Meet Jaishree Bharadwaj: Nagpur Puppeteer Managing Multiple Puppet Strings

The basic premise of Jaishree's puppet shows revolves around health and nutrition.

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While waiting for Jaishree Bharadwaj in her Tilak Nagar residence, I go through the numerous trophies which are displayed in her living room. The trophies are the testament of the fact that Jaishree is no ordinary woman. Jaishree, dressed neatly in a blue cotton sari, is all set to be bestowed with questions by an amateur interviewer like me. I was at her residence for an article related to Women’s Day.

As mentioned earlier, Jaishree is no ordinary woman. Apart from serving as principal of Anganwadi Sevika Prashikshan Kendra, Lonara, she is one of the few woman puppeteers from Nagpur. For the last 18 years, Jaishree has conducted about 80 puppet shows which revolve around the idea of health and nutrition.

When asked about how her journey started, Jaishree says, “ It all started when the Centre For Communication Development sent me to Hyderabad for a seminar. During the seminar, various methods of communications were being taught. One of the methods was puppetry. The whole idea amused me.The seminar changed my perception towards puppetry. Earlier I had learnt it, but that was all not very seriously. Eventually, I researched, hovered some books and started practising the art of puppetry”.

In order to spread awareness regarding diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS, Jaishree conducted puppet shows all over Vidarbha. While the whole society shies away from discussing AIDS, in public, Jaishree organises skits which can reach the heartlands of Maharashtra. A well-rehearsed skit, followed by a discussion with the viewers, has contributed in creating awareness.

Talking about her stint in Germany, Jaishree says, “ My first show abroad was in Germany in 1979. I was representing my institute on an international level. In the seminar, there was a requirement to give your institute’s information through some other medium of communication. Some used pictures, some used audio, but ours was the only institution which used puppetry. This created a great impression of Indian culture and art of puppetry in the hearts of Germans.”

As a child, Jaishree never asked for chocolates and ice cream. Dolls fascinated her the most. Little did she know that years later, she’ll spread important messages with the help of these dolls. Her family, most prominently her father-in-law, husband and daughters have helped her in her journey.

Recently, Jaishree has retired from her post but social work, puppet shows and her NGO keeps her busy. Art has always been an instrument of social change, and the efforts of artistes like Jaishree Bharadwaj definitely presents an optimistic picture for society.

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Mandar Pandhare (WRITER)

Mandar Pandhare is a commerce graduate turned journalist. When he is not writing stories or editing articles, he is either busy traveling, cracking lame jokes or drooling over Nagpuri street food.