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Amarendra Naskar, Taarer Putul
Address: Village & P.O : Kamarerchak
P.S : Kaorakhali, Kultali
24 Parganas (South) 743338

45 year old string and rod puppeteer, Amarendra Nath Naskar of South 24 Parganas, began his training as a child of barely five years, under the guidance of his father, a master string puppeteer and idol maker. Under the encouragement and tutelage of his paternal grandfather, he also began to learn the wide variety of songs that are sung for the performances.  

He was in his early teens, when the financial circumstances of his family forced him to drop out of school. A keen learner, Amar began focussing on honing his skills, making and maneouvering string puppets (Taarer putul) as well as singing.  He also began to assist his father in clay idol making, a traditional family occupation.  

He had his first opportunity to perform publicly in 1994, when both he and his father were invited to perform at a Sangeet Natak Akademi programme in Guwahati, thanks to a recommendation from the internationally renowned puppeteer, Padmashree Suresh Dutta.  The next milestone in his life occurred the same year  when he and his father were invited to participate in the Jelepara Kaibarta Samity seminar on Putul Naach. It was here that he met the master puppeteer and pioneer of modern Indian puppetry, the late Raghunath Goswami who accepted him as his shishya. Amarendra trained under him for a year, learning newer techniques, until the master`s death in 1995. Amarendra also learnt the crafts of glove and shadow puppetry from him. Amarendra still continues to assist Swapna Sen, a close associate of Goswamy. 

Other than making puppets, Amarendra, has also been carving votive wooden sculptures, since he was 20 or so.  He uses the more expensive neem or bel wood as his medium. He has also received assignments to design small local temples.

Amarendra has taught his son puppetry, but says that the youth of his village have not shown any particular interest in this art. The members of his group are a bunch of people from neighbouring villages who are passionate about puppetry and he focusses on improving their skills on the various aspects of a puppetry performance, including music, sound and lighting. Whenever a bigger team is required, his family members lend a hand. With a repertoire of 40 productions, the themes of his group`s performances, are based on myths or are of historical or social relevance. Some are imaginary tales too.  

The future of puppetry is bleak, Amarendra laments. Their performances, each of about 2 hours duration,  mainly around the puja season, have dropped to 50 or 60 a year. The money earned is not sufficient to sustain the entire group. Programmes offered by the state government, which pays more, unfortunately benefit only card holders. Not everybody in his group has managed to procure an artist card.