Puppetry, a traditional art form of India, once donned the role of an important instrument, creating public awareness, fostering inter-community ties, entertaining children and educating the village folk. But with the gradual procession of time there came a period when it had lost all its essence, 'the charm, the charisma, the splash of colors had remained no more, being practised by only a handful of people dotted throughout the country. It had become an art form that existed only in books,' says Bhavani, an environmental educationist.
But now times have changed, the art form has breathed a new lease of life, and has been promulgated back into the Indian culture.
'The art form had never died out; it had only been ignored by the people as there were too busy with their eyes glued to the idiot box, ' says R.Bhanumathi, an environmental educationist and managing trustee of Pavai Centre for Puppetry.
Puppetry now has become as effective as a cinema or a soap opera, the only difference being that the art form caters to a target audience on an individualistic issue.
Puppetry has been re-discovered and has been kindled to serve contrasting yet educative purposes like that of environmental education (EE).
'EE is such that it has no qualifying age bar and is the most vital need of our times; using puppets to bring out vital pieces of information are both educational and engaging,' says Rukmani, a school teacher and an active environmentalist.
Other than environmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), schools too have taken up puppetry to enlighten children on EE.
Thanks to the mounting need of the hour, EE has been made as a enforced part of the syllabi, leaving the students to slog on one more lacklustre theoretical subject, but there are schools who have taken up novel measures such as that of puppetry to spread out the message in a much more vibrant and enjoyable manner. 'The art form has been a smash hit with the children, as in addition to learning a wide array of things, they get to try their hands out at puppetry as well,' says V Jayashree, a teacher at Kendriya Vidyala Anna Nagar, Chennai.
Furthermore, India with its rich cultural backdrop could whip up numerous innovative measures to use its traditional art forms for socially useful productive works. When it comes to environmental education, the art form serves as a boon to enrich the drained out brains of the students.
In a nut shell, pulling a few strings works wonders when done for the right causes.