‘Puppetry is not a dying art, we are killing it’, said renowned Ventriloquist Ramdas Padhye, who was in Bhopal to participate in an ongoing puppet festival at Tribal Museum. Padhye, popular professional ventriloquist, puppeteer and puppet maker, has performed his widely acclaimed ventriloquial and puppetry acts in India and abroad during last five decades with than 10,000 shows in different media including radio, TV, stage, feature films and various other digital platforms.
While speaking with Hindustan Times, Padhye said, “India is very rich in art of puppetry. But unfortunately, we cease to evolve with time. Until and unless we change, young generation will not connect with this art. If today, a puppeteer narrates tales of Maharana Pratap and Gandhi to young children, they will get bored after sometime. Therefore, the puppet artists have to think in a different way.”
A mechanical engineer, Padhye inherited the art of ventriloquism from his father late professor YK Padhye, who was the pioneer Indian ventriloquist in 1920s.
In 1968, at the age of 23, Ramdas Padhye performed before Indira Gandhi and spurred by her advice to give distinct Indian touch to the art, Padhye introduced several Indian puppets with whom Indian masses could readily identify themselves.
“I also used to select several themes of national importance such as family planning, small savings, education, etc,” says Padhye.
‘Our existing puppeteers are talented but most of them aren’t educated’
On being asked why is Indian puppetry lagging behind, Padhye says, “Education is a significant factor as far as development of any art is concerned. Education gives a vision to art. Fortunately, I was educated. My father always used to say that basic education is mandatory for everyone. After that, you decide whether you want to pursue engineering or puppetry. Our existing puppeteers are exceptionally talented but most of them are not educated. They are performing what they were taught by their ancestors decades ago. That does not interest people anymore now. They need contemporary themes, modern outlook and ongoing issues to talk about and attractive puppets for sure.”
‘It isn’t a dying art, in foreign countries artists are making millions out of it’
“People often say it is a dying art. No its not. In foreign countries, artists are making millions out of it. They earn more than what big film stars in India do. We just need to work upon the content of the scripts that are either dead or dying. The art cannot die,” he says.
Ramdas Padhye has created many famous epic characters, Ardhavatrao being one of them. Also, Bunny the Funny, which features in the Lijjat Papad commercial is still remembered by the people.
‘I don’t mind the invasion of technology in puppetry’
“Characters and script is the most crucial to puppetry. I don’t mind the invasion of technology in puppetry. Even scripts inspired from famous films or famous television characters are welcomed, provided the treatment is fresh,’ he says.
Talking about the future of puppetry in India, he says, “I see very good prospects. Various television channels are desperately trying for new mediums. So many reality shows are currently promoting the art, stand-up comedy is gradually picking up, seems the right time to hit the stage.”