Published: 21st June 2020
Why you need to join Ratnamala Nori's online puppetry classes to truly love the art form
Hyderabad-based Ratnamala Nori started out by conducting her own puppetry workshops for both teachers and parents. She even presented papers, including Puppets for the Handicapped Child in 1991
From listening to stories about tholu bommalata (shadow puppetry) from her grandmother to winning awards like the Ugadi Puraskar Award by Madras Telugu Academy for innovative use of puppetry, the NCERT Award at the state-level educational toy competition in puppetry and so on, Ratnamala Nori has now graduated to conducting puppetry classes online and the 69-year-old is as enthusiastic about it as she was when she started practising the artform at the age of 36.
Ratnamala Nori | (Pic: Ratnamala Nori)
The former teacher with a Diploma in Montessori Training had started her own YouTube channel way back in 2014, but it is only now during the lockdown that she has started making the most of it. "The aim is to tell relevant stories with puppets that can be made using material that is readily available at home," says Ratnamala, who registered the Nori Art and Puppetry Centre back in 1994. While taking puppetry classes online via Zoom, she gives the participants a list of materials and even alternatives to avoid any last-minute hassles. Already confident using video conferencing apps like Zoom, she encourages participants to mute their microphones during the session, raise their hand if they have a doubt, give a thumbs-up if they have understood and a thumbs down if they haven't. "I encourage people to use newspapers to make puppets. If they don't have coloured paper they can use paper from magazines, if there is no fevicol in the house, they can cook maida (wheat flour) in a particular way to make gum," suggests the teacher who was born in Kakaraparru, a village in Andhra Pradesh. She is delighted with the classes because parents and even grandparents become involved in helping the child.
Needless to say that the teacher is also using YouTube and puppetry to spread awareness about the pandemic. Take for example the Three Fishes and the Shark story, inspired by The Three Little Pigs story. "I point out that Corona is like the shark in the story and if we remain inside our houses, just like the fishes remain inside a strong ship, Corona won't be able to affect us," she narrates. She has uploaded many videos through which she narrates stories about the importance of conserving the environment as well. With the above example, you must have noticed how not all stories can be told through puppets, many have to be rehashed or one needs to come up with new ones entirely. The right dose of humour, songs and dialogues make for a good story, she suggests.
Puppetry on Vikram Aur Betaal | (Pic: Ratnamala Nori)
The teacher reveals how she had big plans for March 21 which is observed as World Puppetry Day. She had even booked Lamakaan for it, but alas, the Coronavirus scare had begun. But she continues to make the most of the time in hand by shooting videos.
The recent videos on her channel
- Ball puppet magic
- Bring your newspaper to life by making a puppet!
- When mice ate iron
For more on her, check out bit.ly/2UNqZ5i