Putul Natch is a traditional puppet dance show of West Bengal
. The origin of this art can be traced back to the 14th century. Stress is laid on drama, which is accompanied by songs and music. Stories from various Hindu mythologies and epics are depicted in these shows. Sometimes even social dramas are enacted.
The puppets are about a meter tall and weigh about 5 to 15 kilograms. The body is made of wood layered with clothing and clay. The hands contain holes so that various accessories and weapons like bow and arrow can be fixed according to the requirement. Several heads are made for a single body. This facilitates the replacement of heads and costumes to change the character portrayed by the puppet. Individual shows feature 20 to 25 puppet bodies and about 2 to 3 times more number of heads. Apart from the human characters, animals are also featured. Sometimes animal masks are also used.
A head is attached to the top of a rod, which is inserted through the body. The puppets generally do not have any joints on their left hand, but their right hand contains an elbow joint. The puppets that are supposed to dance contain joints at the wrist and the waist. The puppet denoting Lord Krishna contains only the right leg, while the other puppets do not have any legs.
The puppeteer holds the head of the puppet in one hand while with the other hand he gives movement to it. The person controlling the dancing puppet wears tiny bells in his anklets and dances along the puppet. A total of 15 to 18 persons are required for a show. There is one main singer accompanied by 2 to 3 chorus singers.
The stage for the show is constructed using bamboo and clothes. It is covered on all four sides, except in the front where only the lower half is covered. The show is displayed through the upper half. The background scenes are changed as per the situation of the drama.
The show begins with a ritualistic song. Music is then played to attract the crowd. A scene depicting the mythological figures of Lord Krishna and his brother Balram is shown. This is then followed by the actual play. The show contains various songs and dance and lasts for about 3 hours.