Meet Prabhitangshu Das, a puppeteer from Tripura, who has come up with a unique idea of spreading awareness on the novel coronavirus by taking to YouTube with a puppetry video in public interest. Das, who is a program executive at Doordarshan by profession, has chosen the World Puppet Day to take to his performing art and sensitise people on social distancing, precautions prescribed by authorities about COVID-19.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Das said his group – Tripura Puppet Theatre – celebrates World Puppet Day every year through performances and events. However, the events were cancelled this year due to precautions adopted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“We observe March 21 every year through puppetry. We had our event fixed at Muktadhara Auditorium at Agartala this year with a new puppet theatre for children. But then coronavirus precautions came and we cancelled our event. We thought we would go for a street puppet show instead but the local administration didn’t grant us permission due to section 144 which was imposed to avoid mass gathering amidst precautions for the disease. Since we are unable to perform live this year, we have chosen to go online this year through social media,” Das said.
Tripura Puppet Theatre’s 1.11 minute awareness video is a production in Bengali language with English subtitles. It portrays a story where a man coughs and shows flu-like symptoms and is advised by his family to consult a doctor. The doctor informs them about the disease, ways to avoid contacting it and a set of advisories. It ends with a slogan, “Stay clean and hygienic”.
All the characters of the video are hand-made puppets, which Prabhitangshu has prepared himself. He said puppetry is one of the strongest traditional media and has shown numerous examples of efficacy in public health issues.
His puppetry video has got over 250 views within a few hours of release. However, social media traction is relatively less in Tripura and Prabhitangshu is considering exploring other ways of popularising puppetry through social media now.
Tripura Puppet Theatre started with Prabhitangshu’s father Late Haripada Das in 1974, though his puppetry dates way before. In 1956, Haripada Das took initiative to propagate social awareness messages through Puppetry as an employee of the Social Welfare Social Education Department. Since his demise, his son manages the team.
The group has performed in almost all states of the country and several times abroad. Prabhitangshu Das was awarded the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2016 for his contribution to puppetry and theatre.
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