Telling the tale through giant puppets

Nivedita Ganguly Beena Parmar Mumbai | Updated on December 21, 2012

Creative outlet: Residents of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, present a puppetry show through giant puppets at a show at NCPA in collaboration with Australia’s Snuff Puppets in Mumbai. — Nivedita Ganguly

For the exuberant team of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, it was a completely new experience as they narrated their tales of life through giant puppets at the National Centre for Performing Arts.

Away from their quotidian struggles of life, the residents of Dharavi unleashed their creativity for the first time on stage. In a first of its kind initiative by Australia's leading giant puppet experimental theatre, Snuff Puppets and the team of Dharavi staged the puppetry show, reflecting the life and thoughts of the slum residents through a creative medium.

“We have been doing month-long workshops with the people in Dharavi for the past four years. We realized that the young people were eager to do something that could be showcased. I was keen on showing it at a place which will connect them with the mainstream society,” said theatre producer Divya Bhatia, who curated and produced the show in association with Mumbai-based NGO, Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action ( SNEHA) that works for the well being of women and children living in Mumbai slums.

It took about two weeks for the Dharavi team, which consisted of children and adults, to conceptualize the show, make the puppets from recycled wastes and weave a theme around it. “None of them is a trained artist. But the entire performance, right from the concept to the creation is done by them,” he said.

What came out at the end of the two-week programme was a metaphorical play with giant puppets in the form of a garbage monster, a butterfly, a human hand, sad earth, an old woman and a Dharavi house that shared the stories of the Dharavi residents.

“Till today, people think Dharavi is a cesspool of junk and dirt. But the Dharavi residents are not believers in the dirt and filth. It’s not that this is the way they want to live. These are things that are outside their control. This is the sub-text of the play,” said Bhatia.

This is Snuff Puppets’s first visit to India. “We raised money in Australia for this. We also got support from the Australian Consulate and Australian High Commission from India,” Bhatia added who met the Snuff Puppets group last year in Australia.

The team will also perform at the IIT Bombay’s annual fest, "Mood Indigo".

Andy Freer, the Snuff Puppet’s founder and artistic director said, “When we came here, we had nothing in mind. We sourced the materials locally. But the entire concept was ideated by this group from Dharavi. We simply facilitated the process.” A programme designed to keep alive the tradition of story telling and puppetry, this is the first time Snuff Puppet have organized a show with the underprivileged section of the society in India, Freer added.

Snuff Puppets has conducted similar programmes in Denmark, London and Indonesia.



Published on December 21, 2012

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