A lover of stories and kids, and blessed with a voice that could be modulated in anyway, it is no surprise that Dr Indira V M D found a medium in puppetry to reach out to her young fans.
An agricultural scientist by profession, Indira is also a sought after story teller, a puppeteer and an established bharatanatyam dancer who has performed for the Obamas while on their visit to India and also for Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s wedding ceremony.
Though a Malayali, whose parents are from Palakkad, Indira was born and brought up in Pune, Maharashtra. Indira was in the state with her family recently to visit her in-laws and to celebrate Diwali.
“Since I was here for a few days I thought why not put it to some good use. So that is how I thought of putting up a puppet show in the state and also for the kids at the Hindu Mahila Mandiram,” Indira says.
Indira started narrating stories to kids when she was just 22-years-old.
So how did she land up with the puppets? “When I was a kid the only story my father used to narrate was the story of the rabbit and the tortoise. What interested me was the way he modulated his voice than the story itself. And I would ask him to repeat the story just to listen to the way he inflected his voice. So that is how I started telling stories,” she says.
“After a while, I felt simple story telling was rather boring and thought of using some props such as some soft toys or anything I could manage, to enhance my stories. It was when I was doing my research in Kolkata that I got a puppet from somewhere. After this, I managed to collect a couple more. Now I have a whole bunch of it,” Indira says.
Having dubbed for a few animation films lending voice to her puppets was cakewalk for her. Indira, who mostly sticks to animals for narrating her stories, also has a few human characters such as the doctor, hunter and so on.
Indira uses her own stories which she has written to put up the puppet shows. Being an agricultural scientist, her stories always revolve around environmental issues and about the ill-effects of using chemicals and so on, in a way the kids can understand easily. Her shows are never a one-man-show. She makes it a point that her animal characters always interact with the kids.
“As my mother was the principal at a school, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of science club activities and got the opportunity to experiment a lot in science. So it was then that I also began forming stories and writing it down,” she reminisces.
Though Indira is a prolific writer she never published any of her works and would like to publish it someday.
About her association with the Amar Chithra Katha group, she says, “While I was in Kolkata I had a tie up with the Oxford Book Store and whenever they had a children’s event I used to present shows. That’s how I got in touch with the Amar Chithra Katha group. Editor Reena Puri wanted me to do the puppet show for a book she had written. The show in Kolkata turned out to be a huge success. There were lots of takers for it and soon I travelled to Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Bombay and so on. After I settled in Bombay, ACK Group asked me if I would be interested in doing shows for their children’s events.”
Indira no longer performs commercially. She just performs for NGOs and orphanages and upon the request from friends.
About being able to manage everything hand-in-hand she says, “I am a person who gets bored easily and who wishes for something to keep me engaged at all times. So as soon as I am done with my research work for the day, I keep myself occupied as otherwise I fall into a state of depression. That is the secret. I like to maintain my craziness.”
At the Hindu Mahila Mandiram here, she awed the kids with Woofus the dog and his friends. It was an interactive session wherein Woofus kept asking the kids for their opinion and the kids replied enthusiastically. At the end of the show she even invited the kids on to the stage to try on her puppets.
She concluded the programme held in Thiruvananthapuram with a bharatanatyam performance.