Varun Narain

New Performance

Grant Period: Over six months

Varun Narain is a Delhi-based puppeteer for whom puppetry is a medium for telling stories of “untimely deaths of women––some of them his friends, and others, he constantly heard about”. This grant will enable Varun to develop a production of Giselle ki Kahani. Giselle is a celebrated ballet of the Romantic era, and had its premiere on June 28, 1841 in Paris.

With Giselle ki Kahani, Varun asks the question of life and death, but this time the plot is almost ‘exaggeratedly normal’. Giselle ki Kahani will combine puppetry with dance and re-imagine of Giselle (in the Charles Adolphe Adams’ version) as an Indian peasant girl. Varun Narain will collaborate with Rea Krishnatraye, who has worked with renowned ballet maestro Fernando Aguilera’s group from Argentina as the lead dancer for productions like Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty.

Giselle's character will be visualised in three different forms on the stage. First, she will appear in the form of a small string and rod puppet to express her lack of agency––a puppet controlled by external social forces. Giselle will also appear as a life-size puppet when she asserts her identity and experiences heightened emotions of love, turmoil, and madness. Finally, the dancer will depict the post-trauma Giselle . In this way, Varun and Rea hope to push the limits of both puppetry and dance and create multiple perspectives on the story of Giselle in an Indian context.

A lot of effort and thought will go into fabricating the puppets for the production. Puppets for Giselle will be created in different sizes, colours, and shapes in a light material like foam or latex. Some of the puppets will have stands made of interlinked PVC pipes and wooden bases; others will be raised on wheels for smooth movement on stage and with the dancer; and still others will be built to remain fixed in predetermined positions on stage and function like a set.

The performance will be premiered in New Delhi in April 2009.