Pulling the right strings
Nukkad Item, a performance piece, brings to life characters and stories through 20 feet puppets
Kids and adults alike have always been fascinated with puppets. These miniature characters not only tug at our heartstrings with their cute demeanour but also educate and entertain us through their antics. Theatre aficionados as well as puppet lovers can enjoy Nukkad Item today, which will see 20 feet puppets talk about the realities of life through their gestures. Described as part parade, part street theatre, the 45-minute performance will mark the end of the 11-day NCPA-AGP Centrestage theatre festival and will be conducted by Snuff Puppets, Australia’s leading giant puppet experimental theatre along with young adults from Dharavi.
Nukkad Item is the fruition of Snuff Puppets’ People Puppet Project in collaboration with SNEHA, a non-government organisation that works against domestic violence in Dharavi. The company was co-founded by Andy Freer nearly two decades ago and their People’s Puppet Project has seen success in Denmark, Korea and Japan. Over a period of two weeks, Freer and his team conducted workshops with teenagers from Dharavi to stage today’s performance.
Creative producer and curator Divya Kumar Bhatia, who initiated the project, says, “A year and half ago I was invited to Australia where I met artistes from various fields. Later, the Australian embassy here was conducting the Oz Fest and approached me. I broached the idea of featuring a theatre group. Then, along with the Snuff Puppets we put in a joint application for funds. Nukkad Item is an attempt to do something unusual that’s different for the audience as well as the performers.”
In keeping with their style of working, Bhatia says, Freer and his team created a performance that is the product of a collaborative process that took stories — fictional and real — from participants and translated them into a performance. The puppets stand at 15-20 feet and are that of a garbage man, butterfly, a hand, a mosquito and even a home in Dharavi. Bhatia, who is also the festival director for Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan Folk International Festival), says, “The 25-odd participants were introduced to storytelling and through a process of discussion and elimination the stories were chosen. Then they had to draw what these puppets would look like. The puppets were shaped using cane and covered with cloth. A backpack was attached to the cane frame to strap on to the actor. The participants rehearsed intensively with these puppets.” Since the participants were performing for the first time, they were open to experimentation. Nukkad Item is not a conventional performance. It is theatre that has less ‘natak’ as Bhatia puts it.
On: Today, 6.30 pm
At: Sunken Gardens, NCPA, Nariman Point