The waning magic of puppetry
As part of its initiative to promote rural art forms, the Department of Theatre and Film, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) is holding Putul Nach Utshab (Puppet Dance Festival) 2010.
Promod Mankin, State Minister for Cultural Affairs; inaugurated the three-day event on February 4 at Experimental Theatre Hall, BSA.
Ten puppet troupes from across the country are participating at the festival.
"One of the main reasons for holding this event is to promote folk art forms and generate public interest in it," said Sara Ara Mahmud, director, Department of Theatre and Film.
Among others, Dr. Capt. (Rtd) Mozibur Rahman Fakir; State Minister for Heath and Family Welfare; Hedayetullah Al-Mamun, secretary, Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Kamal Lohani, director general, BSA were present at the inauguration.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Capt. (Rtd) Mozibur Rahman Fakir said, "In this age of the invasion of satellite TV channels we have no alternative but to revive our folk art forms such as putul nach and introduce them to the youngsters."
Kamal Lohani said, "BSA is committed in promoting our culture and folk art forms which we have inherited. We will hold more such festivals in the future.”
Promod Mankin said, "Putul nach is an amazing art form. The way a puppet comes alive in the hands of an expert puppeteer is simply magical."
"Putul Nach is part of our folk culture and we must never forget our roots," Promod Mankin pointed out.
On the opening day two puppet troupes Royal Bina Putul Nach and Hridoy Jhumur Jhumur Putul Nach staged their acts.
"There was a time when the village fairs or any celebration was incomplete without puppet shows. People used to gather in hundreds and enjoy the performances, but those days are long gone," said Abdul Matin, puppet master of Royal Bina Putul Nach (from Brahmanbaria). Abdul Matin has been staging puppet shows for over thirty years.
"These days we may get one or two invitations for performance every two or three months, with traditional fairs almost gone from the rural areas. The general concept of entertainment has changed as well. Now, there's hardly any interest in puppet shows," Abdul Matin added.
The decline in the trade is forcing many puppeteers to choose other professions. Abdul Matin now works as a tailor on the side to make ends meet.
Uzir Ali, proprietor of the Hridoy Jhumur Jhumur Putul Nach (from Dhaka) said, "May be the puppet troupes in Dhaka are a bit fortunate, as in the Old Dhaka area there is still some interest for putul nach."
Royal Bina Putul Nach was the first to stage its show on the opening day. The act included "Behala Badok" (a puppet playing a violin), "Machh Shikari" (in which a greedy fisherman is devoured by a crocodile) and "Kathuria" (narrating the revenge of a forest on a lumberjack who cuts more wood than he needs).
The Hridoy Jhumur Jhumur Putul Nach act included horse race, snake charmer, traditional boat race and so on.
Yesterday a seminar on putul nach was held as part of the festival.
Today the event will start from 5 pm and will continue till 8:30 pm. Four puppet troupes -- New Nizam Putul Nach (from Satkhira), "Ashar Alo Putul Nach (Dhaka), The Azad Putul Nach (Bagerhat) and New Sonargaon Hashi Khushi Putul Nach (Narayanganj) -- will stage their acts at the festival today.