Sukalyani Paul

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Sukalyani Paul is a shoe designer and woodworker. Swapna Sen is a puppeteer. She has imbibed the art of puppetry under the renowned puppeteer Raghunath Goswami, through her association with The Puppets since 1971. Alok Som is a painter and puppeteer. He has worked with children for twenty-two years, and feels that ‘the language of pictures and forms’ appeals to children who have little or no formal education. This project emerges out of the dissatisfaction with the communicational strategies in traditional puppetry. The three collaborators come from different workspaces and have diverse experiences in working with children. Sukalyani’s interaction with Alok Som and Swapna Sen made her realize the potential of her expertise in developing novel puppet structures and architecture.

This preparatory grant will enable the three artists to experiment with style and technique and arrive at contemporary scripts and presentation methods. The idea is to find a balance between traditional puppetry and a contemporary audience, and develop a variety of scripts and puppets that address different audiences.

The three artists believe that their work with marginalised groups of children will allow them to explore more direct methods of communication. Alok, for example, has been making sculptures with found objects and feels that the collaboration with Swapna, might enable him to identify ways of integrating his sculptures into puppetry. Swapna has attempted to use magic lanterns and other forms of lighting as well as low-cost animation techniques. She echoes his excitement and remarks that Alok’s ideas would help her in devising novel movement structures in puppetry.  Sukalyani’s challenge would be to ease herself into a new form of art – puppetry – and use her skills in woodwork to achieve a fresh architectural simplicity to breath new life into puppetry.

The six-month preparatory phase will enable the three artists to interact with each other and also with traditional puppeteers and toymakers in rural Bengal. The three artists feel that puppets should be made with found objects and low-cost material in order to make the art more accessible. They hope to utilise the quasi-narrative nature of puppetry, low-end technology and simple animation techniques to reach out to audiences more easily. The artists will test their experiments with scripts, sound and puppets by presenting them to the children from Kalighat.

Collaborators: Swapna Sen, Kolkata; Alok Som, Howrah, West Bengal