The Mighty Uncle

As the lights pour on the stage, a 12ft tall puppet of Kansa is revealed to the audience. The figure is muscular and bare-chested. As the puppet is made to walk around the stage, trying its best to intimidate a dancer that plays the role of Krishna, the two engage in a dance, often blocking each other's way and and engaging in a power struggle. After the duel, Krishna twists Kansa's head and brings him to his knees, a defeat that leads to his death. The show ends with the revelation of Krishna's true avatar. The Delhi-based puppet trust, Katkatha, is bringing this production titled Kansa to Pune for the first time at the storytelling festival, Katha Yatra, on December 9.

"Unlike other shows, this one does not have a specific beginning or an end. The entire show is a reaction to the audience. It is all impromptu," says Anurupa Roy, founder and managing trustee at Katkatha. The performance is not scripted and depends entirely on the audience.

"If we manage to get the audience's attention early, the puppet does not need to be made to walk around the stage too much and things can take on a rapid pace. But if the performers on stage sense that the audience needs more time to grasp what is happening, then the show might take longer. The duration of the show can range anywhere between seven and 15 minutes," says Roy. "Due to its evolving nature, each show is different from the other," she adds.

The performance is based on the mythological story from The Mahabharata. Kansa, who overthrew his father, Ugrasena to take over the kingdom of Mathura, believed in the prophesy that he will be killed by his sister's eighth child, Krishna. The prophesy comes true, and Kansa shows how Krishna killed his mighty uncle.

"It is a misconception that puppet shows were used to amuse children. It was never so. Puppet shows that traditionally demonstrated episodes from The Mahabharata or The Ramayana were meant primarily for adults, which children could also watch. The puppet show is advancing at a rapid pace with the introduction of technology and animation into the shows. There is so much more scope for innovation," says Roy, who plans on breaking the confines of an auditorium and bringing the puppet show to the masses.

The show that will be performed in Pune is an excerpt from a demonstration titled The Magic Blue that was first performed in Delhi in 2006.

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