Puppetry isn’t just for children: Dadi Pudumjee


New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) Recipient of the Padma Shri honour and founder of The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, which recently presented the 18th Ishara International Puppet Theatre Festival, produced by Teamwork Productions in Delhi and Chandigarh, Dadi Pudumjee believes that it is a misconception that puppetry is meant only for children’s consumption.

He asserts that it is great not only for them, but also for families, and certain shows are only for adults, depending on the production and the director’s take on it.

“In fact, all traditional puppetry has always been for both children and adults. The show from Italy at this edition of the festival was thoroughly enjoyed across age groups,” he says.

Helming the only festival of its kind, the Ishara International Puppet Theatre Festival in its many years has travelled to Jaipur, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and for the last eight years to Chandigarh sponsored by the Chandigarh administration, Pudumjee hopes that more collaborators will come from other cities as well.

“I would really like the Delhi Government to sponsor our workshops and shows in government schools as the kids there never get a chance to see good puppet theatre,” adds the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee who studied puppetry at the Marionette Theatre Institute in Sweden and whose festival has brought to India over 160 international puppetry companies till date.

Pudumjee, who also uses semi-sculptural puppets that are attached to actors’ bodies and carried across stage, and has addressed diverse themes including substance abuse in his works, says that though traditional puppet theatres and many new modern groups exist in various cities, the quality and content needs to improve.

“What definitely needed are more platforms and training workshops,” he adds.

And, is the government doing enough for this art form? “Though the Sangeet Natak Akademi organises national puppet festivals, and also gives awards to puppeteers in various categories, but just festival shows aren’t enough.

“More focus needs to be done on training programs, and the opportunities for young puppeteers to be able to travel to festivals such as ours so that they can interact with other puppeteers. Grants do help, but they are not enough and not carefully given to deserving artists,” he said.

Though, Ishara’s first outing was with advertisement and a South Indian film, it was their puppets used in Vishal Bhardwaj’s film ‘Haider’ that made them a household name.

“It was a wonderful experience working with him. In fact, we also did ‘The Flowering Tree’, an Opera directed by Vishal in Paris at the Theatre du Chatelet.”

Ishara, which also trains teachers, students and hobbyists, and has done productions with Welhams Girls school, Summer Valley School, St Marys in Delhi and GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai feels that not all schools want to spend.

“SPIC MACAY sponsors our shows in schools, but it is important that the schools be more receptive and active. We would want them to invite us to see the various stories, cultures and experiences, but not only in the way they want to see. Our blinkers /blinders need to be opened to ways of experiencing and discussing. A dialogue needs to happen between art and the audience, between puppeteers, teachers and students,” he concludes.