Keonjhar: Puppet artistes of Keonjhar district have been hit hard since the outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus. For more than two months now, they are without work and income. There are three troupes of puppet artistes in this district and all are facing tremendous hardships.
One of the troupes is owned by Sangeet Natak Akademi award recipient Maguni Charan Kuanr. He is resident of this town. He summed up the present situation as ‘tough’ and ‘harrowing’. However, he is also determined to wade through it to keep the traditional art form alive. The two other troupes belong to Sadar block of the district.
“Carving puppets out of wood, embellishing them, maintaining the musical instruments and paying remuneration to other artistes is increasingly becoming difficult these days,” Maguni said.
Despite the economic hardships due to the current situation, Maguni and others refuse to give up this traditional form of art. Since the coronavirus outbreak, there haven’t been any shows as the district administration has banned all social gatherings. However, the artistes are hopeful that the tough times will pass.
“We do not have any financial support. Also the Odisha government has not extended a helping hand to us in this tough situation. A number of us have switched over to other professions. But then in the present situation even jobs are scarce,” informed artiste Chakradhar Parida. He is a resident of Jadipada.
“The puppetry form of art is fast disappearing due to lack of government support. As it is we work on shoe string budgets. Also the income of a puppeteer is very nominal. So more and more people are switching to other professions to live in a proper manner,” Chakradhar added.
A puppetry troupe comprises about 12 to 15 artistes. Puppet dance shows are often used to create awareness. They are mostly organised during festivals and fairs in rural areas. However, for those who make dolls dance on a string to entertainment people, life seems to have reached a dead end. It is the puppeteers who are now on string… dancing to the tune of coronavirus. It is a dance they would rather not go through.