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Sat, 20 Jul 2019

Northeast Today

All Strings Detached

All Strings Detached
May 02
12:27 2018

March Edition, Art & Culture, NET Bureau

It is highly possible that Hindu philosophy is the source from where the art of puppetry could have been inspired. Believed to have originated during the pre-Ramayana era, it is symbolic of how God controls all living beings through an invisible thread; like He (the ‘Sutradhara’) manipulates our movements, the puppeteer too manipulates the movement of a puppet. With experiments of many sorts, other than the traditional ways of string, glove or shadow, contemporary puppetry has made a huge impact on the world of puppetry. However, the art is gradually losing its sheen in the contemporary India especially Northeast. Satabdi Saikia attempts to highlight the present scenario of Puppetry in Assam, which happened to be one of the pioneering states in practicing the art form.

A Dying Art

Inthe Northeast puppetry is popularly known as ‘Putola-Nach’. However, with passing time the art form is gradually fading away. As informed by Dr. Mousumi Bhattacharya, Guest faculty in Gauhati University and Cotton University, puppetry exists in 12 states of India with Assam at the top of the chronological chart. In spite of being on the top, the form is on the verge of extinction on this part of the region. Theoretically or practically Bhattacharya has been related to puppetry since 2002. According to her, the lack of institutions teaching puppetry is because not many are interested in learning the art form. “ “When half of the people are not aware of its existence then question of learning comes much later,” adds Bhattacharya

Highlighting the pathetic condition of puppetry in Assam Bhattacharya narrated an incident- “A puppet show was organised during a recent fest. Mouhkuli Putola Group of Assam were the performers. People thronged to enjoy the fest. However, no one spent a meager amount of Rs 10 to watch the puppet show.”

As a Medium

Puppetry is not merely a form of entertainment or gigs. Traditionally, puppetry was a very effective and inexpensive medium of transiting messages. This art form can be great medium of communication for spreading awareness in the society even today. Through a puppet show, social messages can be conveyed to the target audience in any language. This can be a very effective medium to transit information to children and the illiterate. If the art form is made to spread its wings and fly, the flight shall result in the existence of a better society in many ways.

Keeping Puppetry Alive

“First of all we need to preserve the art form then only we can think of it as a career option. It’s unfortunate to see this mesmerizing art form dying due to lack of awareness”, says Bhattacharya.

“To keep this tradition alive, it is necessary to educate or make the people aware about puppetry. There should be an information centre in every district or state to popularize the art form. Further the art form can be introduced as a subject in the courses of Mass communication or Performing arts”, recommended Dr. Bhattacharya.

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