sadan Malleshwaram, Suchitra Cine & Cultural Academy.

Speaking of the future of puppetry Anupama mentioned that an interesting part of this festival will be a presentation by Professor Dinesh, IISC (CEDT) Bangalore on ‘Robotic Puppetry’. The introduction of programming and state of the art memory joy sticks can actually create a system wherein puppet movements can be stored and restored at the jerk of a joy stick, a technology that can be used to orchestrate puppets in different parts of the world at the same time.   ⊕

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About Lina Vincent Sunish 10 Articles
Lina Vincent Sunish is a Bangalore based art historian and curator.