India has a special reason to celebrate World Puppetry Day, 21 March as one of the country’s first modern puppets, Ardhawatrao, turns 100 this year.
Yashwant Padhye, a Mumbai-based magician, was inspired to create Ardhawatrao after he witnessing a ventriloquist performance.
He later passed the puppet on to his son, Ramdas Padhye, who used it in over 9,800 ventriloquism shows across the world.
Ardhawatrao became a household name in the country thanks to its regular appearances on Doordarshan.
While puppet shows once opened to packed houses, technological advancements in the field of entertainment began to eat into the popularity of the traditional art form.
Padhye, who now runs a puppet-making workshop with his son Satyajit, says that puppetry calls for patience, while the younger generation wants instant results.
However, Satyajit says that despite the stiff competition from the Doraemons and the Chhota Bhims, ventriloquism is not a dying art.
Satyajit, a Chartered Accountant by profession, decided to join his father to carry forward the family tradition. He is working to enhance the art of puppetry by using technology. Puppetry is a lot like stand-up comedy, he says. “The future is bright,” he adds.