Indian groups – Traditional and Contemporary

CONTEMPORARY GROUPS

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Hand Shadow by Koorella
  • Krishna Moorthy Koorella is a solo shadow-play artist from Hyderabad. The dexterity of the fingers and fists of Koorella with a slide projector brings a whole world of animated shadows of animals, birds and human beings in front of a spellbound audience, supported by lively background music and sound effects. His shadows warn us of the harmful effects of smoking and foster religious tolerance. He has performed in different TV channels.
  • Little Puppet Theatre (LPT) was founded in Kolkata in 1976 by Sanjit Ghosh, a biochemist by profession and a student of Suresh Dutta. LPT’s productions include Birpurush (based on a Tagore poem) and Alibaba. LPT has performed at a number of places in India as well as in France, Switzerland and Belgium in international festivals. Sanjit had gone to Europe and USA on a study trip to gain knowledge of recent developments of world puppetry in 1984. He produced a puppet-based serial Potli Babaki in 1991.

  • Madhyam is a group in Delhi, led by Ranjana Pandey and is committed to working with physically, mentally and economically handicapped children and their parents, through the use of puppets, masks, songs and games. Madhyam takes educational modules tailored to the special needs of disadvantaged children to their schools, community centres, homes and courtyards and performs community plays in the village or slum square. It also runs workshops for students, teachers and voluntary agency workers to propagate the use of puppetry as a medium of education and as an alternative form of meaningful communication. 

Awanti Bai by Mayur Puppet Theatre

  • Milan Yadav has been involved with puppet theatre since 1985.  Apart from directing a number of puppet plays, he has worked in television and theatre.He received training under Meher Contractor and Suresh Dutta.  Milan Yadav formed Mayur Puppet Theatre with Pradeep Nath, a young puppet enthusiast, in Lucknow in 1989. Pradeep Nath, an actor and a student of Suresh Dutta, has also directed 7 puppet plays. He writes scripts for puppet shows in TV and is associates with the group over a decade. Their well-known productions are Awanti Bai and Ek Tarey Ki Aankh. They have produced a large number of plays using rod puppets and the traditional glove puppet form of Uttar Pradesh, Gulabo Sitabo.
  • MEHER The Troupe is a group of puppeteers and artists. Headed by Mansinh Zala, the group was formed in memory of Meher Contractor. The Troupe has participated in national and international puppetry programmes and festivals. It has also developed educational plays to highlight social welfare and development issues. Mansinh Zala earned a diploma in puppetry from Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad, in 1986. From 1992-2000 he was the head of the Puppetry Department of Darpana Academy. Mansinh has participated in as well as organized national and international puppet festivals, and directed a TV serial on puppetry. He received the Meher R. Contractor Award for Excellence in Puppetry by Usha-Te Foundation for the year 2002-2003.

  • For more than a decade, The Nori Puppet Group has been part of the The Nori Art and Puppetry Centre, a registered voluntary organization based in Hyderabad. It consists of talented members from various performing arts fields who believe in reaching out to the local community through the art of puppetry.  The group has conducted workshops and given many performances for children and adults from all walks of life. It has collaborated with various organizations, such as NCSTC, UNDP and CAPART, by developing an affective training module for communicating ideas and concerns on many social issues. It has performed for Hyderabad Doordarshan television. The Group has participated in festivals conducted by Sangeet Natak Akademi and UNIMA. Ratnamala Nori established the Puppetry Centre, developing many puppet plays over the past decade. She received an NCERT award in 1987 for her educational toy, a puppet, and an Ugadi Purushkar award from the Madras-Telegu Akadami for her innovative work with puppetry in 1998. A T.V. Nandi Award was given for a programme she made for Doordarshan in 1992, Maya Oka Japan Katha.

Rod Puppets of PPT

  • Hiren Bhattacharya founded Peoples Puppet Theatre (PPT) founded in 1977 at Kolkata. The group has 13 plays including Ekti Moroger Kahini, Darir Khela, Cheri Fuler Fulki, and an adaptation of Tagore’s Rather Rassi. The group of 35 members is comprised of singers, puppeteers, actors, and painters. The group performs for children and adults. PPT works primarily with rod puppets, and has adapted some of the traditional folk styles. Hiren Bhattacharya was educated in Shantiniketan, and is a disciple of Nandlal Bose.  He produces, scripts and directs PPT’s plays. Hiren Bhattacharya has written 25 plays, and has published various books and articles on puppetry and drama. He has participated in national workshops and seminars on puppetry. Hiren has won awards in West Bengal for his contributions as a dramatist and a puppeteer and was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2001.
  • Varun Narain founded Pi Theater, a Delhi-based puppet group, in 1996. It believes in freedom of expression in order to discuss the many taboo topics of our times. The group has performed over 20 different productions using contemporary puppetry techniques, including rod, glove, Muppet, shadow, Bunruku techniques, life-sized puppets, masks, projected shadows, instillation art techniques with sound and light effects and stand-up comedy. Narain’s productions play with various styles and genres, including classical Western ballet, classical Indian dance, Italian opera, vaudeville and cabaret.  Pi Theater’s productions include Dr. Coppelius, Bowlful of Pearls, Liquid Rainbows, Operetta of Animal Tails, Mila and the Clock, Lord of the Rings, Ram-Lal, Penne & Pasta Vaudeville Masala, Puppet on a Ramp Project, The Palna Story. Pi Theater has performed in a number of cities in India as well as in the Netherlands and Pakistan. It has conducted workshops for children with special needs and street children. Varun explores myth, fantasy and social communication on a range of sensitive issues, including social and domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and alternative sexuality and gender. He takes his plays into the streets, market places, villages, schools, construction sites, theatres, brothels, pubs, discos, and onto the fashion ramp.


