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Some Press Reviews

Keeping alive a dying art

Known as an ustad kalakar of Devasthanakala (an ancient art of paper-cutting in which the cutouts are made without any previous drawing), Prabal Pramanik is a multi-faceted artist. He does water colour and sketches, besides being a poet and thinker with philosophical leanings. However, his most consuming occupation is that of a pupeteer attempting to keep alove a dying form of art that once dominated the art and culture of the ancient world. In keeping with his ideology and conviction, Prabal extablished his gallery in an obscure rural area called Bhamlada, nestled in the foothills of Himalayas. It is from here that this art hermit contemplates and executes his innovations in the medium of paper-cutting and shadow puppetry.
Alliance Feancaise "Le Corbusier" de Chandigarh held a week-long rendezvous with this great humanist at their art gallery from February 22 to 28. It was an art assemble consisting of Prabal’s spot sketches from his recent stay in France, a book launch and a shadow puppet festival.
It was Prabal’s Ekanak Natikas introduced puppet enthusiasts to an extermely creative and intellectually stimulating art event, probably one of its kind presented depictions delivering a varied canvas of themes and ideas that were brought forth with the art of shadow puppetry.
"These (the natikas) are bringing out the fine dissimilarities between the old and new style of this traditional art. The contemporary situation deals more with new themes loke more of psychological drama as depicted in "Delusion of Time" than a mere lyrical presentation as shown in Radha Krishan Lila". Also the minimal material used in today’s modern form of this art is reflective of the sort of dangerous experimentation that I as an artist often perform and like to promote."
It is the subtle nuances of these recent trends in the medium of shadow puppetry that are responsible for conceptualising the art form from its tradition to modernity. As the artist himself states: "The little points of my recent presentations evoke the flavour of drama in the intellectual way. Let the audience think. Why should I disturb that mental flow by providing a dialogue or any major prop material in the show? Each movement matters and brings out an idea and a response that is spontaneous and yet aesthetic Experimentation with shadow puppetry is very dangerous and I am a traditional artist, hence, the task becomes even more complex."
Prabal’s "Delusion of Time" was an interesting abstract presentation of a simple narrative told at the beinning of the show with ashort performance time of only 15 minutes and only black chart paper puppets as the material used in the performance. The tale was of a man who travels back into time only to experience the reactions of society and individuals of two different periods that of the French feudal times and modern day society.
But the cherry on this weeklong delight came with the last day’s showcalled "Chandi Mahishasura Mardani", a 40 minute folk-cum-mythological presentation done on the lawns amidst the lamps and lamps and mashals, with the rhythm of drums. Just the sort of ambience needed to enjoy such a melodramatic light and sound show. And about the intricately cut puppets dancing behind the screen, it might suffice to say they appeared to be miniature life forms actually coming alive on the screen.
Prabal is indeed a missionary with an artistic zeal and obsession to rescue the lost tradition of shadow puppetry. "I am taking puppetry to the modern level of theatre that essentially provokes thought because I am of the firm belief that something that creates shock, appeal and also causes disturbance has certainly made its entry into the circuit of success." Now that is a confident crusader of art!

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Friday, 2 March, 2001


Show on Mahishasurmardini

It is amazing how the age old story of Ramayana was given the new look by famous artist Prabal Pramanik with his paper cut figures, an unique form of art, for which he has earned fame all over India and aboard.
The artist presented a shadow puppet show "Mahishasurmardini Durga" a saga of Lord Rama and his devotion towards Goddess Durga with the help of intricately-cut mythological figures. The show was organised by Ramkrishna Mission Ashrama to mark the Ram Navami here today.
The show started with a scene of Lord Rama offering prayers to Goddess Durga shows pure devotion of Ram who manages to get help from the eternal mother to kill Ravana. The story which goes in to past with a flasback portrays the might of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga.
Pramanik who has conducted a series of shadow puppet shows all over the world says it is the medium that provides maximum flexibility to an artist to express himself. "Besides it is cost effective as the whole show requires only a number of paper cut figures and a few stricks make the figures movable", he added.
Though the original Shadow puppet form used leather cut figures, Pramanik uses laminated paper to cut his figures, Shadow puppetry is an art form that originated in Orissa and West Bengal.
Pramanik who has already written seven books on this particular art form says he learnt this art from his grandfather who was also an expert in this field. "The time has changed tremendously. During my grandfather’s time, the paper cutting art had patronage from the royal families and the government alike. But today one has to give away a large chunk of money in form of bribes to get government sponsorship" he added.
Prabal Pramanik, a Bengali in origin, now lives amidst the serenity of Shivalik range of Himachal. The artist who has always been interested in creating art pieces just for the pleasure of creating them faced stiff opposition from his family. I left home only with five rupees in my pocket" said the artist recalling his struggle period.
The artist who feels passionately about this dying arrt form, says he tries to teach people by conducting workshops. Taking about his dream he says he would like to start an institute, but it remained just a distant dream as "it requires a lot of money" he said.
Pramanik who does not believe in commercialisation of his art form says, self respect means a lot to him. "Without self respect no artist can grow in the field of creativity" he concluded.

