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Social messages with strings attached

Tuesday, 3 April 2007 - 12:09am IST

The 23-year-old believes his unique communication technique will help spread social messages to a wider audience

If social messages were communicated in a unique manner would they be more effective?

Satyajit Padhye surely thinks so. Creating awareness about social issues through puppetry and ventriloquism, this 23-year-old wants to reach a wider audience though this distinct medium.

“It was a challenge to educate people on sensitive issue like AIDS and HIV through the medium of puppetry. More so, while working the puppets in the film AIDS — The Deadline, which was released on World AIDS Day,” said Satyajit, who has entertained people all over India and abroad.

Besides, he has also performed at the Bombay High Court to educate the masses on the Right to Information Act. “I still remember the amount of time and energy that was put into researching the subject,” he said. Since the medium of puppetry was employed, it was imperative to put across the information in an entertaining manner, explained an animated Satyajit.

Moreover, he aims to fuse technology with traditional puppetry techniques. “I want to explore the world of animatronics where puppets can be operated through a wireless source,” he said.

As a young boy Satyajit watched his father perform on stage and wondered how his dad made puppets talk. Growing up, his father — India’s famed ventriloquist and puppeteer, Ramdas Padhye — helped him hone his skills. Satyajit also wants to carry on the legacy that his grandfather, Professor YK Padhye, and father have kept alive for so many years.

Having performed for the first time at the age of 12, Satyajit says it has been smooth sailing ever since. “Earlier, I used to be a little shy performing on stage. But, as I kept getting more opportunities, I picked up puppet manipulation techniques,” said the young turk who was one of the lead puppeteers for Phalguni Pathak’s Maine Payal Hain Chhankai music video.

One of the big projects he has worked on was a two-hour long play Good night baby Dino directed by ad-man Bharat Dabholkar. The play was performed all over India since 1995. “We used around 100 different puppets including three huge dinosaurs. We also used a technique called French black light puppetry. It was an amazing experience,” said Satyajit. 

“In ventriloquism, the puppet should always seem smarter than you and deliver the punch lines. The witty remarks and retorts should be prompt. Only then will it create the desired effect,” explained Satyajit, who besides studying for his Chartered Accountancy course, writes his own scripts for his shows.

When asked if puppetry and ventriloquism is a dying art form and not taken seriously in India, he said, “People in India have a feeling that puppetry is for kids, unlike in the west where puppet shows are held exclusively for adults.” People in India are only aware of Rajasthani puppets and that kind of puppetry is old and the techniques crude, with low entertainment value, he added. He also feels that contemporary issues need to be highlighted through this art form.

“In foreign countries, there is also a lot of support from the government. That sort of support system is absent here,” he said. The youngster also represented India at the World Festival of Puppet Art in Prague along with his father last year.

Satyajit has not only bagged several awards for his performances, but also has several projects he is currently working on. “I’m working on a TV series for DD Sahyadri, and another project for an online channel. I will also be touring Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman soon.”

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