Pulling Strings – A review of the Ishara International Puppet Theatre Festival by Divya Raina

Ishara Journeys

Daddee Pudumjee with his puppeteers and puppets

It doesn’t quite matter whether one pulls strings or uses larger than life marionettes, glove or rod puppets, its pure theatre that one is watching. Quite distinct from a puppet or the kathputli show this form of theatre is as creative, compelling and meant for adult audiences as much as for kids. In fact Dadi Pudumjee has been a staunch crusader for the cause and promotion of puppet theatre for decades now. An extraordinarily talented puppet creator and manipulator, director, performer and choreographer, he along with his remarkably versatile crew of the Ishara puppet theatre troupe, has entertained and enabled Indian (and international) audiences to view a totally  different type of performance art.

This was vividly brought out at the staging of the Spanish “Batuta” or small baton, at the recent Ishara International Puppet theatre Festival held at the India Habitat Centre in collaboration with ICCR and others. It was quite a treat to watch the interplay of music, lighting, spoken dialogue and most of all, the entrancing moves and gestures of the animated puppets of different shapes and sizes.

What came through clearly was the constant refrain” I love music” and also “musica classica”, and the entire duration of the performance was devoted to an exploration of different forms of music with accompanying puppet movement. The saxophone puppet duet was the highlight with its foot –tapping rhythm, but there were many other musical elements incorporated. It was as though there was an earnest plea in this globalised TV-corrupted world, to both young and old viewers to re-connect with “purer” forms of music than the fusion and confusion of mtv-inspired forms one generally finds today.

Did it work? For most of the audience, with its short- attention -span habits and general restlessness it was quite a novel experience. One wishes however that anxious moms insisting on ramming ‘culture’ down their offspring’s throats would dispense with their loud running commentaries which unfortunately become an unwelcome sound-track thrust upon one on such occasions.

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