Anurupa Roy

New Performance

Grant Period: Over one year

Gulbadan Begum, the Mughal emperor Babur’s daughter, chronicled the life and times of the medieval Mughal empires in the Humayun-nama, the official biography of Humayun. The book gives insightful details on the Mughal durbar and family members. The chronicle also documents the lives of the Mughal women in the harems, the power politics in harems, and the women’s role in the Mughal court. This grant will enable the contemporary puppeteer Anurupa Roy to transform the Humayun-nama into a stage production called Gulbadan.

Anurupa’s source of inspiration is Rumar Goden’s novel, Gulbadan, which has tremendous potential for visual and even cinematic storytelling. She has envisioned a production that will be unprecedented in giving dramatic expression to a non-fictional historical narrative using shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, live acting and other visual media.

In Gulbadan, Anurupa will look to portray historical characters from the Mughal period, particularly the rarely recounted lives of Mughal women. She proposes to introduce the designs, forms and colours of Persian and Mughal paintings into shadow puppetry. Apart from shadow cutouts and colourful images, an important visual component in Gulbadan will be the multilayered projection screens suspended like flags of different lengths and occupying the entire stage.

Anurupa wants to create visuals depicting things that Gulbadan describes in her chronicle but never witnessed firsthand. Anurupa is excited about exploring this facet of Gulbadan’s storytelling in the form of toy theatre, using a painted backdrop of a battlefield and miniature cameras attached to puppets, which will project images of the Mughal characters as seen from their (the puppets’) perspective.

Anurupa and her team have already begun working with scriptwriter Choiti Ghosh to create a script that which will take the form of a first-person narrative. The team will spend time extensively researching the Mughal period, experimenting with the creation of images and showdown puppets, and working on the technical aspects of visual projection. This will be challenging work as the use of new media in puppetry performances is at a nascent stage in India. Anurupa expects to premier Gulbadan in March 2010.