A t2 chat with Dadi D. Pudumjee, director of the Delhi-based Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, on dance and more...
Simple Dreams was almost entirely staged with just sticks and umbrellas. What guides your use of props?
What are puppets? It’s simply inanimate objects made animate. The earliest puppets were thus simple things like sticks, which later evolved to the modern-day puppets with strings. The entire production was conceived with such minimal objects. We decided to work only with sticks and umbrellas. And then came the idea, the theme and we started working with these objects. Then the music was put together. It started of as a movement exercise and became a visual of nature or life or immigration.
The music plays an elemental role. How do you decide what to use?
The music had compositions by Philip Glass, Jan Garbarek and some jazz.... Very often the music is specially composed for the pieces. It depends on the mood of the piece. I prefer to work with world music but I don’t fix myself to any idea.
What comes first, the theme or the music?
The theme, always the theme. Though the music in Simple Dreams was more like the script as there’s no text here.
How important is movement while manipulating the props?
It’s very important. The puppeteer has to have good movement. There’s no text, so the puppeteer has to have knowledge of theatre, drama, dance... everything. My style in Ishara has always had puppets as a focus, but with movement, dance, actors, masks and use of light and shadow.
What do you think is the future of stage productions in India and where does puppetry come in?
Right now, it’s music first. It’s music, dance, then theatre and puppetry is still languishing. It is extremely important that it not be so. We have a strong tradition of puppetry in various states including Bengal. The first two modern schools of puppetry are from Calcutta — Calcutta Puppet Theatre and People’s Puppet Theatre. And these were very strong in technique, influenced by the rod puppet style of Moscow. We come from a slightly more liberal school. The interest is there. We have done a lot of workshops in the last two-three months in Dehradun and Delhi, and have seen that. It just needs a platform and that comes through such festivals.