Throwing light on shadow puppetry, Anurupa Roy took children through five days of discovery and fun at Ranga Shankara’s Summer Express

Come summer, mango carts, little pink blossoms and tender coconut huts dotting every neighbourhood in Bangalore is a common sight. Over the last few years, summer workshops and camps have gotten on top of the list of things that mushroom at this time of the year.

From outdoor adventure to Origami, each programme comes tailor-made to cater to different needs. The purpose, quality and cost of these programmes are arguable. Some are meant to occupy children for a good part of the day, meaningfully. Few form the precious childhood impressions that linger and develop into creative potential as children grow up. Ranga Shankara’s Summer Express this year is larger than ever with 18 workshops from April 16 to May 15 for children between the age groups of seven to 17 years.

Hands on

The opening week of Summer Express ’13 had a relatively rare and fascinating five-day workshop on ‘Shadow Puppetry’ by Anurupa Roy, trustee, Katkatha, a trust that promotes and popularises puppet theatre.

Right from the word go, the workshop was as ‘hands on’ as it could get, literally! Casting mysterious shadows of little hands experimenting with gestures, the good old overhead projector assumed a different role in this workshop. Each day a new concept in shadow puppetry was presented and children experimented with the same. In the five days, children walked through the concept of positive / negative shadows, colours and shapes and used them to make their own puppets. “The objective of the workshop is to open the desire to discover the possibilities through this art form” says Anurupa Roy. After the first couple of days, she did not instruct the children much, but sat with them to make puppets, for them to learn by watching. Training the eye to look at shadows as art is the intangible the workshop hopes to achieve.

Exploring the medium

“As a performer, I have moved away from structure and so have my workshops. Instead of working on a production in five days and restricting them, I allow them to enjoy and explore with the medium. In that process we discover ideas together, which I sometimes go back and use in my productions,” she adds.

The word ‘Sutradhar’, the one who holds the strings/puppeteer, has been mentioned in the Natyashastra, the masterly treatise on dramaturgy as early as 1 or 2 century BC. The concept surfaced in ‘Ancient Form to Modern Stage’, another Summer Express workshop by Kapila Venu, one of the leading practitioners of Kutiyattam today. There are fun and educative workshops: theatre, voice and movement, body and movement, fun math and science, ceramics, and cooking among others. The six-day advanced course on making short videos and video editing by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Pankaj Gupta and the three-day workshop on mask-making by Satyabrata Rout, a professor and scholar from the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad are some highlights of Summer Express ’13 yet to come in the second half of the schedule.