Dolls and strings


Ahead of the 12th edition of the international Dhaatu Puppetry fest, Anupama Hoskere, the founder of Dhaatu speaks about her national award and love for puppetry

Anupama Hoskere, founder of Dhaatu, an organisation that works to revive the traditional art form of puppetry, bagged the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar for Puppetry this year. Ahead of the Dhaatu International Puppet Festival on January 3, 4 and 5, Anupama says all her efforts to see the revival of folklore was worth it for the genre. But did she ever expect a national award? “Not in my wildest dreams,” she says feeling happy that it was time puppetry was recognised.

Anupama holds a Masters in Computers with a fellowship in puppetry, and had a childhood growing up with dolls. With a passion for traditions, texts and scriptures, she got guidance from veterans like MR Ranganth Rao who taught her to create puppets. The intention of initiating ‘Dhaatu’ for Anupama and her husband Vidyashankar Hoskere is to “fill the gap for introducing traditional arts,” with captivating stories told through epics and mythological accounts of inspiring personalities. Anupama, who scripts the storyline, creates the puppets and directs her puppet shows, shared the highlights of her journey and the Dhaatu Fest in an interview with The Hindu-Metroplus.


Your recent 20-city tour to the US would prove how relevant and demanding Indian puppetry still is to global audiences

We took Mahakavi Kalidasa's Maalavikaagnimitram our latest production - a puppet and dance musical on this tour. The fulfilling experience had me travel with my team of five members and 17 suitcases of puppets and props across the US to perform for audiences who were enthralled. The common response throughout was ‘We did not know such an art form existed in India. It is so beautiful and rich.’ We did this to have the proceeds reach a child’s program for educating 3000 BPL children in India.

What was the main intention behind starting Dhaatu in 2004, and the Dhaatu puppet fest in 2009?

The main duty of puppetry or any performance arts in India is entertainment. The other layers are part of the responsibility of the puppeteer. In 2009, I realised that Bengaluru had not witnessed a puppet festival for 21 years! People hadn’t exactly seen what puppetry was, or how useful it can be as part of our cherished arts. In order to introduce this great medium of entertainment into their lives, we started the Dhaatu Puppet Festival in 2009. This was a State level festival.

Between your first production Harishchandra and the last one Maalavikaagnimitram you would have seen a lot of changes?

Before Harishchandra we had performed two shows - Shoorpanakha and Nala Damayanthi for which my puppet teacher MR Ranganatha Rao made the puppets. These were puppets which did not have legs but had excellent control of hands, akin to what was used in the Mysore region, known as Moodalapaya Yakshagana. Later I preferred dolls with legs for dimensional movement. I researched and found that Karnataka string puppets did at some time feature puppets with legs. The next few months I shut myself to recreate these puppets. Dhaatu's first complete production Harishchandra emerged in 2004 with puppets which had legs and could walk. We are walking down memory lane in this puppet festival and having this production for the inaugural on January 3, 6-30pm.

This research also led me to discover the Bhagavatha Shailee puppets of Eachanoor in the Mysore folklore museum. Along with that there were puppets of Dharwad and Ranibennur. The puppets of the Bhagavata Shailee were very beautiful and sophisticated. This is when I applied for the senior fellowship in puppetry from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi and was awarded the same in 2009. The result of all this was the emergence of the Dhaatu Puppet Productions one after the other - Rajasuya Yaga, Ashtavakra, Bhakta Prahlada, Vijayanagara Vaibhava, Sri Krishna Parijatas to name a few. Aabharana - was devised as a jugalbandhi between a Bharatanatyam dancer, Divya Hoskere and puppet Jatti Tayamma, where puppets of Karnataka render pretty much any classical tale of India.

I am dreaming of making Ramayana Saptaswara - a puppet production in seven languages integrating Bharata just as Shreeramachandra did so with his marriage to the princess of Mithila and later with his journey on foot from Ayodhya to the southern most tip of the nation.

What are the highlights of the upcoming puppet fest this year?

The tagline this year is puppets and control systems. In India, there has been the continuous design of control systems in puppetry. The Dhaatu International Puppet Festival 2020 is having a conference on Puppets and Control systems. There is a beautiful combination of string and rod controls which are used alternatively by the puppeteers of Ranibennur. People can watch their show at the festival.

Masks are the cousins of puppetry. We have a parade of masks and puppets of the world and also masks from upcoming mask-makers of Banashankari itself where people can take part on January 3, 3-30pm from Dhaatu Puppet Bus-stop, KR Road to JSS Auditorium, Jayanagar. We also have a workshop from the visiting artists at the festival.

Where does India stand in practicing puppetry?

India is the motherland of puppetry with the largest variety of puppets that have grown independently reflecting the cultures of each region. They are beautiful in design, adorned and costumed. They tell stories that entertain at the outset but are layered with stories to give the wisdom of life. Indian puppetry excels in putting up full-fledged Natakas which have dialogue, music, dancing and background work suitable for all audiences. Western puppetry is deeply invested in its design systems and its reflections on realism. Egypt, Italy and Myanmar puppeteers would be part of Dhaatu fest this year.

We hear all your dolls are hand-made?

I have made nearly 600 puppets in wood (with Aale mara or bombax cotton, and neem) to realise my dreams in several productions, as we have 24 performances in a year. The dolls are painstakingly carved and assembled with strings and decorated with foil work and elaborate jewellery including puppets with eyeball movement, puppets with eyelid movement, dancer puppet which can do Bharatanatyam steps. The process of making them gives me an emotional connect, but has taught me to gain more patience. It is also fulfilling to have a supportive family and a Dhaatu team with Mythily, Chitra and Srivatsa enabling to construct the genre for people to appreciate. I am grateful to Sanskrit scholar and poet Dr. Shatavadhani R. Ganesh who supports us with lyrics and along with Dr. SR Leela.

Rare productions

* Anupama Hoskere was awarded the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship to teach puppetry in France and Belgium universities. France was celebrating the works of poet La Fontaine who had translated the Panchatantra into French. Anupama designed a puppet show Mooshikaa Katha - a story from the Panchatantra to teach these students.

* At IIT Bombay Dhaatu presented the arithmetic of Bhaskaraacharya's Lilavati a puppet show in its International Conference on mathematics

* In Dhaatu’s obeisance to Mahakavi Kalidasa, Abhijnaana Shaakuntalam and Malavikaagnimitram has been runaway hits

* Former director of NGMA, Shobha Nambisan gave Anupama pictures of the line drawings by artist KK Hebbar of the Tamil Epic Silappadhikaram and asked her to follow this to come out with a puppet show for the Centenary celebrations of KK Hebbar at NGMA. The production had six live musicians, three voices and 10 puppeteers on NGMA stage!

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics Music
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 1:26:44 AM |

Next Story