Ranjana Pandey

Arts Practice

Grant Period: Eight months

During the review of IFA’s programmes on practice in 2013, the expert panel pointed out to the need for scholarship on the performing arts in India and envisioned a role for IFA in addressing this need. In their report to IFA, the panel highly recommended that ‘in certain disciplines, like the performing arts, where a discourse seems to be absent due to paucity of academic or theoretical interventions, the IFA could take a lead in identifying and addressing this lacunae . . . because . . . there cannot be robust practice without a robust discourse.’

With this recommendation in mind, IFA began conversations with artists and scholars in the field of the performing arts. At that point Delhi-based puppeteer Anurupa Roy approached IFA with a project idea towards strengthening scholarship and building a course for puppetry in India. In 2014 and 2015, IFA supported two of a series of master classes with traditional and contemporary puppet masters. Put together by Anurupa Roy and Ranjana Pandey, this series, over the course of 5 years, has generated significant amounts of research material and documentation which have now been shaped into a pedagogical structure framing a curriculum, which forms the basis of this first puppetry course in India.

This grant supports puppeteer Ranjana Pandey to put together this beginners’ course in puppetry that seeks to train professional puppeteers in India. This will be the first course of its kind in the country. Delhi-based Ranjana, is a well-known puppeteer and is currently the President of the India chapter of the international puppetry association Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA). She teaches at the Jamia Millia Islamia and is editor and publisher of Sutradhar, an e-magazine on the Puppet Arts. Ranjana has been one of the main thinkers on puppetry in India and a key mentor and facilitator on all the master classes that have been the building blocks of this course.

This foundation programme on puppetry seeks to provide students with direct exposure to master puppeteers, impart theory, practical performance and plastic art skills, provide mentorship and enable students to create performance pieces independently.  It draws upon and builds on the existing discourse around puppetry and seeks to develop a pedagogic model around the body of written and audio-visual documentation that contextualises Indian puppetry traditions as well as offering an overview of world puppetry. The course will include sessions on definitions of puppetry, traditional and contemporary puppet traditions from India and other parts of the world - especially Asia - relationship between body and puppet, scenography, puppet construction, interpretation, manipulation techniques, direction and creation of a performance.

The course will take place in five phases. The first two phases of Orientation and Interpretation, and Scenography will be followed by master classes with puppet experts. There will be a two-week hands-on training with the Togalu Gombeyaata master Gunduraju in Hassan in Karnataka where students will learn leather puppet making, traditional oral narratives and travel for shows to surrounding villages along with Gunduraju. After this, the students will go back and create their own performances. The final phase will be a six-week internship with organisations such as puppet theatre companies, theatre companies, NGOs or schools, across the country.  

The evaluation for this course will be a multi-pronged process. There will be evaluation by masters and mentors as well as self evaluation by students. Shows for the audience and sharing sessions by students will be externally evaluated. Finally the students will evaluate the whole course too.

The course is scheduled to begin on October 20, 2018 in Delhi and will end with the internship phase in April 2019. It is open to those interested in being full time puppeteers. A total of eight students have been chosen already, of whom two come from traditional puppeteer families.

The deliverables from this project will be still and video documentation from the sessions, video documentation of the performances of the students, journals of the students, evaluation reports by facilitators and external evaluators, and a handbook on the course.