Aladin by Puppets & Plays


  • Mahipat Kavi established Puppets & Plays in 1975 at Ahmedabad. The group has produced several puppet productions, puppet films on family planning, environment, AIDs, etc. and puppet-serials in TV. The group also participated in different puppet festivals in India and abroad; performed puppet shows in foreign TV channels; and organised puppet exhibition in various Indian cities. Kavi is a master puppeteer, musician, scriptwriter, translator and puppetry workshop expert. His family-members are well-trained puppeteers. The group has visited Europe, and Dubai. Kavi has established Indian Puppet Academy in 1987, which conducted different puppetry training courses for different levels, puppet-workshops and lecture-demonstrations on puppetry. He is a visiting faculty at the Centre for Development Communication, Gujarat University and has received several honours and awards in India and abroad, including Senior Fellowship from government of India. He has written books and articles on puppetry.
  • Puppet Resource Centre is a sub-unit of Literacy House, Hyderabad, dedicated to the promotion and development of the art of puppetry. It organises weekly shows for children, adults and various organisations in promoting their products, and information on the organisations through puppet shows. The centre has a full-fledged studio and trains participants who can learn to writes scripts, making of puppets, etc. They design puppet workshops for different levels and experts generously share their technical know-how with the participants. The centre plans festivals, video shows, slide programmes and group-discussion on puppets. They also have a collection of puppets ranging from traditional to contemporary, books, journals, leaflets, paper-cuttings, national and international informations, various patterns and drawings of puppets, etc.

  • Putul Nacher Ashor The Puppet Theatre at Chandigarh, was established by Subhasis Neogi and his wife Anupama. They have done workshops in Navodaya Vidyalaya and other schools in Chandigarh & its surrounding areas. They produced the play Say No To Polybags in Hindi with the help of 30 students of Navodaya & another script was Swali Ram Ke Sawal Kare Hume Behal it based on Sounds, (how sounds are created and travel in solid, liquid n air, etc.). They have also done "interactive" puppet plays ith children of Navjeevan Orphanage and Govt. Institute of Mentally Retarded Children, Chandigarh. The group is a combination of Office-goers, housewives and teachers, so monitory benefit is not their aim.

  • Rangapeeth was founded in Delhi by Shubha Saxena, a freelance puppeteer, who worked with different groups and National Bal Bhawan. She has also written a few puppet plays in the form of books. She had conducted workshops for IGNCA, CASPLAN, Umang Children’s Theatre and DISHA. Shubha is an art and craft teacher.

  • Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) Delhi was established in 1988 after the success of Meera Nair’s film, Salaam Bombay. SBT is a Non-Profit NGO dedicated to the welfare and livelihood of street and working children living in and around the New Delhi Railway Station. One of SBT’s main activities is theatre and puppetry. Children regularly stage street plays, drama and puppet shows based on various issues to sensitise the public about their needs. SBT has created 15 plays on different social issues, such as drugs, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and the importance of education. More than 500 shows have been organized in Northern India as a means of spreading awareness among communities and throughout schools about these important issues. Director Kapil Dev, originally a student of SBT, has been working in the field of theatre and puppetry for the past 15 years. He began work in theatre under the direction of Barry John. In 1996 he began teaching theatre at SBT, directing 15 of its plays, including puppet productions. He has worked with Dadi Pudumjee, where he learnt puppet making and manipulation, taking part in some of Dadi’s theatre and T.V. puppet productions.  He has also worked on T.V. serial Chuna Laga Ke, Zebra Crossing and Khullam Khulla. In 2002 Kapil Dev was a visiting student for 2 months at the Dramatiska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, under Michael Meschke.


