Indian groups – Traditional and Contemporary



  • Puthali Kalaranga is a 15-member troupe of youngsters, specialised in traditional Bommalatta puppetry at Bangalore. It has evolved a unique style of puppetry, recognised as the ‘Mudrika School of Puppetry’. They perform famous episodes from the Puranas, such as, Sri Krishna Thulabhar, Indra Garva Bhanga, Girija Kalyana, Kumar Sambhava and Lanka Dahana, -- using modern techniques to make their shows spectacular. Their Lion and the Fox (from Panchatantra) was performed in Kannada and English. The group has performed in many places in India and Iran. Director Dattatreya Aralikatte, a disciple of M.R.Ranganath Rao, scripted Indrachapa by using mythological themes to deal with the issue of deforestation. He has participated in several puppet festivals and seminars in India and abroad. Karnataka State, DSERT, CCRT, etc., have given him awards. He has directed Purana Kathamala, a TV serial in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

  • Ramaiah is a traditional shadow puppeteer of Karnataka, with 6 members in his group. He is the son of famous puppeteer Hombaiah. They seem to lack invitations for shows nowadays.

  • Rampada Ghoroi is a traditional Beni Putul Natch exponent and farmer, has migrated to Kolkata in order to survive as a full-time puppeteer in the traditional glove puppet form with its terracotta heads. His family has performed Beni Putul Natch for the past 80 years. The repertoire comes from the epics, with some modern, topical touches added to keep pace with changing morality, be it an anti-smoking or new roles for traditional women. Music from Bollywood movies or a national calamity may find their way into the lyrics of his songs.
  • Ranganatha Rao is a multi-faceted artist, classical singer, composer, scriptwriter, costume-designer, light designer and director from Bangalore. Winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, he is a traditional Bommalatta puppet artist having learnt puppetry from his grandfather. He was a schoolteacher and turned a professional puppeteer as suggested by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Rao’s Garuda Bommai puppets are 7 ft. tall, used during Ratha Yatra (Car Festival) in south Indian temples, where people get into the body-frames of the puppet and dance. Rao devised a special kind of puppet for use as visual aids in rural schools. He has visited international puppet festivals in Japan, USA and Europe. His group is called Ragaputhali, which has performed in major cities in India and abroad.

  •   Kolha Charan Sahoo, who began his career in Ravanachhaya under the guidance of the late Kathinanda Das, directs Ravan Chhaya Natya Sansad, Orissa. He has performed Ravanachhaya all over the country as well as gives training to younger performers.  He was an active participant in the National Puppet Theatre Festivals organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1978 and 1995, and the Puppet Theatre Workshops in 1988, 1991, 1997 and 1998. He has been President and Guru of Ravan Chhaya Sansad since 1986 and published a book Ravan Chhayar Utpatti, Stithi o Vikash. Kolha Charan has received many awards, including the Bhanja Kala Parishad Award (1997), the Utkal Yuva Sanskritika Parishad Award (1997), the Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1998) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1999.

  • Satya Narayan Putul Natya Sanstha, West Bengal follows the Danger Putul tradition of Bengal rod puppetry. The late Kangal Chandra Mondal founded the group for more than thirty years, but the impact of mass media had already begun to undermine the popularity of the form. The present leader of the group, Nirapada Mondal, began implementing new ideas into the traditional Danger Putul in order to win back some of the audiences. He broadened his exposure to contemporary puppetry by attending puppetry workshops and worked with Suresh Dutta to further develop his puppetry skills and technical expertise. He has produced Raja Harish Chandra, Mukti Chai, Natun Jivan, Siraj-Ud-Doula, Raj Laxmi. Nirapada Mondal was awarded a National Scholarship in 1997 from the Government of India.

  • Selvaraja Shadow Puppet Group, Tamil Nadu is directed by A.Selvaraja, who was born into a family of leather puppeteers settled down in the temple city of Tirukalukundram, about 60 from Chennai.  His father and grandfather were practitioners of this art form.  Selvaraja owes most of his training and skills to his uncle, Chellappa. While the earlier leather puppet performances entertained the common folk during temple festivals and fairs, presenting mythological scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Selvaraja uses it to present socially relevant themes, such as child welfare, community health, population control and adult literacy. A play dealing with the issue of AIDs was peformed as part of the World AIDS Conference in Germany in 1993. In 1997, he performed in Hamburg and Italy. He stages his puppet shows in Dakshina Chitra, Injambakkam every Saturday and Sunday.  Selvaraja devised a shadow play with animal characters for children sponsored by an audiocassette producer.

Virupaxappa Kshatri

  • Sri Annapurneshwari Leather Puppet Mela is a traditional 5-member shadow puppet group of Karnataka. The group has travelled widely in India, Iran, Iraq, Holland, France and Italy. The group leader Virupaxappa Kshatri learnt puppetry from his father at the age of ten. He has been awarded many certificates from the State and Central government and also from abroad.
  • Sri Ganesh Yakshagana Gombeyata Mandali, Karnataka is a traditional group that performs the Yakshagana coastal area style. The presentation is highly stylized since it adheres strictly to the norms and standards of Yakshagana Bayalata. It is interesting both on account of its technique and content. Carved wooden string puppets 50 cm high play dance, song, dialogue, and the whole range of human emotions and passions beautifully. The plays and themes come from the epics and the Bhagavatha Purana. Director Bhaskar Kogga Kamath, son of the master puppeteer, Kogga Devanna Kamath, comes from an old lineage of Yakshagana Gombeyata performers 350-year old. He studied dance, music, puppet carving, painting and manipulation from his father. Along with the group, Bhaskar has toured extensively through India, Europe, Australia and Pakistan, participating in national and international puppet festivals. He has been given awards and written many articles. Bhaskar is presently developing new staging and performing techniques to broaden the appeal of Yakshagana Gombeyata.

  • Sri Gopalkrishna Yakshagana Bombeyata Sangha is based in Kasaragod, in the North Border District of Kerala. The troupe presents its performances based on the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata in the Thenkuthittu style of Yakshagana, using carved string puppets with colourful costumes. The troupe used the string puppet form initially; now it has shifted to rod puppets, an innovation of the younger generation of performers. Director K.V. Ramesh, a graduate from Calicut University, was attracted to the Yakshagana art form carried on by the late Parthi Subba of Kasergod. He performs in Kannada, Malayalam and Tulu languages.

  • T.N. Sankaranathan is the founder and director of Sri Murugan Sangeetha Bommalatta Sabha of Tamil Nadu. He and fellow members are the manipulators of the puppets; give voices for the dialogue and narration as well as the musicians. The group has a repertoire of 16 stories, depicting different Lords. It has staged throughout India. Their performances have been included in the films Indian (in 5 languages), Avaram Poo, Sikappu Malargal and Shonthamadi Nee Yanagu, as well as appearing in several Tamil TV serials.

  • Sri Nataraja Nilaya Charmachita Kala Pradarsana Committee is a traditional shadow group of Andhra Pradesh, which performed some big cities in India. Besides epics, they perform on AIDS, family planning, adult education, protection of wild life, polio, deforestation, etc. These puppeteers are in great difficulty now and seek help from all puppet lovers to preserve and continue their art form.

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