Puppet Theatre and Covid-19

By Sujit Chakraborty

The Tripura Puppet Theatre (TPT) group, which has performed in many countries and in states in India, is educating people about Covid-19 through the traditional “PutulNach” (puppet dance), garnering people’s attention and appreciation.

The TPT, a 47-year-old folk cultural body, since March 21 last year, the World Puppet Day, has started a unique endeavour to make people aware about the danger of novel coronavirus and how to be protected from this disease.

Many videos of the puppet dance on novel coronavirus, prepared by the artists of TPT group, and uploaded on the YouTube platform and other social media are attracting people’s attention and admiration.

The Covid awareness puppet videos in Bengali, Hindi and other local languages are also being telecast on various channels in Tripura and other north-eastern states.

One of the founders of TPT, Prabhitangsu Das said that since the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year they are continuously undertaking a variety of performances and shows and these are being shown on various platforms to make the people aware.

“The themes of our puppetry programmes are focused on social distancing, preventive measures, Covid appropriate behaviour, useful food and immunity boosting diet and various other measures and actions announced by the government,” Das told IANS.

“Our puppetry programmes also highlighted how the coronavirus spread among the people, the necessity of registration of names in the AarogyaSetu and the benefit of Covid inoculation.

“Since we are unable to perform our regular puppet dance events due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions, we have chosen to go online through diverse social and electronic media to make people aware about the danger of the disease and protective measures,” said Das, who is the programme director of the TPT.

In Bengali, Hindi and other languages, TPT’s 17 seconds to 90 seconds awareness videos with English subtitles show a story where a government official coughs and shows flu-like symptoms and is advised by his wife and daughter to consult a doctor.

The doctor in his set of advisories explains to the worried family about the disease. The video, containing three puppet dolls, ends with a slogan, “Stay clean and hygienic” and highlights the messages of the World Health Organisation and other international bodies besides the advice of doctors.

Das, son of TPT’s founder Haripada Das, said that all the characters (puppets) of the video are made by their members and some of the performances are verbal and some others are non-verbal.

The TPT members bear the entire expenses of these campaigns through puppetry.

“Puppetry is one of the powerful traditional folk cultural mediums and it has numerous examples of efficacy in public health issues,” said Das, who was awarded the Sangeet NatakAkademi Award in 2016 besides many other awards in recognition of his contribution to contemporary puppetry.

He said: “My father late Haripada Das started the puppet dance culture in the mountainous north-eastern state of Tripura in 1956 to propagate social awareness messages through puppetry.

“As an employee of the Social Welfare and Social Education Department of the Tripura government, my father through the puppet dance had started informing, educating, and entertaining people on diverse issues and making them aware about their social responsibilities and cultural heritage.”

The TPT has participated in various international and national puppet festivals and workshops in India and abroad including Germany.

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