Scene from Vadakkan Pattu

  • T.P. Kunhiraman at Ayancheri, a remote village in Kerala, established Samanwaya Pavanataka Sangham in 1993. The troupe consists of artists, musicians and theatre personnel who created the group for the purpose of using puppetry for education and social awareness programmes, focusing on issues such as AIDS awareness, women’s empowerment and literacy. Besides performing, Samanwaya focuses on training and research in puppetry. It publishes a journal, PUPPET, for puppetry, theatre and folk arts. The repertoire of plays the group has produced includes Swargayathra (Birbal stories), Panchathanthra and Vadakkan Pattu (The Ballad of the North). T.P. Kunhiraman, master puppeteer and director of group, is an art teacher by profession and a cartoonist. Trained from CCRT, New Delhi, and from Bharatiya Lok Kalamandal, Udaipur, he has travelled throughout India. He is also one of the resource persons for the training programmes of teachers. In 2000 he was awarded the CCRT Teacher’s Award.
  • Sanchar Puppet Unit is a group of individuals from Dehradun, Uttaranchal, who are seekers of right messages for a healthy humanity and earth. Production of puppets and soft toys; training of teachers and voluntary organisations in effective communication through puppets; writing for children and teachers are some of the activities of unit. They use gloves, rod and string puppets. Some major issues tackled are: child marriage, dowry, gender bias, family planning, pollution, rural technology and folk cultures. The group leader Ram Lal is a traditional Rajasthani puppeteer and has been using puppetry for about 20 years. He worked with different NGOs in northern India and performed more than 3000 shows in India, Norway, England and Pakistan covering a number of social issues. For the last 3 years, he is involved with puppet productions and shows for children.

Puppets of Tal Betal Puppet Theatre
  • Tal-Betal Puppet Theatre, Kolkata was formed in 1973. The members work with all four traditional forms of puppetry — glove, rod, shadow and string puppets, as well as contemporary styles.  The group creates productions for children, in particular for Puppetry-in-Education and Therapy through puppetry programmes. Subhasis Sen has worked in puppetry since 1973 as a performer, scriptwriter, director and teacher. He edited the first Bengali puppetry magazine. He is presently Secretary General of UNIMA-India. His work in puppetry and education includes conducting workshops, researching the use of puppetry in education, instructing students in the art of puppetry in Kolkata schools, and training teachers in the use of puppetry in classrooms. He participated in the London School of Puppetry conference on “Puppetry in Health & Therapy”.  Subhasis Sen was awarded a Senior Fellowship from the Government of India for the project “Puppetry in Education”.

Ha-Za Ba-Ra-La by The Puppets

  • The Puppets, Calcutta was founded in 1952 at Kolkata with a determined set of young people under the guidance of Raghunath Goswami, an artist, renowned designer and puppeteer. The aim of the group is to further the cause of experimental work in the field of puppetry. Efforts are being made to develop contemporary themes and emotions, which are educational in content. The group has produced a puppet film – Hattogol Bijoy, which won the Gold Medal for the Best Children film in 1961, Agdoom Bagdoom, a 3-D puppet play and the puppet film Ek Sunder Sapna. Their other shadow puppet productions are: Abol Tabol, Khuror Kal (in innovative animation technique) and The Naughty Tiger (for Satellite TV). Poribeshe Amra is on environment, produced for the State Resource Development Centre. Ramakrishna Kathika is a series of plays in shadow puppets, based on traditional themes. The director Swapna Sen, a recipient of Fulbright scholarship, is a distinguished puppeteer and designer. She took active part in conducting workshops in puppetry, puppet filmmaking, and video productions of educational and children programme using shadow puppets and production of graphic material.
  • The late Haripada Das founded the Tripura Puppet Theatre in 1974.  The main objective of the theatre is to inform, educate and entertain people and make them aware of their social responsibilities, cultural heritage, tradition and moral values through puppetry.  The group is presently experimenting with the tribal cultural heritage of Tripura. The group has participated in various international and national puppet festivals and workshops. Prabhitangsu Das began his initial training in puppetry from his father, the late Haripada Das. He studied Fine Arts at college, and later studied under Suresh Dutta. Additional training included sound recording from Studio Pravatech, Kolkata and a course in T.V. production and technical operations from FTII, Pune.

Vibhash Upadhyay
  • Universal Puppet Theatre (UPT) started from a puppetry workshop in 1997 by Madhya Pradesh government with 35 artists from 14 districts, who had joined the workshop. Their main aims are: to preserve and develop puppetry; use puppetry at school levels to teach science and social education; arrange workshops from district level to international level; provide stage for all puppet groups of India; organise seminars, research and exhibitions; publish puppetry material; and use puppetry in school curriculum for entertainment. They have more than 20 centres in M.P. and Chhattisgarh, 10 among which are active. UPT organises shows on leprosy, malaria, diarrhea, pulse polio, etc. They are trying to give training to traditional puppeteers and start collection of old puppets. They have made an educational kit for nursery to high school level. UPT performed in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Maharastra. Their comedy glove puppet shows Machhliwali, Khoja-Khoji; string puppet shows Nabin Jadughar, Angel dance; and rod puppet show Tikly Daba are very popular. The director and writer Vibhash Upadhyay is a string puppeteer, having written 38 scripts on leprosy, water pollution, environment, cleanliness, balanced diet, etc.

  • V.P. Dahake has taken voluntary retirement from the job of schoolteacher and is a full-time puppeteer, working with masks, gloves and string puppets at Nasik, Maharashtra. Having received a CCRT award, he organises workshops on puppetry for school children and performs in different places. He has developed a number of teaching-aids to teach puppetry in school and awarded by the state government for his efforts. His group comprises his 6 students.
      

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