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Pursuit of happiness

Making the cut in a good college isn’t your only ticket to making it big in life. Look within to find your true calling, says Garima Upadhyay

education Updated: Jul 06, 2011 10:39 IST
Garima Upadhyay

Whoever said passion makes the world go round wasn’t kidding. Meet Anurupa Roy, who has been a puppeteer for fourteen years now. Passion for puppetry made her abandon offers from some of the top universities in the world and take to puppetry as a profession at a time when something like this was unheard of. Ask her about her experience of the years gone by and she says, “It has been a life-changing experience.

“At nine, my mother gifted me a puppet (a monkey), which was the first interaction I had with puppets. I was a feisty child and the puppet helped divert my attention and channel my energies to some use. I enjoyed my time with the puppet so much so that I started making puppets and performing for children in school and the neighbourhood,” reminisces Roy.

What started as a hobby, however, didn’t stay that way. “By the time I reached college, I was already performing (for friends) and introduced some of my college friends to the art form. When the college authorities got to know about it, they gave me the platform to showcase my art. So, I performed at the college day, did a political satire on corruption and presented it through puppet theatre. The response I got was tremendous, which was the indication of what was to come,” Roy says.

Ask her was it in college that she planned to be a puppeteer, and pat comes the reply, “yes. At the end of three years, I saw my friends making it into some of the top universities in the country and the world. This got me thinking. There was nothing besides puppetry that could make me happy. So, I thought that doing a course in journalism or filmmaking would do the trick. However, one day as I walked through the corridors of the college, the principal met me and asked what I was doing. When I told her I planned to go to MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia for journalism, she said ‘but I thought you wanted to be a puppeteer’. That was it. I decided there and then about the calling of my life.”

Was taking the decision as easy as that? “No, not at all,” she laughs and goes on to elaborate. “I had a few sleepless nights when all I would do was to think and weigh the pros and cons of taking up puppet theatre as a profession. At that time, anything like this was unheard of and there was a lot of insecurity about whether I would even make it. But once I had decided that this was it, I took it up with my parents who showed faith ion me and advised me to get trained in the art form and only then proceed. Thus began the journey that allowed me to marry my profession with my hobby.”

To make the dream come true, I apprenticed with established puppeteers like Varun Narain and Ranjana Pande and learnt how to make use of puppets in various ways. The learning was an enriching experience. In 1998, I performed The Flowering Tree, the first-ever production of Katkatha, a nebulous group of people. The other play followed in 1999, which was for the Delhi Puppetry Festival, which exposed us to the right kind of people. We received acknowledgement from the community, which was a huge morale booster. While performing and rehearsing, there was always a need felt for formal training in the field, so I wrote to a performing school in Stockholm, expressing my desire to study. Six months later, I got an offer from the school to study there. The training helped me build a foundation in puppetry and trained in various aspects of the art form. Later, I came back to India and more productions followed. Trainings since then have been a regular affair and, our productions a great cultural extravaganza. Every year, Katkatha organises The Ishara Festival that sees a lot of artistes — even from the international community —come and present their work.”

As she discusses how far Katkatha has come from its initial days, there is a subtle twinkle in her eye and enthusiasm in her body language. She goes on to talk about her various productions, the future of the art form and the meaningful life she is leading. And then, I interrupt to ask her of how the journey of starting against all odds and accomplishing her dream has been so far? “Extremely enriching,” says she with equal gusto. “I have seen the cut-offs this year and feel really sorry for those wanting to get a pie in this mad rush.

The college or the course does nothing significant to your life if it’s not your true calling. If you have a dream, don’t compromise on it because not everyone has it in the first place. Wake up every morning excited to follow your dream. I acknowledge it’ll not be easy, and there will be no shortcuts to success. It might not make you a super-star but will surely make you super-happy,” she concludes.

Try pulling a string or two!
There are ample ways of getting associated with the Katkatha Foundation. The Foundation conducts three puppet intensive workshops for adults in a year. Out of which two are intensive -foundation workshops held in June and December, while the thrid is an advanced, specialised worshop held around late January early February (often coinciding with the Ishaara Festival. Besides adults, the foundation conducts many summer training workshops with schools kids.

Ways in which you can get started with the Katkatha Foundation

Already interested in puppetry but don’t know what to do?
Attend their foundation course which will teach you how to make, move and perform with a puppet. At the end of the course, you will be able to create your own puppets, move them and give a performace.

Know puppetry but want to specialise in the art form?
This training is applicable to someone who is already practicing and has come to a halt and would like to learn innovative and newer ways in puppetry. A candidate will be given project/skill specific training under this scheme.

Want to apprentice with them?
If you would like to experiment with puppetry and give it a try, this can be your chance. Write a sttement of purpose (SOP) to the foundation outliningyour keenness to experiment with the craft and if selected, you get to spend a month with them helping them put together various shows. You get to be a part of the production process and get to rehearse and tour with the group. You can also choose the time duration you’d like to spend with them.

Be a part of the puppet jam sessions
If not too sure, you can be a part of the weekly ‘puppet jam sessions’ which will give you an idea about what exactly puppet theatre is all about. The jamming session will let you see, feel and be a part of the excitement. Contact the Foundation for the venue, date and time.

Watch their shows online and get an idea of what puppets can be
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/results? search_query=katkatha&aq=f
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid= 23020825911
Website: http://katkatha.org/kk2/aboutus.html

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