Puppet Show Reveals Dark Truths About Bollywood

Using live actors dressed up as marionettes,director Anurupa Roy brings to Bangalore untold stories from Mumbai showbiz

BANGALORE: A struggling actor, an ‘item girl’, the casting couch, rivalry between leading actors, the tragedy of an aging superstar. All this and more from Bollywood find their way into Delhi-based puppeteer and director Anurupa Roy's puppet play, Bollywood Bandwagon, to be staged in Bangalore next week.

Her group has experimented with unique techniques to draw parallels between reel and real. So instead of marionettes, actors dress up to look like miniature puppets; their heavily made-up faces the only giveaway. "The puppets caricature the characters with disproportionate human heads," says Roy.  

This humanette puppet show is also strictly for adults.

"The play is a satire which looks at the making of '90s Bollywood film through the camera and all the behind-the-camera goings-on. It explores the back stories of Bollywood," Roy told City Express.

The varied techniques play with the psychology of the audience. "The audience has a choice, to see the finished film, in live feed above the main stage in a projection, or see the making of the film on stage with all its messy chaos open to scrutiny. The play focuses on the duality of ‘tinsel-town’, with its airbrushed glamour on one side and its underbelly on the other. The camera becomes the ‘eye’ which is aware of this duality," Roy said.

The director has picked stereotypical Bollywood characters and scripted out an equally cliched script. While the finished film is being played on a screen, the 'puppets' represent a different story on the stage- a story of struggles, a story of lost fame, a story of scandals, a story where only sex sells.

"The characters don't represent one actor in particular. They are an amalgam of different personalities. The story speaks of the struggles of new actors and the insecurities of the old ones," she adds.

And to put these stories on paper wasn't easy.

The team spent almost six months collecting experiences from people in Mumbai and reading studies on Bollywood. A series of articles written by Saadat Hasan Manto also became a referral point.

"Stories of all people we interviewed have made their way into the play. These are people who have struggled hard to break in but in vain. We also watched a lot of films from the '90s to get the stereotypical characters right."

Over the past four years, Roy has come to Bangalore a number of times with puppet theatre. And she feels Bangalore audience is the most accepting. "As compared to all other cities, Bangalore is open to new ideas. I am never scared of bringing quirky ideas to this city. We have got this play to the city before as well. I was surprised to see the reception we got. People were clearly having a good time," she says.

Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust will presents 'Bollywood Bandwagon' on September 27 and 28 at Ranga Shankara.

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The New Indian Express