Not the lack of funds but a slow and tedious dispensation of government grants is proving to be a stumbling block in the revival of India's traditional art of puppetry, says puppeteer Anurupa Roy. Speaking to PTI on the eve of World Puppetry Day, Roy says despite the government's support, puppeteers, especially in rural areas, have been struggling to keep the art form alive. "The government has fantastic provisions as well as revenues for the art form through Ministry of Culture's Sangeet Natak Akademi. They fund it on different levels like that of production, training, building spaces, and research. "But the lack of coordination in dispensation of these funds has led to several problems. The government needs to be more aware of what are the needs of puppeteers on ground," Roy, who founded the Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, told PTI. Having worked extensively with the traditional artists, she, however says the art form was "not dying". "Lack of research in puppetry is what forces us to call it a dying form of art. Only thorough research can help reveal the actual situation on ground. "It is a vibrant form of practising art in states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The artistes there are rewarded with food, money, and several other essentials.
They earn their living from this art," Roy says. Lack of knowledge and language limitation are among other major barriers preventing the upliftment of traditional puppeteers, notes Shobha Saxena, consultant of puppetry at the Sangeet Natak Akademi here. "There are not many traditional puppeteers left in our country. And the ones in states like Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura refuse to come and perform in New Delhi. Lack of proper transportation and language barrier further prevent these performers from entering into the mainstream," Saxena says. She also mentions that the traditional artistes are also adversely affected by a rising number of individuals who pursue puppetry solely as a passion, while earning their livelihoods from regular jobs. "Unlike earlier times it is not the sole profession to earn livelihood and that is the reason that there is a new league of artistes who are well educated and have different jobs. They pursue this art form as a passion and not as a profession," says Saxena. While puppeteer Puran Bhaat from the Kathputli colony's transit camp here admits that the community is offered support by organisations like Sangeet Natak Akademi, he says their major grievances lie in the fact that its impact remains limited to certain individuals. "Although provisions by the government and Sangeet Natak Akademi promote puppetry, they are usually limited to certain groups. None of the governments has been able to promote the community as a whole and support it," he says.
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