Published: 01st October 2020
Gandhi Jayanti: When this Varanasi man's puppets narrated how Mohandas became a Mahatma
Puppeteer Mithilesh Dubey was in conversation with Azim Premji Foundation's Purushottam Singh Thakur, prior to Gandhi Jayanti
The journey from Mohandas to Mahatma was a long and painful one. However, when the little puppets of Mithilesh Dubey narrated that story to us, along with children, even us adults watched it with so much awe and admiration.
Since 2006, this Varanasi-based puppeteer has been holding his puppet show, titled 'Mohan se Mahatma', which narrates the life story of Mahatma Gandhi to children all across the country. So far, he has presented shows in almost 15 states. This is a tale from the pre-COVID times. This time, there was an obvious change. Instead of the show, Dubey presented a video of his puppet show to the viewers who watched them on their computer screens via YouTube. Post this, he spoke to Purushottam Singh Thakur of the Azim Premji Foundation.
A National School of Drama graduate, Dubey says that puppetry is the only medium that is closer to cartoons and attracts the attention of the little ones. Every scene here was carefully planned. It begins with the life of a young Mohandas Gandhi, who loves sweets and questions his mother on untouchability. It talks about how ahimsa and truth attracted the young Mohandas who always abided to these, even as a young boy. It also touches upon racism, the freedom struggle and ends with Nathuram Godse firing a bullet at him.
"The idea of conveying Gandhiji's story struck me during a tour to Jaipur. At that time, I was in conversation with Narayan Desai, the presenter of the TV program Gandhi Katha and he asked me to develop a puppet show on Gandhiji's life. What followed was immense research and conversations with people who knew Gandhiji and took part in the freedom struggle," he says. He added how watching plays on the lives of Raja Harischandra and Shravan Kumar inspired the young Gandhi and that he aims to create a similar impact on the lives of today's children.
"My current aim is to take Gandhi to every nook and corner of India," he says. However, there is an obvious hindrance now, which he acknowledges. "This (pandemic) is quite a difficult time. A lot of my colleagues have switched to farming for survival. However, I have no land. So, I am solely dependent on online puppet shows," he says.
He wrapped up saying that Gandhi is quite relevant even in today's day and age. "His prominence has only escalated. The current day India has so many issues and the Gandhian way of life is the only way out," he signs off.