STAGING TRANSITIONS – THEATRE OF THE 90s IN INDIA
PUPPET THEATRE FESTIVALS IN ERA OF GLOBALISATION
In September 1990, the Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Sangeet Natak Akademi organised an International Puppet Festival comprising an exhibition, and a three-day symposium on ‘International Trends in Puppetry’ along with performances by troupes from 26 countries.
Following the International Puppet Festival in 1990, Sangeet Natak Akademi organised six workshops on Indian Puppet theatre – Udaipur (November 1992), Guwahati (March 1994), Udupi (November 1994), Dhamasthala (January 1996), Diamond Harbour (1997) and Delhi (March 1998).
Shifts in cultural policy during the 90s can be understood in the following reports:
The introduction to the department of culture in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development’s 1991-92 annual report mentions, “The Zonal Cultural Centres* cut across territorial boundaries to bring cultural awareness among the people of different regions. The accent in those centres has been towards folk, tribal and rural art with emphasis on documentation and preservation of some dying art forms, besides inter zonal cultural festivals for national integration and harmony.”
* Zonal Cultural Centres were set up in 1985 by the central government.
The Ninth Report of the Standing Committee on External Affairs (1995-1996) further outlines the role of culture as embodied by Indian Council for Cultural Relations. “Attempts to promote culture for culture’s sake and to filter away culture from the different interfaces which give it its holistic character often leads to distortions and misconceptions of what a nation and its people truly are.”
The organisation of this festival when seen in conjunction with changing policy outlook raises several questions: In the new market- oriented and consumerist culture, was art and theatre being redefined in terms of their suitability for emerging entertainment forms? Did tradition and traditionality themselves become a commodity to be reoriented as global consumer products to suit the international palette?
Puppet Theatre Festivals in Era of Globalisation
Image courtesy- Anand Gupt collection/Alkazi Theatre Archive