BENGALURU: Anurupa Roy, a puppeteer from New Delhi, will be receiving the Shankar Nag Award from Quasar Thakore Padamsee at Ranga Shankara on November 4 for her contribution to theatre.
Anurupa, who also designs plays for children and adults, says, “I am really happy and excited. I just got the news a few minutes back.” She says she is a practitioner of Modern Puppetry. “It basically means that I don’t come from a family of puppeteers. I am a first generation puppeteer.”
In India, Modern Puppetry is about 50 years old, and is influenced by the Sergei Obratsov School in Russia. “Several Indian puppeteers have trained in the Russian school in the 60s. Meher Contractor, who worked with Darpana Academy in Gujarat, can be credited for bringing Modern Puppetry to India, and linking Indian puppeteers to the world,” she says, adding that her student, Dadi Pudumjee, revolutionised modern Indian puppetry, bringing in an eclectic mix of Indian motifs and Western techniques.
Anurupa has done many shows in Bengaluru, mostly at Ranga Shankara. She says, “In fact, we open all our shows in Ranga Shankara. The first show we did was part of India Foundation for the Arts’s showcase festival in 2010. It was a show called About Ram.” Her children’s shows The Little Blue Planet and Dinosaurs were also performed at Bangalore International School several times. “One of my best memories of Bengaluru is teaching at National School of Drama. It led to wonderful collaborations and associations with actors from Karnataka,” she adds.
Her latest production, Mahabharat, premiered in Bengaluru. The show went on to win Best Choreography, Best Director and Best Production awards at META Theatre Festival. She says, “The play is a co-production of the Festival Mondial Teater Des Marionettes at Charleville Mezeires in France. We have just returned from a tour to the festival and other theatres in France and Poland.” The show is about the characters in the Mahabharata, their roles in the war and the dilemmas they face. “It’s presented as a visual soliloquies,” she adds.
Anurupa founded Katkatha, a puppet theatre company, about a decade ago. She collaborates with puppeteers internationally, and is a regular performer at world festivals. She is also a visiting faculty in puppet schools around the world. She feels the art form is regaining popularity. “The number of new puppeteers in the scene is a big indicator,” she says. As a part of the puppeteers union UNIMA, India, she has been organising puppetry masterclasses with master puppeteers and over 50 people have participated,” she says, adding that these participants use puppetry in their work, making shows and a few have chosen puppetry as their profession. “Many mainstream actors and theatre directors have also been looking at puppetry quite seriously,” she says.
Anurupa says anything can be an inspiration to create art. “It can be an image, a phrase, an experience or a shadow one sees on the wall. But it’s people who really keep me going. My big inspirations in puppetry are Dadi Pudumjee, Ranajna Pandey and Varun Narain.”