Retooling a Tradition: A Rajasthani Puppet Takes Umbrage at his Stringholders

A 47-minute “fictive” video documentary by Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and Amy Catlin. This video concrète (cf. musique concrète) constructed from numerous film and video clips recorded in India from 1978 to 1994, communicates aspects of Rajasthani kathputli puppetry viewed from the idiosynchratic perspective of the videomakers. It presents three imagined contexts. The first is of a Muslim nawab puppet who is convinced that his Hindu puppeteers are prejudiced against him on religious grounds. The second introduces his concubine-courtesan, a semi-historical personage from the 17th century, Anarkali, who, after centuries of  patience and endurance, finally feels obliged to accuse the nawab of bigotry, and urges him to look at the positive elements of the puppeteers’ adaptive strategies for survival in the new world. The nawab tries to follow his consort’s advice but cannot refrain from nattering sarcastically to make the puppeteers look their worst. Finally, an imaginary spokesman of an equally imaginary puppeteers' guild presents a gilded, altruistic view of the modern puppetry adaptations. The nawab is convinced - or is he? In the course of this videotape the viewer is introduced to the colorful variety and creativity of Rajasthani  puppetry and its music.


"...highly original and successful alternative to the aridity and implicit ethnocentricity of the standard voice-over narrative format...the whimsicality of the narrative and the entire approach seem ideally suited to the endearing humor of the Bhat’s art provides a rich and informative view of how a living folk art is adapting to changing circumstances. Like the best postmodern discourse, it makes no attempt to mask its own subjectivity, but in the process provides a uniquely sort of ethnographic commentary.”

- Peter Manuel, Asian Music (Spring/Summer 1995)


ISBN 1-880519-15-1 © 1994 VHS PRICE $70 + S&H

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