Puppeteer with no strings

Documentary>> Katputli by Sudheer Gupta Produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust and Prasar Bharati 30 minutes

By Supriya Singh
Published: Saturday 15 November 2008

Imagine one man donning the hats of a director, actor, tailor, craftsman, storyteller, even magician. No, it's not tinsel-town versatility that we are talking of here. Rather, routine multi-tasking that is livelihood matter for the breadwinners of the 12,000-odd families of Kathputli colony.

Puppeteers, jugglers, folk singers and other artists from this slum in West Delhi's Shadipur area have represented the country in a number of international fairs and festivals. But other than that their talents have not been recognized. Sudheer Gupta's documentary goes into the world of these unsung virtuosos. The 30-minute documentary also takes a sneak peek at ngo activists who claim to have improved the lives of Katputli Colony's artists.

The so-called beneficiaries contest this claim. All they want is space to showcase their skills. ngos often take these artists for international shows. But back in Delhi, they are left to fend for themselves in a city that criminalizes their activities.

One artist summed up the situation of Katputli Colony's artists quite aptly: "Our heads are heavy with praise when we perform at international fairs, but as soon as we land at the Delhi airport they begin to droop".

Magicians teach the famous Indian rope trick to their American counterparts who then peddle it as Indian exotica. But there is no avenue in the country for the auteurs.

Apathy is beginning to tell. Children at Katputli colony do not want to take up their father's occupations. But disengagement is not all that easy. Many become sidekicks to their parents, displaying their skills at traffic crossings and roadsides under the constant threat of the law enforcer.

The film is a reminder that if this state of affairs persists, the puppeteer will be left without any string.

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