This article was re-purposed and published in “The Alternative”. This article also got published in “Bhoomi Magazine” .
Banwari Lal Bhat says “I do not want my kids to be in this job”. Though he and his family are financially dependent on his current work, he doesn’t want the kids to enter the same profession. He wants them to study hard and get into a different job. He emphasizes on the importance of English in today’s world. Although he himself speaks in broken English, he wants his kids to learn English.
You might be wondering what his current job is and why does he make a statement like that. Banwari Lal Bhat is a puppeteer from Udaipur, Rajasthan who earns his living by performing Kathputli shows. Banwari Lal says he has been into this profession since he was 12 and now he is 28. For last 16 years he has been roaming across India showcasing the puppetry art and earning a living. He says he has done shows across India except the beautiful seven sister states. He travels with his Kathputlis, while his family, a wife and 3 children are back at his native. His children go to school and he does not want them to get into this art form, until his kids are interested and want to do something new in this art. On the other hand, his sister’s and brother’s children have chosen puppetry as a means of earning. This is the story of not only Banwari Lal but of many artists practising this dying art form.
Banwari Lal the Puppeteer
While wandering through one of the roads of Bangalore, we heard a shrill voice and dholbeats. We saw a small group of people standing around a small stage. Bright colourful clothes, beautiful eyes, nimble limbs were dancing in front of an enthralled audience. The small wooden stage had a bright yellow cloth as the stage backdrop and these Kathputlis were dancing with the deft fingers of the puppet man Banwari Lal. It can be brave emperor, or a dancing girl, a snake charmer or a snake, all dances on Banwari Lal’s finger tips. Do you still remember these colourful dolls dressed up in bright attires dancing through the attached strings? Yes they are the same Kathputlis. Kathputli as the name suggests is a puppet made of wood. The head and shoulders are made of wood while the hands and legs are stuffed with cotton and covered with the cloth and attached to a string. Continue reading