Enjoy this traditional art, Feb 3rd. Deccan Herald

The 10th edition of Ishara International Puppet Festival has brought much more than the traditional rod and string puppetry for Delhiiites and the people living in Gurgaon.

The 15-day festival bringing puppeteers from 11 countries under one roof kicked off on February 1 at Epicentre, Gurgaon, with the act of an Indian theatre group.

Mohammed Shameem of Kuch Kuch puppet theatre group of Delih presented the act Humara Circus along with his co puppeteer using six characters. “I used modern string puppets which are manipulated by strings attached to a wooden cross unlike kathputli which is manipulated by strings attached to fingers. Modern string puppetry was born in Europe, in Italy,” says Shameem, who also directed and designed the act.

He has created his puppets using material like wood, thermocol and paper mache.

One of his puppets is made of scarves and handkerchiefs. Shameem is a full-time puppeteer who learnt the ancient art from leading Indian puppeteer and founder of The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust Dadi Pudumjee, who has been organising this festival since 2001 to create awareness and exposure on the multifaceted traditions and techniques of puppetry in India and the world.

This festival focuses on new contemporary work from India and abroad with an aim to further spread the usage of multi-media arts in the country. Unlike the traditional puppet shows, the event will host shows based on modern technologies used in stage performances around the world.

Groups and artists who will perform during the festival are from countries including the USA, Germany, Iran, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Israel, Australia, Italy, Bulgaria, Ireland and Italy.

“This year we have groups and artistes from Germany, the USA, Israel, Taiwan as well as Afghanistan, which is making its debut with Parwaz puppet theatre group,” says Dadi Pudumjee, the first non-European president of the international puppetry organisation Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA). He established the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust in 1986 and helped contemporary puppetry gain legitimacy as an art form in India.

Afghanistani puppet theatre group will present a well loved ancient children’s fairy tale Bozak-E-Chini (the goat and the wolf) directed by Abdul Haq Haqjoo. Parwaz is the first independent puppet theatre ensemble in Afghanistan, founded by young theatre professionals.

“This is our second performance in India. Earlier we showcased Bozak-E-Chini in 2010 at the National School of Drama (NSD). We are excited to get a second chance,” says Ahmad from Parwaz puppet theatre group.

Parwaz works for the revival of Afghan puppet theatre traditions as well as the development of a modern Afghan puppet theatre. Their plays and performances for educating and entertaining the children and the youth are developed with the assistance of German puppet theatre expert Wieland Jagodzinski.

The festival will also give chance to other puppeteers who are not performing at the festival. “We will also have platform performances outside the venue by talented puppeteers, who will get a chance to showcase their skills” says Pudumjee. In all, 12 acts will be performed during the span of 15 days at two venues — India Habitat Centre and Epicentre, Gurgaon.

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