Now that they are in India, members of the Moscow Regional Puppet Theatre — founded in 1933 — are happy that the craft not only survived political instability in Russia, but is also doing well owing to government support. Their delight is perhaps stemmed from the abject neglect suffered by arts in our country. Being government servants, the theatre group is paid monthly salaries by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, they inform.
“The salaries are fixed and given on the basis of the qualification of the artist. We are also rewarded in the form of a bonus if we perform well,” shares Rita Grigoryan, director, though their productions can’t be critical of the government.
The six artists — Rita Grigoryan, artists Frolov Stanislav, Ignatenko Anastasiya and Miller Marina, lighting designer Nikolay Afanasyev and sound producer Vedeneev Roman — are in the city as a part of Chandigarh International Puppet Show, to present Russian folk tales and adaptations of works by contemporary writers through puppetry.
Though language is a barrier, interpretations of their conversation made by Pankaj Malviya, chairperson of the Department of Russian, Panjab University, make it interesting to listen to their love for Bollywood and puppets.
“Puppetry is quite old in Russia,” says Marina, adding, “However, we try using new ideas, techniques, innovations and rope in young directors to make it vibrant.” The group has observed that puppetry in India revolves mostly around history. “So, far we haven’t got the chance to work with a local artist, but if we do, we would love to do a special show on Ramayana,” she says.
The theatre group has toured extensively in the US, Europe and Asia and also founded a famous theatre festival in Russia, Puppet Theatre Unlimited.
The group says their shows are mostly meant for children, such as Masha and the Bear, which they perform on April 13. A much-loved Russian fairy tale about a little girl named Masha who loses herself in a forest, only to find herself in the house of a naughty bear, the fun-filled performance will be enjoyed by children and adults alike, they promise.
Russia and Bollywood have been mutual admirers of each other ever since Hindi film actor, director and producer Raj Kapoor travelled to the country. The theatre members talk elatedly about their favourite Hindi films, including Sita Aur Gita, Disco Dancer and Ram Aur Shyam and quickly rattle off names of actors including Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji, Katrina Kaif, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and of course, Raj Kapoor.
(On from April 13-15 at Tagore Theatre, Sector 18, Chandigarh, 7 pm everyday)