The Government of India has announced the Padma Shri for the year 2024. One of the recipients of the award is celebrated puppetry artist Anupama Hoskere from Karnataka.
Anupama is an Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) empanelled artist and the founder of Dhaatu Puppet Theatre. She has dedicated herself to preserving traditional puppetry techniques in Karnataka and beyond.
Born and raised in a traditional household in Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, Anupama, with an academic background in electronics engineering and communication, Anupama embarked on her artistic journey driven by a passion for storytelling and a fascination with India's rich cultural heritage.
Dhaatu Puppet Theatre, under Anupama's leadership, has made significant strides in the realm of puppetry. It offers weekend classes, hosts an annual event in Bengaluru where puppeteers from around the world converge, and features an art installation at Bangalore Airport.
The theatre has also performed puppet musical plays and established a significant presence on YouTube with uploaded recordings of their captivating performances.
Anupama's family, includes her three children, Prakruti Hoskere, Vedhus Hoskere and Divya Hoskere, and her husband Vidyashankar. Along with veteran puppeteers Mythily Shikarpur and Chitra Rao, they form the core team supporting Dhaatu's initiatives.
Anupama's approach involves incorporating visuals and drawing from the layered nature of Indian art to make puppetry appealing to diverse age groups.
Her journey into puppetry began with classes in the 90s focused on Indian epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
After living close to Disneyland in Anaheim during her Masters, Anupama was inspired by the combination of engineering and art, which she admired.
She encountered Karnataka rod puppetry, learned from puppeteer M R Ranganath Rao, and initiated Dhaatu in 2004.
Anupama has stressed on the responsibility to pass on traditional arts to the next generation and believes puppetry must offer an alternative to digital media.
In a conversation with Swarajya, Anupama's daughter Divya Hoskere described her reaction to the announcement of award.
She stated, "I felt overjoyed, it was a wonderful feeling. Its very touching. We had no idea, no expectation of receiving this award. But my mother since the beginning had dedicated herself to this craft truthfully and honestly."
She further stated that her mother works very hard often stretching the day to make it feel like more than 24 hours.
She also added that a puppet gallery has been opened at Mandala Culture Centre on Kanakpura Road, Bengaluru. A production on Ramayana is also underway set to be released on the upcoming Ram Navami and now Dhaatu is also going to accept requests for performances at birthday parties to allow kids to celebrate their special days with Indian cultural tinge.
Karnataka's puppetry, a unique blend of various puppetry forms, faced a setback during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early twentieth century, leading to a loss of puppeteers and artefacts.
Despite the challenges, Anupama is committed to taking Indian puppetry to the global stage.
Dhaatu has performed Kalidasa's Malavikagnimitram in the USA, conducted classes on Karnataka puppetry in European cities, and showcased performances in Russia, China, and Morocco.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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