Puppet show staged in Chennai as part of Bonjour India 2022 Festival

Karna, Kanchana, Minoo, Chinna, and a parakeet were the cynosure of everyone’s eyes at Phoenix MarketCity on Friday evening.
ffbGiant Puppet Show as a part of French Consulate's Bonjour held at Phoenix mall in Velachery. (Photo| Neha Thomas, EPS)
ffbGiant Puppet Show as a part of French Consulate's Bonjour held at Phoenix mall in Velachery. (Photo| Neha Thomas, EPS)

Karna, Kanchana, Minoo, Chinna, and a parakeet were the cynosure of everyone's eyes at Phoenix MarketCity on Friday evening. As the puppets, carried by French artistes on their backs, paraded across the wide performance arena, the public studied their every move. Children cheered in delight every time the massive creations said 'hello'.

One of the cheeky male puppets even handed out a flower to a young woman in the audience. As the show began to unfold, it looked like Karna, a majestic-looking male, and Kanchana, a spirit-woman, were parents to Chinna, a young boy.

The central character, however, was Minoo, a girl with an animalistic head, and Chinna's friend. Will the unique family accept their son's quirky-looking friend? The audience wondered, as the parakeet waited with cards holding an answer to the family’s destiny. Masked Indian drummers set the mood to this hour-long live drama with their feet-tapping beats on the thudumbu.

The street parade-cum-theatrical show, A Twist of Fate, was staged as part of the 4th edition of the Bonjour India 2022 Festival, which is celebrating 75 years of Indian independence in addition to 75 years of Indo-French diplomatic ties.

The festival is organised by the Embassy of France and its cultural service, The French Institute in India, the Alliance Française network, and the Consulates of France, alongside other partners.

"Our show is all about accepting differences and embracing everyone into one big, giant family. You can see how each of our puppet characters look different from the other. That shows the diversity in the world," voiced the artistes from the Les Grandes Personnes (the tall/grand people) company.

The Paris-based cultural company employs giant sculptures and folk art for their novel productions. Pointing to the huge papier mache and spring wire-bound sculptures they made by hand, a member said, “We were supposed to stage A Twist of Fate in March 2020. The preparatory work to create the sculptures began in Puducherry during workshops with French and Indian theatre students. We then left for Paris due to the lockdown."

 The show, which premiered in Delhi last week, will now be staged across the world.

True to the spirit of the festival, the show fostered a spirit of understanding between the French artistes and the thudumbu artistes, too. Antony Arul Prakash, one of the thudumbu artistes in the troupe from the Koothu-P-Pattarai theatre group, said, "We were told about this show just two days back and we practised with the Les Grandes Personnes troupe only on the morning of the show. We donned masks that we are using for Mirudham, one of our upcoming plays, while drumming, to add an extra element to A Twist of Fate."

While it was a challenging experience to do masked performance alongside veterans, the magnanimity the French artistes showed in merging their style of performance with that of the theatre practitioners was truly welcoming, he said. 

Speaking about the Bonjour India 2022 festival which features 120 events across 19 Indian cities until May, Eric Perrotel, Attaché for Cooperation in French Language, The French Institute in India, shared, "We hope the festival will give audiences an experience that combines the art and culture forms of Francophone countries and India. For instance, one of our events is a play that is a Tamil adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince. These events are the Francophonie's gift to India."

And what better way to understand the rich history and heritage of countries than through cultural facilitation, summed up Bruno Plasse, executive director, Alliance Francaise.

(To access the schedule of the Bonjour India 2022 festival, visit: www.ifindia.in. Events are free)

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