Shreedevi Sunil (right), the founder and chief storyteller at Talking Turtles Storytellers, performed a special puppet show for children at the Ashutosh Birth Centenary Hall of the Indian Museum on March 22. Organised by Muskaan, an initiative of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation, in association with Education For All Trust and Shree Cement Ltd, Sunil mesmerised an audience of 70 kids from various NGOs across the cityPhotos: Amit Datta
Anindita Chatterjee (in pic), executive trustee, Prabha Khaitan Foundation, kick-started the event with her welcome address, with Sayan Bhattacharya, education officer, Indian Museum introducing Sunil to the audience. “The Indian Museum in Kolkata is a cultural enterprise and has been engaged in developing its foundations on a broader scale by promoting the tangible and the intangible heritage of our nation. Indian puppetry is one of the primary forms of traditional entertainment. It was a pleasure collaborating with Muskaan for the marginalised children from various parts of the city with the purpose of promoting and preserving traditional entertainment while conveying a message on moral values,” said Arijit Dutta Choudhury, director, Indian Museum
Sunil began by explaining the art of puppetry to her enthusiastic audience. While elaborating on the nitty-gritties of making puppets lifelike, Sunil remarked: “The puppet is a mere doll. You have to give it a voice and some movement to make it a true puppet, and the process of doing so is called ‘manipulation’.”
Soon enough, the children were asked to get up on their feet to enact the rhyme of Lambi Dadhi Wale Baba (the long-bearded sage). The children danced happily while enacting the joy of eating a tummy full of kheer! But they were in for a surprise when a Baatuni Kachhua (Talking Turtle) appeared as soon as they uttered “khulja sim sim” to tell them the story of a brave little mouse who saves a lion from getting caught by hunters
Underlining the importance of believing in oneself, Sunil captivated the audience with her puppets as she narrated the story of the selfless act of a tiny yet courageous animal who gets spurned by larger animals, such as the elephant, the fox and the bear. The children applauded energetically at the conclusion of the story when the lion befriended the mouse for saving his life after he had been abandoned by all the other animals
After the story, all the children were given bags that had coloured papers and sketch pens. Sunil showed the children how to fold the papers to make hand puppets and asked them to draw faces on their puppets. But the children soon realised that something was amiss. Catching the drift, Sunil pointed out that the puppets did not have voices, which rendered them lifeless. Asking the students to assign a unique voice to each of their puppets, Sunil demonstrated the various kinds of voices that they can use while puppeteering. On the count of three, the children screamed ‘puppet’ in their chosen puppet voices!
As the show neared its finish, the children clamoured for more. This time they wanted to hear a horror story. With Sunil narrating the story of a family living beside a graveyard, the audience sat spellbound, eager to know the ending. However, the ending had all of them in splits, including the adults in the audience!