Suruchi Gupta

Archive for May, 2011

Puppets Walking Off The Stage

by on May.21, 2011, under City Life, Experiences

Puppeteer Sudip Gupta, in an interview with me once, for SPICMACAY, said, how puppets around the world are used in animations big time, and in India, could be used on a significant scale too, but are not, for want of awareness, primarily. Thus I thought of this story on use of puppets in India – on other platforms than live performances. Am thankful to all the puppeteers for sharing their bit with me! The underneath story was written around the World Puppet Day on March 21, and has been published in an expertly edited format on May 21, 2011 in HT City, Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Ranchi/Patna edition.

Copyrights@HT Media LTD

Puppeteer Sudip Gupta with his Bihu puppets

On strings and rods, in gloves and shadows, with ventriloquists and humanettes, the delightful world of puppetry has entertained and educated audiences since times immemorial. But do you see the puppets in ads and films too now? Or you see, but do not know they are puppets?

“While the credits of Autograph (Bengali movie) are rolling, Rajasthani puppetry is used for a few seconds. I was asked to do it for Rs 1000. I refused to do it for such a sum,” says Subhasis Sen, Tal Betal puppet group of Kolkata.

Ventriloquist Satyajit Padhyay with his Coke ad's puppet

Let us recount examples of puppetry used in recent times in varying media: In advertisements, Imran Khan’s ads with shadow puppetry and ventriloquism, Tata Sky’s ventriloquist ad with Aamir Khan, Colgate ad with toothbrushes chatting with each other, bombed films like Dil Hai Tumhara, Drona, or the more popular Paheli; and in serials/spoofs like Galli Galli Sim Sim (Pogo/Doordarshan/Cartoon Network), Panchatantra (ETV Bangla) Gustakhi Maaf (NDTV) or the most recent Funda Matlab Piddu Bola (3 minutes spoof-skits on Siddu, aired during ongoing World Cup matches on Aaj Tak).

These are integral to the world of puppetry. But these, as one can see, are few and far spread out.

Dilip Mondal with his puppets

Election Commission that has chosen Sourav Gangulay (Sourav’s name was dropped by the election commission later on) and Bickram Ghosh this year to enthuse voters had commissioned puppeteer Sudip Gupta, Dolls Theatre, to create a 30-minute-television awareness show with puppets, a few years back.

“We are currently doing a print-media ad for a telecom major, based on Assam’s Bihu dance festival. There is a whole industry (animation/films) to explore out there, although I do not get involved in it for want of time (given his interest in live shows),” says Sudip.

Galli Galli Sim Sim puppets

Dilip Mondal, Dhumketu Puppet Theatre, who has made puppetry-ads for the likes of Navratna oil and Sona Chandi Chyawanprash in the past, has grown sceptic about working in the ad world after sour financial-experiences working on a cosmetic cream ad.

“Unfortunately, it is either the big mouth puppet or the Rajasthani Kathputli which are most commonly known as puppets. Little attention has been given to other types. Sad that people got excited about shadow puppetry only when it was used at Oscars stage (by Pilobolus – a dance company, in 2007),” says Anurupa Roy, director, Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust.

The cute ZooZoo puppet, if it can be called a puppet only!

Is the much-loved ZooZoo also part of the puppet family? “Yes. Zoozoo took forward the concept of puppetry’s humanette, by capturing the element and improvising and stylising it with an art for which we don’t yet have a name,” adds Anurupa.

Puppeteer Ramdas Padye with actor Aamir Khan and the Tata Sky puppet

Ventriloquist and puppeteer Ramdas Padhye, who’s worked on several high-end commercials including the Tata-Sky commercial series with Aamir Khan, and whose son, Satyajit Padye’s puppet and voice has been used in the latest Imran Khan ad shot in Mumbai’s local-train, believes it is essential that puppeteers in India start using technology smartly to reach the current generation. “Frankly speaking, the 75% of puppeteers are doing what their ancestors taught,” says Ramdas.

It should not be forgotten that most of the above mentioned uses of puppetry are, “Props and not as characters,” as puppeteer Dadi Pudumjee, 2011 Padma Shri awardee, puts it. Pudumjee himself has been involved with acclaimed films and television education programs like Maya Ya Saza (a stop-action puppet animation film, 2010) and Hun-Han (1976).

Ask him if puppeteers in India should shift their focus more determinedly to the new mediums since the traditional live puppet shows are no more crowd pullers, and he says, “Both have to exist. Question is would you like us to only watch TV news and not read newspapers? What the live show can give the other cannot and vice verse.”

Pics: Taken part from Google Images and part from contributed by puppeteers.

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