First Online Children’s Festival – KukduKoo echoed the rich artforms of India

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I have not spent a more rocking weekend… packed with 8 spectacular shows, spanning over Saturday and Sunday, the Kukdukoo first online Children’s theatre festival was spellbinding to say the least. It was not a child’s play to assemble a truly mesmerizing array of performances and shows online. Having conducted two previous editions before at the Kiran Nadar Museum for art, going online due to present situation was no less challenging…however, this gave a unique opportunity for audiences from all across the globe to witness the magic of rich art and culture that India boasts!

Brilliantly curated, each session in this first online Children’s festival was a unique experience in itself. This was a one-of-a-kind initiative to bring alive to the children our rich cultural heritage replete with arts which are a treasure trove in itself. Hosted and beautifully stringed by the vivacious Shefali Malhotra, the show started with ‘Premchand ki Kahani, Dastango ki Zubani’ . Presented by Divya Bhutani and Dr Pooja Jain
Of Grooming babies, Premchand’s Idgah came alive in the form of Dastangoi style of enactment, initiating children to two of India’s eminent narrative cultures. An oral Urdu 13th century artform of storytelling tradition, it has the dastango or storyteller whose voice is his main artistic tool at the centre. This drama had been crafted to aid opening safe dialogue with children on the sensitive topics of peer influence, peer ridicule and bullying. In fact, each session had important and relevant messages for children interwoven in the narratives itself!

Shadow Performance from Kerala, using traditional leather Puppets, by Rajeev Pulavar and Group, the thirteenth-generation puppeteer of traditional Tholpavakoothu, was a perfect mix of traditional and contemporary stories by award winning international artists, practicing the art for 15 generations from India. . Shadow Puppetry through leather puppets with lamps of coconut shells presented a magical ambience which was highly applauded by the audience

Live from Mumbai was livewire Sangya Ojha of The Puppetarians group. She engrossed the kids as puppet Nani with a fabulous folktale. An interactive puppet show, Sangya’s act was a big hit with the kids. The first day concluded with an outstanding performance by Akshay Gandhi of Still Space Theatre, Bangalore. Bringing alive the Kaavad tradition from Rajasthan, this was a captivating performance, accompanied by paintings on Kaavad, was especially enjoyed by adults, along with children.

The Day 2 of KukduKoo Children’s theatre Festival opened with a mesmerising Taadka wadh from Ramayana showcasing it on traditional string puppets from Maharashtra). Performed by Chetan Parshuram Gangavane and group of Thakar Adivasi Kala Angan (Museum and Art Gallery) of the ancient village of Pinguli, in the tribal region of the state of Maharashtra. The second day was also packed with superlative performances of Modern and traditional puppetery as well as magical storytelling. Nandini Brings back love was a play by Secret Passages theatre Production, directed by Geetanjali Kaul. Last but certainly not the least were Madhavi and Nitika of Darwesh group. Through this theatre walk, the story of the Mughal power of succession that changed the course of Indian history, was visualised and presented in a much captivating manner.
These two days were filled with magic of puppetry, enchanting storytelling and performances par excellence. This was a most sincere attempt to bring alive to the kids our very rich traditional artforms and what a successful endeavour it turned out to be!

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