They are lively, fun, quirky and intelligent. And there is never a dull moment in their world!

Puppets have been a source of entertainment since a long time. In our country, regional puppets have been used to enact tales of kings and narrate folklore as Katputli in Rajasthan or Tholu bommalaata in Andhra Pradesh.

“There are various kinds of puppets and these can be classified under string or rod, shadow, hand or glove puppets. The contemporary puppetry uses life-size body puppets along with masks. Muppets are also popular,” says Nandi Award-winning puppeteer Ratnamala Nori and director of Nori Art and Puppets Centre, Hyderabad, who has been working with puppets since 1987. She has used her various puppets and muppets as educational tools as well as vehicles of change addressing social issues such as child marriage.

Subhasis and Anupama Neogi of PNA (Putul Nacher Ashor or Katputli ki Mehfil) — The Puppet Theatre, Chandigarh work with Government Schools as part of theatre in education programme. Wise owls, donkeys and other interesting puppets and muppets send messages of ill effects of junk food and plastic bags. “Puppets can be made using broken spoons and cartons of spice powders from the kitchen,” says Subhasis, president of PNA. He adds that puppets of molecules and microscopic objects such as amoeba help simplify subjects.

Today, from making classes interesting to conveying messages of good health and hygiene, nutrition, and environmental issues, puppeteers across the world have students joining in the fun of learning with puppets. The students also end up making a few puppets themselves. Universities across the world also offer courses in puppetry for those interested in taking it up as a career.

When it comes to traditional puppet theatre, many villages in the country have residents involved in the puppet-making industry. The leather puppets of Nimmalakunta in Andhra Pradesh have put this remote village on the world map. Shadow puppets crafted here have travelled across the globe presenting Ramayana and Mahabharata.

‘Kalasutri Bahulya’, the string puppets show held in the village ‘melas’ of Maharashtra are packed with children watching the wooden dolls in flowing robes with glee.

“India is known for its traditional puppet theatre and techniques. The modern puppet theatres are in Kolkata, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai,” says Dadi Pudumjee, managing trustee, Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, New Delhi. Mr. Pudumjee is also the creator of ‘Hun and Han’, one of the earliest puppet serials in Indian television as part of Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) by ISRO in 1976.

Ishara promotes puppetry and supports puppeteers across the country and hosts an international puppet festival every year. This year it will be held from February 24 to March 4. United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Israel are some of the countries participating with their puppetry traditions, apart from puppetry forms as seen in various parts of the country. Make sure to be there.

Puppetry in India

‘Katputhli’ is an ancient and popular string puppet tradition that finds its roots in Rajasthan. Colourfully dressed wooden puppets are used by the artistes.

‘Tholu bommalata’ is shadow puppetry from Andhra Pradesh. The leather puppets are painted in bright hues. Shadow puppetry is also found in Karnataka and Kerala.

‘Pava-kuthu’ the glove puppets are popular in Kerala. Pava kathakali uses elaborately decorated puppets taking a cue from the famous dance form of the State.

‘Putul nach’ are rod puppets of West Bengal. Rod puppets are also used in Bihar and Orissa.

Muppets Most Wanted

Disney’s new offering in the Muppets series is all set to hit the screen this March. Titled ‘Muppets Most Wanted’, the film packs in a lot of excitement. Join Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Walter, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo The Great and rest of the Muppets as they go hopping across Europe in an adventurous trail.

Some of the earlier movies, starring the Muppets, are The Muppets, The Muppets Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and The Muppet Treasure Island.