Bhaskar Ghose is a writer, columnist and theatre person besides being an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, retired after 36 years in the bureaucracy. His myriad experiences have found their way into his latest book, ‘The Service Of The State- The IAS reconsidered’ and his art of pulling his characters to life can be witnessed in his novels namely, ‘Parricide’ and ‘The Teller Of Tales’.

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How did you develop a passion for puppetry?

My journey in puppetry commenced in my school days in Pune with a gift of two string puppet toys which triggered my interest in it. I learnt the art of puppetry from the books I read and from observing puppet performances of various companies in Pune and Mumbai. My professional journey as a puppeteer, moreover, commenced when I began to present my art before the public than merely performing for entertainment in front of my family or friends.

Would you like to share the skills required to become a good puppeteer?

There are merely eight states in India with traditional forms of puppetry still alive and the fact that we do not have proper puppet training schools or centres in the country, the traditional puppeteers, therefore, grow up observing and imbibing the art from their own family members.Talking about the modern puppeteers, they, perhaps, resort to learning the art by collaborating with puppet groups or participating in workshops conducted by Indian or Foreign puppeteers. For one to become a consummate puppeteer, it is imperative for him to have knowledge of concepts like production, direction, sound, movement, speech, form, plastic arts and drawing. The only element which differentiates an indigenous puppeteer from that of abroad is that they need to possess knowledge of only puppet manipulating or directing in order to become one. A good puppeteer should be aware of art forms and traditions from across the world.

Do you feel that people's outlook towards puppetry in our country has evolved over the years?

In many ways, it certainly has, however, in many others it hasn’t. People’s deep interest in puppet performances can be witnessed on observing the density of the audience at SNA festivals of Puppetery called Putul Yatra or Putul Parampara in various Indian cities. Moreover, excessive yearnings for puppetry workshops and training programmes by school children, teachers and professionals serve as a yardstick for analysing the art’s traditional value. Nevertheless, there is an immense need for nurturing and sponsorship both, from the Government as well as the corporate sector.

What initiatives have you taken to promote the art?

It has been quite a long journey from Pune to Ahmedabad to Sweden. From setting up one of India’s first puppet repertory companies named Sutradhar Puppet Theatre at the Sri Ram Centre for Arts and Culture, Delhi to establishing the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, we have made desperate attempts to keep the tradition alive. We have been actively participating and managing performances and workshops with various fine artists. It is a legacy that I have possibly started carrying forward- the legacy of my teachers, Late Meher R.Contractor, who honed a hobby into a profession, at Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad; and Michael Meschke in Sweden, who introduced me to theatre altogether.

What kind of practice goes into creating a show?

Ideation, story theme selection, design, what technique of puppets to be used, who is the audience, technical limitations and possibilities, but basically a good story and how you intend to say it.

Have you visited Dehradun before? What are you looking forward to in the upcoming Valley of Words Festival?

I have visited Dehradun quite a number of times. In fact, the biggest of our school projects have been conducted there. We have managed numerous workshops through Spic Macay in some of the most prestigious academic institutions of the city. I am really looking forward to the festival which would hold sessions with some of the most distinguished authors.thinkers and speakers from across various disciplines.

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