A white screen, about 4×6 feet, is tied to two metal poles at a height of three feet from the ground.A group of puppeteers and musicians sits behind it, hidden by a curtain that is hung from the screen. The performers hold up flat leather puppets against a light bulb and the shadow play begins.
Odisha is perhaps India’s only State where four forms of puppetry thrive — shadow puppetry; rod puppetry, glove puppetry or Sakhi Kandhei Nata, and string puppetry.
Puppet shows, especially Ravana Chhaya with its shadow play, are the earliest movies and it is ironic that the coming of television has irreversibly eroded the performers’ audience base.
The government has been using the art form to popularise its flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and to spread awareness on HIV-AIDS, human trafficking, malaria and deforestation.