Navaratri gets a nice robotic touch

PUPPET PARADISE

Navaratri gets a nice robotic touch

SHOW TIME! The mechanised ‘chakravyuha’; an enticing doll display . DH photo by Srikanta Sharma R.The furious beat of stomping horses, the trumpeting of elephants and the menacing movement of the chakravyuha as it closes in on brave Abhimanyu leave you standing in the middle of the Kurukshetra battlefield, agape. When you’ve recovered a little, you will catch sight of Charlie Chaplin and Lady Chaplin dancing to some edgy music. A few metres away from them, you will see a Disney-like merry-go-round with the Dashavatara of Vishnu. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati flow quietly close by, sharing their bounty with civilisations that flourished on their banks even as Sharabhesha, the form that Shiva took to tame Narasimha’s fury, casts a benign eye on the proceedings! Welcome to the world of dolls, puppets and all things bright and beautiful at Dhaatu, which hosts Bangalore’s most exciting ‘Navaratra’ festival from September 28 to October 6.

Action-packed

This year, high drama is the theme. So there’s plenty of action recreated from the Mahabharatha. The doll display includes weapons and war formations down to the finest detail; the main stage has Rukmini who dazzles with her stunning jewellery, sharp wit and strategic brilliance as the runaway bride; the courtyard has jointed puppets (keelubombe in Kannada) that move to music; and the whole house overflows with laughter and chatter as children jostle to play the puppets between listening to stories from the Krishna Leela, the Ramayana and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharatha.

Clearly, the carnival spirit at Dhaatu is alive and thriving as it has been for 17 years now.

In the midst of this creative chaos, like an oasis of calm, is Anupama Hosakere — dancer and puppeteer. This year, she’s had students from NIT, Trichy and BMS College, Bangalore using their engineering skills to make the chakravyuha move, the jointed puppets dance and Vishnu’s 10 avatars bob up and down!

In-house talent

“From Rukmini’s dazzling jewellery to the gear wheel that powers the chakravyuha, everything was made from scratch here at Dhaatu,” says Anupama with pride. The work is not just about pretty dresses and bright baubles for the dolls. It is manual labour involving hard wood, lathes and drills. Anupama’s student from Sri Kumaran Children’s Home, Kaushik Sampath, who is now at John Hopkins, Baltimore, USA, pursuing his PhD on a scholarship, channeled his passion for engineering and his love for a good story into bringing some of exquisite displays to life.

With friends Vedhus and Prakruti, he laboured for over six months (“weekends were spent at the welder’s garage,” he writes in an email), getting every detail of the scaled-down chakravyuha right while Anupama kept an eye on the larger theme.

At some point, Lady Luck also stepped in with a helping hand!

Anupama had seen a non-working model of keelubombe in the museum at Mysore. But there was no data on how these jointed puppets were used a hundred years ago.

A trip to the Czech Republic in June gave her the answer. She saw a puppeteer using jointed puppets to tell stories at the puppet festival there. The Russian woman was manually operating the jointed puppets.

Back in Bangalore, Anupama described the technique to Kaushik and he promptly designed a system, using a motor, that would make Dhaatu’s jointed puppets — Charlie Chaplin and Lady Chaplin — jive!

Be there!

* The puppet shows — Bhakta Prahalada & Vijayanagara Vybhava are on Oct 2 and  Oct 6, at 6 pm.

* The story telling sessions happen every day between Sept 29 and Oct 6 at 3 pm.

* Doll-viewing hours are between Sept 29 and Oct 22 (3 pm to 8 pm).

* Schools would need to make appointments if they want to send batches of students to see the display.

* Entry is absolutely free.

* Dhaatu is at 3944 F, 17th D Cross, 4th Main, Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bangalore-70. Website: www.dhaatu.org

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