The traditional puppet theatre of India which had an immense value earlier is struggling to retain its glory.
According to the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training, a puppet is one of the most remarkable and ingenious inventions of mankind.
Srinivas, Director of Rangaputhali Puppeteers, a prominent puppeteer based in Bengaluru,said the art of puppetry is struggling because today’s youth are more inclined to watching movies than going to a puppet show.
Rangaputhali Puppeteers travels across India to do shows.
Centuries ago, Srinivas said, there were around 4,000 troupes of puppetry. That number has reduced to 380.
Sinde Sriramulu, a leather puppetry artist for the Dinesh Karthik Leather Puppetry show group in an Andhra Pradesh village, said his team is paid around Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 for one show. The amountis divided amongthe eight members of his team. Each person receives around Rs 5,000, which is not enough to sustain them.
Srinivas added that his team has eight members.They are paid around Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 for each performance, which also includes their transportation cost. Each member in the group receives Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000.
Sriramulu shared that in order to support his family of six, other than performing puppet shows, he also works in fields and sells wall hangings made of leather.
D. Chinna Ramana, a fellowmember of Sriramulu’s group, said that apart from performing puppet shows they have to do other jobs to feed their families.
Generally, his group performs two or three times in a month. However, during festivals or wedding seasons, they perform up to four to five times a month.
Sriramulu has been performing leather puppetry shows for 14 years. He believes the art of puppetry will make a strong comeback.
Puppetry, a 350-year-old art form, is Srinivas’ family tradition. They perform mostly rod and string puppetry with wood puppets.
Ramayana and Mahabharata puppetshows are appreciated by people. But sometimes the audience gets bored watching the same mythological shows. To break the monotony, Srinivas introduced Vivekananda puppetry where they portray episodes from the monk’s life.
Young people are, however, not attracted to puppetry.
Sahin Banerjee, 26, said he is not inclined towatching puppet shows as the stories portrayed are historical which his generation cannot connect with. Also, he feels that since puppetry is difficult to digitize, it is losing its place amongst hi-tech youth.
Sagnik Datta, 24, said he does not like to go to puppetshows as he finds them uninteresting.
The Centre sponsors workshops to promote puppetry. It also holds puppetry festivals and seminars.The Karnataka government periodically showcases the state’s puppetry traditions at folk art fairs and cultural festivals.