Grant Period: Over four months
Anurupa Roy is recognized as a major creative force in Indian Puppet Theatre. She received professional training in the art of puppetry from Dramatiska Institute at the University of Stockholm. She also holds a diploma in the Guaratelle, tradition of glove puppetry, from the Scoula Della Guaratelle in Naples, Italy. In 1998 she established her troupe, "Kat Katha", and has worked with many mediums of expression including dance and music.
Ever since her first exposure to the many Ramayanas of India, Anurupa discovered that the story of the Ramayana is the thread running through some 15 of the 22 traditional puppet theatre forms in different parts of the country. Her exposure to the many Southeast Asian versions of the Ramayana at the Asia-Pacific Artists Exchange Program in Bali also led her to think of developing a production that explored the many versions of the Ramayana, both as an oral tradition and a visual art form. Vishal K. Dar, a media artist who was also part of the exchange programme, was equally fascinated by the departures from the Ramayana story familiar to him. He felt that his and Anurupa’s backgrounds in animation and puppetry respectively, could be brought together to create a fresh experience of this immortal tale. The collaboration led to the creation of a short experimental piece. Since then the piece has been subjected to consistent development and experimentation.
This IFA grant enabled Anurupa and her team to develop a full-fledged production titled ‘About Ram’, which incorporated and took forward these changes. The script interprets the love story of Ram and Sita as a tragic one. The production features puppeteers as actors and also incorporates animation as an important element. The original musical score for the new production is composed by Abhijit Banerjee, a Kolkata-based percussionist with a background in Hindustani classical music. Chidambara Rao, a practitioner of the Tolu Bommalatam shadow puppetry style, known for his clean lines and openness to experimenting with his shadow puppets has created shadow puppetry sections for the production.
The other main collaborators in this project were B. Gauri, actress and script writer from the National School of Drama, and three puppeteers from the Salaam Baalak Trust, a Delhi-based NGO for street children.
The production was premiered at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on September 1, 2006. About Ram has also been performed during the Dussera season, with morning shows for school children and open house performances in the evening for the general public.