• A puppet is one of the most remarkable and ingenious inventions of the man. Puppetry is a type of narrative theatre; at the crossroads between bardic storytelling and theatre plays.
  • Shows include live music, narration and gestures taken from dance.
  • Puppetry throughout the ages has held an important place in traditional entertainment. Like traditional theatre, themes for puppet theatre are mostly based on epics and legends.
  • Puppets from different parts of the country have their own identity. Regional styles of painting and sculpture are reflected in them.

Is Indian puppetry a dying art form?

Growth of popular electronic media and a penchant for western modes of entertainment has seriously dealt a blow to the survivability of the puppetry in India. The lack of patronage to this art form coupled with limited scope vis-à-vis script, improvisation, lighting etc has led to general decline in its popularity amongst the masses.

However, it would not be prudent to call puppetry a dying art form in the society since even puppetry has started to incorporate modernized techniques of presentation with ancient story-telling. The rise in fame of Indian puppetry can also be ascertained due to growth of some organizations such as ‘Dhaatu puppetry fest’ that has acquired a prominent place among both the rural as well as urban population.

The organization Dhaatu is setup by Anupama Hoskere. Her organization works to revive the traditional art form of puppetry. She was awarded even the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar for Puppetry. The international puppet festivals conducted by this organization has brought many people back into the influence of the art form.

The government too in recent times; particularly during the times of Covid has used the art form to create awareness amongst the masses regarding the pandemic

What more could be done?

  • Government should encourage the families and individuals engaged in this art form through appropriate measures such as adequate funding, setting up exhibitions etc
  • Government could collaborate with other civil society organization engaged in conservation of this art form to ensure the latter are adequately supported
  • Government could also mull the possibility of introducing the art form at the school level to ensure the future generation take an active involvement in the survivability of the art form
  • Government could invest in research and development to come up with ways that can best ensure the survivability of the puppetry art in India
  • Encouraging CSR activities in the conservation of this art form could also help in ensuring the survivability of the art form

Practice Question

  • The art of puppetry in India like all other arts is rooted in the traditions of the country. Comment. (10M)
  • Explain the challenges faced by the puppetry art form in India. What can be done to tackle these challenges to ensure the survivability of the art? (15M)