UP, close and personal with ancient puppets

Hyderabad: Participants at the Workshop: Processes of Puppet Theatre got to watch the processes of sketching, carving and puppet making as well as were treated to a display of real leather puppets. The participants comprising a mix of children, parents, students, art aficionados watched in rapt attention as puppet theatre exponent Dalavai Kullayaapa demonstrated the process of creating a puppet on a goat leather scroll. He invited participants to try it out with him. On display were a lifesize puppet, smaller puppets and stunning lampshades – all made through the same process and with 100% natural colours. The puppets are 6 to 8 ft tall and painted in vivid colours painstakingly, with no room for error, punched out with holes and then fitted with bulbs and then brought behind a screen. The effect is radiant. The puppets are given voices by the actors manipulating them and rapid limb movements.

Kullayaapa mentioned that due to the dying nature of the art form and younger generations taking to more viable professions, the artisans are forced to create handicrafts and decorative items for sale. However, their true enthusiasm is for a puppet theatre performance, as that is their “parampara” (tradition) and even though sometimes a month goes by without shows, they seek to perform wherever given an opportunity.

A vibrant Q&A session followed where the National Award-winning exponent answered the curious participants’ numerous queries on puppet theatre-making, the performance, the content and the state of the art form today. The Chithrakari group from Anantpur is 15 generations old and they have in their possession puppets which are nearly 500 years old.

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When asked about whether he considers himself an artist who makes puppets or an actor who lends his voice to the puppets, Kullayaapa said that the question was akin to asking whether the chicken came first or the egg. He said that they could perform any mythological story or timeless tale if given time to create puppets. Their ready repertoire includes ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ as well as occasionally, ‘Panchatantra’. Although usually, performing the great epics takes almost 12 hours at a stretch or is spread over 3 days, at Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival 2019 they will be performing the ‘Sundarakanda’ chapter from Ramayana on 21st November at 9 pm at Radisson Blu Banjara Hills and an excerpt from Mahabharata on 22nd November at 9 pm at Taramati Baradari Indoor Auditorium.

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