Friday, May 1, 2009


The tradition of rod puppet in Bengal is known as a Putul naach (Puppet dance), with an emphasis on operatic singing and performance of a Jatra (folk play). The dancing and the acting elements of the performance are hinged on the traditions of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. There are three forms of puppets in Bengal: rod puppets, string puppets and glove puppets. The puppeteer manipulates string puppets with strings so that the puppets appear to be dancing. As the musicians play their drums, cymbals and flutes, an artist sings a song and makes the puppets dance to reflect the mood of the song. Rod puppets and string puppets are used to present palagan or narrative plays, usually on the stories of Radha-Krishna and Ram-Sita.
A Putul naach programme can be witnessed at fairs or festivals in villages. Like most of the Indian traditional puppet plays the puppeteers carry no regular stage. Usually they hire or get on loan a back-drop and a front curtain from the local theatre units. The front curtain is high enough to hide the manipulators and is fixed on bamboo poles; the backdrop is usually four metres in height, so it shows the puppets up clearly. Each troupe marshals 20 to 25 puppet bodies between four or five performers. The costumes, make-up and jewellery are imitative of Jatra.
Harmonium, clarinet, cornet, nagara (big drum), cymbal, flute, Kansi (brass plate struck by a wooden stick) and sometimes violin are used to the accompaniment of folk songs and tunes of popular Bengali modern songs.
One of the popular performances highlights the life of Ravan, from his birth and ending in his death. Here Ravan is born 2000 years before Ram. His brother is Kuber. The central theme of the performance is the fight between Kuber and Ravan over the control of Lanka. Ravan wins the war and becomes the king of Lanka. A lot of small episodes are woven into the performance to make it lively.
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