Theatre in Delhi has many accomplished artistes but ask anyone about puppet theatre and the only names that would occur to even knowledgeable patrons would be Dadi Pudumjee and Anurupa Roy.
Opposed to common thought that a skilful puppetry artiste has to be village-bred with a lineage of traditional puppeteers, Anurupa is a complete Delhi girl who learnt her art at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and today enjoys being one of the very few ace women puppeteers in India.
When she returned from a tour of Europe showcasing Ramayan in puppetry, recently, Metrolife caught up with the founder and managing trustee of Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust. Anurupa informs, “If you had asked me 15 years back, I wouldn’t even have thought of taking up puppetry as a career, but today, I am glad to have followed my heart. For that, I must express gratitude to my principal and classmates in Lady Shri Ram College who encouraged me to take up puppetry when I was still considering a film school.”
Surprisingly, this acclaimed artiste of Contemporary Indian Puppetry is largely self-taught. “Most of what I learnt in professional puppetry is from my contemporaries Varun Naraya, Ranjana Pandey and Dadi Pudumjee. I remember stealing my way into a workshop by Dadi in ’99 to get some gyaan. Of course, later I got the opportunity to study puppetry at University of Stockholm but my fellow puppeteers will always be my greatest teachers,” says Anurupa lamenting that India still does not have a puppetry school.
Anurupa is also saddened by the reality that in India ‘cinema has become a synonym for entertainment and theatre lacks both government and public support.’ “In India, people don’t dress up to go to the theatre. In comparison, you should see the craze for plays in Europe. Tickets are booked months in advance. This is when modern Indian cinema has evolved out of traditional puppetry forms like South India’s dramatic and vibrant Tholu Bommalata.”
So how are you planning to revive this ancient Indian tradition? “Combining different arts and bringing in new subjects really helps to promote puppet theatre. So we have fused puppetry with Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Chhau and even animation of late. It brings a fresh lease of life to puppetry.”
Other than that, Anurupa is busy incorporating ‘newer international trends’ in puppetry like abandoning the human figures and experimenting with ‘material.’ “I have recently tried that in my new production Life in Progress and it has been appreciated across board. This is what international puppeteers are doing.”