Chandigarh Tribune, Tuesday, April3, 2001


Radha-Krishna Lila in shadows

Feb 26 - It was yet another interesting presentation by Prabal Pramanik, the ustaad kalakaar of Devasthanakala, the traditional art of paper cutting. After presenting two very successful shadow-puppet shows on themes concerning the Buddha and another concerning a French Fairy Tale, Prabal today focused on the Radha Krishna lila and brought home the theme through amazingly cut-out images depicting Radha and Krishna on the banks of Yamuna, Radha and Krishna going to pastures with cows and both watching pigeons.
Apart from the delightful persentation, Prabal also went on to talk about the history of the art which flourished in the Vaishnav community hundreds of years ago. He informed that the ustads used to ply scissors and sharp cutting blades creating amazing art works to decorate temples, nat-mandirs, and kirtan sabhas at the time of Vaishnav festivals such as Ras, Holi, Janamashtami and Jhulan.
"The speciality of this art that poduced superb creations was that the paper cuttings were made without any previous sketching or tracing. At Mathura, Vrindavan, Bengal and Orissa where Vaishnav communities lived and enriched Indian culture this rare art form manifested itself in different schools depicting silhouette and stencil forms forms. It is interesting to note that ustads of the yore not only depicted Radha Krishna lila but also scenes from the daily life at their time," the artist informed.
Prabal will hold two more shadow puppet shows on February 28 and 28, titled, ‘The delusion of time and Chandi Mahishasur mardani’, respectively.

Tribune News Service, Chandigarh


Shadow Puppets

Prabal Pramanik, the master artist of paper cutting, was in town during the last week. He held five shasow puppet shows which were well received by the city adience.
Here is a shot from A delusion of time, a shadow puppet show, which Prabal Pramanik first presented during his stay in France

Tribune, Chandigarh


Shadow puppet show at Budha Vihar

Prabal Pramanik, an artist of paper cutting (Devasthanakala), presented a bewitching shadow puppet show at the Budha Vihar temple in Khuda Ali Sher village near here on Wednesday evening.
Organised by Alliance Francaise, Pramanik himself narrated the tale of Lord Buddha’s "sadhna" during his 15th minute show, in which he moved his paper puppets with dexterity in front of light, thus depicting their shadows on a screen that seemed to move and talk.
The tale narrated how Lord Buddha continued his meditation despite futile attempts by devils to distract him.
The show was attended by a gathering of about 50 people. Pramanik will perform in the city till February 28.

Hinduatan Times, HT Chandigarh Live
Thursday February 22, 2001


Puppetry show takes audience by storm

With the help of different type of colours and the backing of light and sound system, the students Department of Theatre and Television of Punjabi University here today travelled to the era Chandidi war, thanks to the shadow puppet show performed by the famous artist Prabal Pramanik, who inherited his trait from West Bengal but is now settled near Pathankot in Punjab.
Pramanik was in the department on the invitation and the show was in colaboration with the North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC). The main aim of the show was to educate the young artists in the department through the experiences of Pramanik, who has devoted 40 years of his life in propagating the cause of paper cutting work, puppet shadow show and slide shows to demonstrate his perfection. Pramanik began his show with the Shiv-aradhana which he performed with the puppets and then continued it with a slideshow.
Later while talking to The Indian Express Prabal introduced his paper cutting work as Devasthana Kala Sanjhi and told that it has traditions dating back to several centuries and and he had received inheritedly from his paternal grand father Shahi Bhushan Pramanik because he was the exponent of this unique artwork. He said that he had used his fertile imagination to spread his art through innovative means like shadow puppet shows and animation films which have been well received.
Prabal, who has now settled in a sleepy village of Bhamlada bordering Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, said that he was trying to keep this art alive touring different parts of the country to bring awakening in the younger generation but was critical on the issue saying that it seemed that nobody was serious about learning this art work. He said that the seriousness and willl power are the two main mantras to learn this art. Regarding his message to the new comers he said that Dil lagaaoo te dil ko laggaa ke rakhoo aisa naa show karo ki kaam main dil hai hi nahin.
He said that he was trying to bring forward this art through his works but had failed to get any proper sponsor neither from the private side.
He said that the NZCC has come forward first time in helping him on this front and he was hopeful of getting a good response.

The Indian Express, Tuesday, October 17, 2000


Paper-cutting craft demonstrated

The commonwealth Youth Programme, Asia Centre, celebrated Commonwealth Day at the centre on the Punjab Engineering College campus here today. The day started with the commonwealth flag hoisting ceremony with Madam Shirani, senior programme officer at the CYP, in the presence of the centre’s employees and nenbers.
Later in the day, a demonstaration of the paper-cutting craft was given by Ustad Prabal Pramanik. Ustad Pramanik gave a detailed demonstration of how he was able to create landscapes and figures by cutting paper finely. After the demonstration, Mr Pramanik also explained to the audience the way the paper-cutting craft can be learnt and create images they liked.
Mr. Pramanik also held a shadow puppet show after the demonstration. As he made the puppets move behind the translucent paper accompanied by the strains of flute playing in the corner, the magic of Krishna and Radha in the Vrindavan was recreated on on the screen.
As the show ended, Mr. Pramanik explained to the audience that every one who wanted to learn how to hold a puppet show was capable to do so. "This art is an art of the hands and thus has direct human involvement. It is personal and creative and everyone can in her or his own manner entertain by creating puppets and thus creating a world of their own for their own-selves in the end."

Chandigarh Tribune, 12th March


Puppets dance in light

Ustad Prabal Pramanik, a master of Devasthankala has been performing his unique form of shadow puppet shows in the city. In this series of shows, Ustad kalakaar presented an episode of Goddess Durga’s fight with Mahisaashur at the Rama Krishna Mission Ashram in Chandigarh on Monday. The packed house was entranced by the maestro’s unique method of interpreting this most famous myth.

The Indian Express, Tuesday, April 3, 2001


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Siva Shadow Puppet


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Shadow Puppet show on Krishna birth festival


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Villlagers enjoying Shadow Puppet show


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Villlagers enjoying Shadow Puppet show


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Baul (Sufi singer from Bengal) Shadow Puppet




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