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Play of love and dreams

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REAL AND THE UNREAL A SCENE from
REAL AND THE UNREAL A SCENE from "Anniversary Gift"

`Anniversary Gift' was staged by the Rain Puppetry group from Iran, as part of a festival organised in the city

The curtain goes up to reveal a candle-lit room. A puppeteer is wrapping a gift for his wife, as it is their wedding anniversary. There are masks of women on his wooden worktable and hooks hang from the ceiling. He imitates the doorbell and goes to the door with the gift. He then slowly unwraps the gift and takes out a red satin rose, a wedding gown, white satin gloves, white net and white slippers, one by one. The internationally acclaimed "Anniversary Gift", staged by Rain Puppetry group from Iran, then goes to tell the story of a love turned bitter. The group was in the city to participate in "Tree of Life - Nature, Chennai, Us", a programme organised by the Prakriti Foundation, the Government Museum, Chennai, and Teamworkfilms. Afshin Hashemi, who played the puppeteer as also the role of his wifein "Anniversary Gift", is a recipient of the Best Puppeteer Award at the Prague International Puppet Show Festival, 2005. In this play directed by Roshanak Roshan, the puppet used to depict the wife's character was animated without strings or rods. While with the left half of his body Afshin played the puppeteer, he gave life to the puppeteer's wife with his right half, using a wedding gown, gloves and a mask. Hashemi blended into both so effortlessly that the audience seemed to forget that the `wife' was not really there. Or was she? The confusion about her presence served the play's theme well. The play was an attempt to capture the mental turmoil of the puppeteer. The wife who did not approve of her husband's obsession with puppets and the game of chess discouraged him. The man in desperation, tried to reason with her but in a moment of anger, choked his wife to death. But was she there at all to be killed? Or did he imagine it all? Minimal lighting and sound effects and the skill of the artiste conveyed the sombreness of the theme. On puppetry in Iran, Hashemi says, "There are three universities in Iran that teach puppetry, but there is no company to keep the artistes together. One of us may like a play and then we get our friends together to present it. After that, we part ways." The festival also presented puppet shows from Sweden and Italy for children and concluded with the above-mentioned play for adults. `Red Thread' from Sweden was about a young girl and her grandfather, a 67-year-old hotdog seller named Klas Orvarsson, who does not believe in angels. It involved the use of shadow play, masks and actors. The puppet show from Italy told the story of a puppeteer's life. String puppets were used to draw a parallel between the fate of the puppeteer and the puppets - the fate of both hanging by a string. ASHA S. MENON

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