Indian groups – Traditional and Contemporary


  • Basanto Ghoroi, a Beni Putul performer, is from the village of Midnapore, West Bengal. Formerly ‘pulkey bearers’, Basanto’s family would take their rod and glove puppets with them on their long journeys to entertain audiences and to thereby supplement their income. Puppetry is now their main source of income. Basanta and his family members perform their folk and educational puppet plays from door to door. They also perform at cultural organizations and schools. Like other Beni Putul Natch performers, Basanto sells the puppets as an extra means of income.

  • Belagallu Veeranna is a traditional shadow puppeteer from Karnataka, hailing from a Kille-Kyatha tribal family, traditionally involved in the art of shadow puppetry. He has passed on his skills to his entire family who are equally adept at singing, playing the various musical instruments and manipulating the puppets. Veeranna has performed extensively in south India, Maharashtra and Delhi. He presented Bapu, a shadow show on Gandhi, in collaboration with IGNCA, Delhi.

  • Chhaya Nataka Brundam is a traditional shadow puppet group from Andhra Pradesh. His father trains Director S. Chidambara Rao. He comes from a long line of traditional Andhra shadow puppet theatre performers. Along with his group, Chidambara Rao has performed in Dharmasthalam, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ananthpur and Chennai.
  • The String Puppet Show of Dheren Natya Putul Nach Party, West Bengal was formed to pay homage to the ancestors and to revive the long lost customs and traditional cultural values in today’s society. The group has been performing successfully in various parts of their state and in India for many years. Krishna Pada Sardar, the present director of the group, followed his father, the founder of the group. He has written more than 50 string puppet plays that have been staged in West Bengal. His children have learnt the skills of puppet manipulation and are continuing on the family tradition.

  • Indian Puppeteers is a group founded by M.V.Ramanamurthi, a famous shadow puppeteer at Chennai. S. Seethalaxmi, disciple of Ramanamurthi, is the current director. She performed in Europe, USA, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. Staging traditional shadow shows like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Lord Ayyappa and Panchatantra stories, apart from contemporary puppet shows based on social issues. This family group performs in temple festivals, birthday parties, etc. Seethalaxmi received Kalaimamani Award from government of Tamil Nadu in 1987 and is currently working in the Central Leather Institute (CLRI), Chennai.

  • Jadunath Haldar Putul Natch Opera under Jagadish Chandra Haldar is the oldest active rod puppet group in West Bengal. They mainly perform from epics and Puranas, but now they performed animal stories from Panchatantra and social stories. Group has performed at Festival of India, USSR and national festival in India.

Kharati Ram Bhatt
  • Kharati Ram Bhatt is a traditional string puppeteer of Rajasthan. He has three stories Amar Singh Rathore, Hirni Aur Shikari and Ruthi Rajkumari.

  • Koyya Bommalata is basically a Yakshagana performance with string puppets. M. Upplaiah and his troupe is from Ammapur village of Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. All artists are singer, narrator, musician and manipulator. They perform some episodes of Ramayana, some wonder tales like Balanagamma Katha, Dharmangada Charita and some mythical plays. They have more than hundred puppets

  • K.S. Sanjeevamurthy has a traditional 5-member group of shadow puppeteers from Karnataka. He performs in many places, but the frequency has declined of late.

  • Krishnan Kutty Pulavar Memorial Tholpava Koothu & Puppet Centre, Kerala, directed by K.K. Ramachandra Pulavar, who comes from a long line of Tolpava Kuthu performers. His father, the late K.L. Krishnankutty Pulavar, was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Puppetry. Ramachandra belongs to the Koonathara tradition of Tolpava Kuthu and accompanied his father to performances since childhood. He began his training in the Ramayana, the Puranas, itihasas, shastras, astrology, ayurveda, temple architecture as well as mastering the koothu songs, text interpretations, puppet making and manipulation. Since 1979, he has participated in many puppetry festivals in India and abroad.

  • Kumbakonam Thiru T.N. Sankaranathan began his career in the performing arts by studying Carnatak music. He later studied Bommalatam under the guru, Thiru A.S. Mani Iyer. He learned to carve and paint as well as manipulate the Bommalatam puppets. His first performance Sri Vinayar Puranam was well received. Sankaranathan performed in New Delhi as part of the National Cultural Programme in 1986. The Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram in 1992 conferred the State Award and honourary title of ‘Kalaimaman’ on Sankaranathan.

Puppet by BaniKanta Dev Burman
  • Mohakhali Putala Natch group under Banikanta Dev Burman, is an oldest traditional string puppet group in Assam. They use epic themes.

  • The Pavakathakali group Natanakairali was established in 1981 to revive the art of traditional Kerala glove puppetry. The group was invited to participate in the 11th International Puppet Theatre Festival held in Poland in 1984 and at the Puppet Carnival held in Japan in 1986. In 1987 the group presented performances in Geneva and major cities in Switzerland. These and other festivals within Indian and abroad projected the group and its tradition, achieving for it considerable international popularity and acclaim. It has won recognition as one of the best glove puppet theatre forms. Pavakathakali plays are taken from the Mahabharata includes Kalyana Saugandhikam and Duryodhana Vadham. In 1981 when Pavakathakali was near extinction, Gopal Venu through his Natanakairali Centre was determined to revive the art form. Under Gopal Venu’s guidance, a group of artists were chosen and given training in music, manipulation and puppet making. Over the past 20 years, Venu and Natanakairali have brought Pavakathakali to the forefront of traditional Indian puppetry.

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