People know they’re not real, people know that they don’t speak and yet they draw us in to a world of charm and stories. Kat-Katha, the puppet group, is having its 51st performance of About Ram in Bangalore this weekend. Directed by Anurupa Roy, the performance narrates the tale of Ram from the time Sita is abducted by Ravan till the time when Ram is sitting by the ocean and looking over at Lanka. All he wants to do at the time is fly across the ocean to his beloved Sita. What follows is a bloody war with Ravan and once Ram becomes the king, he is faced with a dilemma — does he adhere to his duty to the throne or his duty as a husband. He leaves Sita and rules alone for the next 10,000 years.
About Ram as a performance was developed with the assistance of a grant by India Foundation for the Arts and in collaboration with animator Vishal Dar. What director Anurupa Roy says is that the play employs “animation, dancers, masks and puppets to make it a complete performance”.
“There are many versions of the Ramayana and we are using sections from the Bhavbhuti Ramayana for our play. To that, we’ve added visual media in order to present a traditional story in a new format. While our play is for children and adults, we realise that children like the idea of multimedia and it comes to them quite naturally,” explains Roy.
The play also has traces of Tolu Bommalata, an ancient form of shadow puppet theatre that is a few thousand years old. But that’s not all, says Roy, “We have Mayurbhanj chau that the puppeteers were sent to be trained in, there are some Kathakali and Khol performances; we’ve been quite inspired by the Thai Ramakien version as well. The amalgamation of so many art forms only celebrates how diverse the Ramayana really is. The entire performance is non-verbal and is only enacted through an original score and action.”
To understand the technicalities of About Ram, what you will get to see is a three-person puppet show. Here each puppet is manipulated by three people, which makes the movement of the puppets seamless. “Incidentally, the puppeteers are not in the background. You will see them on the stage and they are an integral part of the performance. In fact, the puppet will use his puppeteer as a prop as well. These puppeteers are often supporting the puppet or are sympathetic to his sorrows.”
Why puppets, we ask Roy? “I have been fascinated with puppets since I was 10 or 11 years old. I think I like puppets because of what they bring out in the onlooker. It’s amazing how you cannot be passive around a puppet and it is only because of the audience that an inanimate object comes to life. It’s only in our imagination. And even the most cynical adult believes in what the puppet can do. They know it’s not magic and yet, what is magical is the fact that you, knowingly, invest your imagination into something that is not real,” says Roy.
Where: Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar, 2nd Phase
When: 11am (only for children) and 7.30pm on December 13, 3.30pm and 7.30pm on December 14 and 15. Log on to www.bookmyshow.com for tickets